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Belief in the myth of outlaw heroes partly explains Donald Trump’s die-hard support

David G. Bromley, Virginia Commonwealth University, The Conversation on

Published in News & Features

Before Donald Trump likened himself to Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, the former president frequently compared himself with a completely opposite personality – Chicago organized crime boss Al Capone.

During a speech in Nevada in December 2023, Trump painted himself as the victim of overzealous prosecutors who have treated him worse than one of the nation’s most notorious criminals.

“He got indicted once,” Trump told followers. “I got indicted four times. Over bullshit, I got indicted.”

In his never-ending attempt to politicize his substantial legal troubles, Trump’s exaggerated claims of victimhood are part of the appeal to his die-hard MAGA followers, who believe what Trump tells them: He is being persecuted by deep state bureaucrats because he is fighting for them.

“Never forget,” Trump said. “Our enemies want to take away my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedom … they are not after me. They’re after you. And I just happened to be standing in their way.”

The message that Trump is serving as a protector against unexplained foes is part of the myth of an outlaw hero. Belief in such characters may explain his unwavering support and commanding lead in the 2024 race for the GOP presidential nomination.


In moments of high drama, the outlaw hero is a recurring figure throughout history.

Wherever they appear, outlaw heroes symbolize resistance to perceived changes to a way of life. Most often, these heroes emerge locally from humble roots and gather visibility and celebrity as a result of their daring, audacious acts that become the stuff of legends.

The common theme in all these outlaw hero legends is that they claim to be engaged in campaigns to restore justice by taking from the powerful and giving to the powerless at great personal risk.

The model for American outlaw heroes is England’s Robin Hood. As the legend goes, he stood against the corruption and tyranny of the Sheriff of Nottingham by robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.


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