The “J” Agenda: why do Trump supporters hang flags?

Emma J Nelson, Editor-in-Chief

One of my neighbors recently hung a Trump flag on their house. It could hardly be called a flag due to its immense size. While I was not shocked, as this neighbor of mine was the notorious “grumpy neighbor” character you see in the movies, this is the closest I’ve ever seen that flag in relation to my home.

These are not the same as yard signs or bumper stickers in any regard; every political candidate has those advertisements floating around. My family received Biden-Harris bumper stickers in the mail after donating to their campaign. However, unlike stickers and yard signs, Trump flags are unlikely to be taken down following the election season; since 2016, I’ve seen these flags hanging all year round.

I realized this summer, as my family drove through Trump Flag Central (Southern Oregon), that I had never seen a Biden flag. Or a Clinton flag. Or even an Obama flag, which prompts the question: what is it about Trump supporters that makes them want to hang a flag in his name? We drove past houses that had Trump flags on display with no sign of an American flag in sight; was one symbol deemed more important than the other? 

Devotion to a cause?

Photo by Gillian Nelson.

Not only do these fabric swatches convey one’s political allegiance, but they also promote a variety of emotions from the viewer. Personally, when I first drove through my neighborhood to confirm the presence of such imagery, I was angered and confused. Every word that comes out of the mouth of the flag’s namesake brought me anguish in the last four years, and now a neighbor of mine was publicly supporting the man.

This flag hangs next to a plethora of houses with “Black Lives Matter” signs in their yards and windows. It felt out of place besides so many positive messages. I’ve seen plenty of Biden-Harris yard signs standing alongside “Black Lives Matter” and LGBTQ+ rights signs, but whenever I’ve seen a Trump flag, it is usually accompanied by other Trump paraphernalia rather than corresponding messages.

Now, weeks after first laying eyes on the Trump flag, I just feel drained. These past four years have been exhausting, and I feel as if I am no closer to understanding my peers on the opposite side of the political spectrum from myself than I was before.

Other Oregon residents also experience difficulties when it comes to viewing said flags.

“It’s almost stressful, seeing [Trump flags],” University of Oregon Art & Tech Major Kylie Bulcao-Moore said. On the way to visit family in her hometown of Lebanon, Ore., Bulcao-Moore and her boyfriend drove through an impromptu Trump rally. 

“I knew some of the people doing it. I went to high school with them,” Bulcao-Moore said of the rally participants. Growing up in an explicitly conservative region with politically divided family and friends, Bulcao-Moore was used to disagreeing with her peers, but seeing them out in such numbers shocked her.

“In school, when we got the message that Trump was president [in 2016], the students rioted. They were happy,” Bulcao-Moore recalled. “It was the scariest place to be.”

From the beginning of Trump’s 2016 campaign, symbolism flourished in the form of red “MAGA” hats as previously politically-ostracized individuals flocked to the candidate who loudly expressed their controversial opinions on highly-debated topics such as immigration policy. I myself spotted MAGA hats floating around the halls of my middle school in 2016.

It’s important that I mention that Trump does not sell flags on his campaign website (yes, I actually went on the webstore to check), meaning that those who display such paraphernalia went seeking it out from alternate sources rather than stumbling into a purchase whilst supporting their chosen candidate.

My personal impression is that those who feel the need to hang a Trump flag in their front yard are not simply supporting the man because of his economic policy. And I must admit that at this point I do not expect to change the minds of those who are so sure of the excellence of their candidate that they’d hang a flag for all to see.

It’s not just devotion that drives the hanging of a flag; I wouldn’t say I hang my gay pride flag in June because I’m devoted to anything in particular. No, flags are hung as a statement of being, and in the case of Trump flags, a rather intimidating statement is being made.

“I feel like the people voting for [Trump] already have a lot of flags, whether they be American or Confederate,” Bulcao-Moore said.