The People’s Convoy began as a protest against the Covid mask and vaccine restrictions but was soon followed by the lifting of most regulations. As a result, it is not taken seriously. QAnon conspiracy references may be found on several of the convoy’s big rigs, pickup trucks, and SUVs.
Why was the People’s Convoy not taken seriously?
The organizers of the convoy promised to shut down Washington, D.C. Instead, they parked their trucks at a stock-car racetrack in western Maryland and drove around the D.C. Beltway for a few gaffe-filled laps. The convoy has been mocked on late-night talk shows and in newspaper op-eds, as well as imitated in a slew of memes. It has been widely regarded as a complete failure.
The D.C. trucker convoy needed more truckers. pic.twitter.com/O300YFpTRC
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) March 3, 2022
The “People’s Convoy” was a huge success as a far-right movement-building event. And, despite its absurdity, it should be regarded seriously.
The reason why the movement is a huge right-wing victory
At the convoy, the far-right was well-represented. Members of the white nationalist and anti-government organizations at the heart of the Capitol uprising were intimately involved in the planning. Erik Rohde, a Three Percenters national leader, served as a “consultant” to the “People’s Convoy.”
(In exchange, the official Telegram account for the “People’s Convoy” invited supporters to donate to Rohde’s protest march on the Washington statehouse.) The Telegram groups Three Percenter and Proud Boy have gathered support and raised funds for the “People’s Convoy.” The Oath Keepers were called upon by convoy organizers in Wisconsin to offer protection.
The convoy’s whole voyage has been joyous, attracting big audiences across the Midwest. As the convoys passed, people swarmed to overpasses to hold signs and wave. As part of civics courses, homeschooling mothers brought their children. Visitors thronged the convoy stops, which were flooded with food and drink contributions.
Meanwhile, the number of people joining dozens of Convoy Facebook groups and Telegram channels has surged. Convoy drivers provide reports, including videos taken as their trucks pass by enthusiastic crowds. Photographs and video captured from overpasses and roadside locations along the route are shared by supporters. The majority of people only send notes of encouragement and gratitude.
This is the method by which social movements are formed. Events like the convoy, when strangers meet through a shared sense of belonging and purpose, are the glue that holds people together.
People communicate, share contact information, network, and recruit, reinforcing commitments and forging new relationships. An individual who claimed to have entered the Capitol grew teary-eyed just talking about the convoy’s arrival in Hagerstown, comparing it to a festive Fourth of July parade.
Right-wing politicians have also been moved – at least enough to pose with the truckers for photos. Todd Rokita, the Indiana Attorney General, spoke during a massive convoy rally. Members of Congress, as well as Senators Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson, met with the major convoy organizers.
Cruz later rode in the passenger seat of the lead truck at Hagerstown Speedway, flanked by national journalists, giving convoy organizers exactly the media win they sought.
All of this appears to have been a big help to far-right organizing. “Huge new membership rises coast to coast” as a result of “all the work we did on the People’s Convoy,” according to a Twitter account purporting to belong to Erik Rohde (it released video from the Washington state protest Rohde organized).
A tongue-in-cheek 1776 percent “growth in new applications” (followed by the “OK” hand emoji, which the far-right has appropriated as a symbol of white power) was quoted by Rohde.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if the convoy succeeds in persuading officials in Washington, D.C. to do anything. Millions of supporters became more comfortable with far-right white views, groups, and personalities, which was the actual payout.
By that metric, the “People’s Convoy” has been a resounding and terrifying success.