They’re Voting for Trump to Save ‘Democracy’
New York City's newspapers the morning after former President Donald Trump was convicted in the hush money trial, May 31, 2024, in New York City, New York. (Andrew Lichtenstein via Getty Images)

They’re Voting for Trump to ‘Save Democracy’

‘The 2016 version of myself would have hated this version of myself.’

Last Thursday, Donald Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be convicted of a felony. 

As the news broke, cheers reportedly erupted in President Joe Biden’s campaign headquarters. Within minutes, Biden had swooped in for donations on social media: “There’s only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: At the ballot box,” he wrote on X. “Donate to our campaign today.” 

But many Americans had a different impression of the Trump verdict: that his conviction was proof of corruption, not justice. And while a snap poll showed that 54 percent of registered voters “strongly” or “somewhat” approved of the guilty verdict, more than a third of voters said they “strongly” or “somewhat” disapproved.

Meanwhile, as media analysts were busy celebrating the verdict, with ABC’s chief White House correspondent calling it a “political gift to Democrats,” searches for “donate to Trump” spiked on Google. So many people were rushing to Trump’s fundraising page that the site temporarily crashed. By the next morning, his campaign announced that nearly $35 million had poured in overnight—almost 30 percent of which appeared to come from first-time Trump donors. By late Friday, the campaign stated that the total had climbed to nearly $53 million.

Who are these sudden supporters? We wanted to find out. Here, seven people tell us how they made the journey from Never Trump to Trump Now.

Shaun Maguire: “The Republican Party is less of a danger to democracy than the Democratic Party right now.”

Maguire, 38, is a Los Angeles–based partner at Sequoia, one of the most well-known venture capital firms in the country. He previously worked at Google, but left in 2019 when he says the company became too “woke.” The married father of two says he’s never voted for a Republican presidential candidate before. In 2016, he donated to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. But within an hour after Thursday’s news, Maguire posted on X that he’d donated $300,000 to Trump—a candidate he says once made him feel “deathly afraid.”

In a 3,500-word essay, he listed his reasons for backing the ex-president, including the Biden administration’s “incompetent” withdrawal from Afghanistan, but the main reason that “boiled my blood,” he wrote, was “the double standards and lawfare that Trump has faced.” The tweet quickly went viral and elicited a response from Elon Musk, who wrote in the replies, “I think you’re right.” 

Speaking to The Free Press, Maguire said Trump’s conviction “makes me want to support him even more.” But, he added, “it wasn’t the conviction as much as it was the charges being brought in the first place. These are not democratic tactics being used. 

“In 2016, I thought it was likely that Trump was both owned by Russia and that he would be highly corrupt and undemocratic. That made me deathly afraid. But after seeing his actions as president, that foreign influence never seemed to have materialized. I think he was one of the strongest foreign policy presidents we’ve ever had.

“We were told that Donald Trump would be the end of democracy, but it turns out that lawfare tactics have been escalated by the Democrats and not by the Republicans. And so it’s from that backdrop that I believe the Republican Party is less of a danger to democracy than the Democratic Party right now.” 

On announcing his support for Trump publicly, Maguire said, “I feel very principled. I’ve done an unbelievable amount of homework and I changed my mind.” 

He added that he’s seen a similar political “shift” happening among his Silicon Valley compatriots, a sentiment that’s also being echoed on social media. Even so, he said his own change of heart has surprised many close to him, even himself: “The 2016 version of myself would have hated this version of myself.” 

They’re Voting for Trump to Save ‘Democracy’
Donald Trump holds a press conference following the verdict in his hush-money trial at Trump Tower on May 31, 2024 in New York City. (Spencer Platt via Getty Images)

Kate Nitti: “I feel the need to send a message to the Democrats.”

Kate Nitti, 40, is a marketing consultant and a married mother of two now living in New Jersey. A lifelong Democrat, she said she voted solely for her party’s representatives for more than twenty years when she still lived in Brooklyn. But then, in 2021, she marked her ballot for a Republican for the first time—Curtis Sliwa, the GOP candidate for NYC mayor—to protest how Democrats had “abused their power” during Covid with school lockdowns, and vaccine and mask mandates for kids. 

In 2022, she voted for Republican Lee Zeldin for New York governor, and she even switched her party registration from Democrat to Republican “in the hopes of getting a more centrist candidate” in the midterm primaries that year.

Although until recently she had been firmly in the RFK Jr. camp, she said she would consider voting for Trump because “I feel the need to send a message to the Democrats that their dirty politics will not be rewarded.”

With Trump facing a fine, probation, or four years in prison for each of the 34 counts he’s been convicted of, “I’m definitely going to be paying close attention to the response to this case over the next few months,” she said. 

“I’m no fan of Trump. That said, I have a huge problem with contorting the law or using prosecutorial authority in the name of ‘saving democracy,’ which has been the Democrats’ message for the past four years.”

“I still consider myself a liberal,” she added. “I just don’t think Biden Democrats reflect what that used to mean.”

Jack MacGuire: “I’m all in with the MAGA people, because this has to end.”

MacGuire, 48, a travel consultant in Houston, Texas, “couldn’t stand Trump” so much that he actually changed his voter registration from Republican to independent in 2016. He voted for Hillary Clinton that year, who he picked because he felt she would bring “continuity and competence” to the country and because she was “the lesser of two evils.” In 2020, MacGuire didn’t vote at all because he felt “disillusioned.” 

“I felt Biden lacked the mental competency and physical stamina to be president, and Trump lacked humility and clarity,” he said.

But Trump’s conviction has been a wake-up call, said MacGuire, a married father of two kids. “What happened has every level of corruption and deceit and a willingness to use whatever means necessary to stay in power. It just absolutely galvanized me to say enough is enough. I’m all in with the MAGA people, because this has to end.”

The morning after Donald Trump was convicted in Manhattan Criminal Court in the hush money trial, the former president's supporters, detractors, along with media and tourists, crowd the streets of 5th Avenue outside of Trump Tower. (Andrew Lichtenstein via Getty Images)

Emery Barter: “Trump doesn’t scare me.”

Barter, 40, a guitar instructor and recording engineer in Oakland, California, is a lifelong Democrat, having canvassed for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and cast his ballot for Biden last time around. But he started questioning his allegiance to the Democratic Party when he said “hyper-progressive policies” encouraged by left-wing District Attorney Pamela Price—including defunding the city’s police force—actually led to a crime wave in Oakland. “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” he said, has made people blind to threats within their own camps. The last five years have also made him question the media narrative on various issues.

“I used to trust the media, but now I feel the media has drifted away from reporting the truth. I just feel everything is completely made up,” he told The Free Press.

Barter, who is engaged to be married, added that Trump “doesn’t scare” him. 

“The idea that this one man is the scariest thing when really, I’ve seen many other things to be concerned with,” he said. “The narrative is just worn out.”

Barter added that he’s voting for Trump because he can’t allow a jury of twelve to decide an election outcome for the entire country. “This can’t be the way it’s determined. The idea that this threat to democracy is so great that we must sacrifice democracy to stop this threat through lawfare—it’s an all-consuming idea that can’t be rewarded.”

He concluded: “If you don’t pay attention and you just check the bluest box, you end up voting for people that aren’t actually interested in carrying out their core function anymore.”

Adam Mortara: “It’s a danger to America if Joe Biden wins the election.”

Back in 2016, Mortara, a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, was more of a Rubio or Cruz guy. “I thought Trump was a wild card, not all that conservative,” said Mortara, 49, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his family. During Trump’s term, he found himself “pretty pleased” with the then-president’s isolationist politics and economic performance, but even so, in 2020, he decided not to vote because he felt his vote wouldn’t matter. Now, he tells The Free Press, the recent verdict has pushed him to not just vote for Trump this November, but to donate $3,300 to his campaign.

“What’s gotten me off the sidelines is that if he does not win, and by a rather sizable margin, that will validate this type of weaponization of the judicial system in the future,” Mortara said. 

He hopes that if Trump wins, it will have a “deterrent effect” against what he called “politically motivated and targeted and retributive prosecutions of high-ranking political officials.” 

“Before, I would’ve said it’s not a danger to America if Joe Biden wins the election.” He paused, as if mulling the gravity of his next words, which he said one by one, slowly: “Now, I kind of think it is.” 

A New York jury found Trump guilty Thursday of all 34 charges of covering up a $130,000 hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. (Spencer Platt via Getty Images)

Daniel Kotzin: “I don’t want better experts. I want no experts.”

Kotzin, 54, lives in Denver, Colorado, with his wife Jennifer Sey, the former brand president at Levi Strauss, and their two kids. A stay-at-home dad and a former attorney, he’s a lifelong Democrat who voted for Obama twice and also worked for his campaign. In 2016, he also voted for Hillary Clinton. But during the pandemic, he became adamantly opposed to the lockdowns and considered voting for Trump in 2020, but instead went with the Libertarian Party due to the then-president’s vaccine push. But after the verdict came through Thursday, he has no doubt: he’ll be voting for Trump come November.

He said “the persecution of Trump is what decided for me because it made me think that perhaps he is different. He is going to put some dirt in the gears. They hate him too much. It really literally is because they’re pursuing him so aggressively and relentlessly that I want to support him. And I can’t be the only one. It’s too much.”

He said the justice system is being “weaponized” to go after Trump—and he’s worried about what that means for America. “It’s frightening because he’s obviously a very powerful and well-connected person. If they’re able to go after him, any time any of us could have the rug pulled out from under us and have our lives taken away. I don’t want to live in a world like that.”

Even so, he hates that this is his only choice, and said “the average American cannot believe” they have to pick between Biden and Trump. “They don’t want either of these people. I cannot believe that we have these elders. They’re too old. And it’s horrifying to have these options. The average American in both parties feels very helpless. Like there are forces beyond our control.”

But, he added, “the moment you start supporting one, you forget how much you despise both of them, and you start seeing the positives of your person. That’s what I’m doing now. I definitely want Trump to win. I think it’s much better. Trump is almost like a child having a temper tantrum. But that’s what we need right now. That’s our best option.

“I never really changed my view of him. We need a clown, we need a joker. Like during the eclipse a few years ago, the experts said, ‘Don’t look at the sun and if you look at the sun, you’ll go blind.’ And he just looked at it anyway. And they showed pictures, and of course, he’s not blind. That’s what we need. We need an idiot that looks at the sun when the experts say not to. Not forever. Right now. For the next four years. That’s what we need.”

“I don’t want a Democrat right now,” he continued. “I don’t want to be ruled by experts. I don’t want better experts. I want no experts. Trump is just going to try and break stuff, and not listen to anything that anyone tells him to do. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a long-term solution. That’s just what we need right now.”

Eric Brakey: “Democrats don’t preserve democracy.”

Brakey, 35, is a state senator in Maine who calls himself a “Ron Paul Republican” and has voted for the Libertarian candidate in both of the last presidential elections. Until Trump’s conviction, he says he was “undecided,” flirting with a vote for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. this November. But after a colleague blurted out news of the verdict in the middle of a conference call, he said it hit him that “a clear principle” was at stake: “The principle is that the people get to choose our president.”

On Friday morning, he donated to Trump’s campaign.

On the campaign trail, Biden has often warned voters that “democracy is on the line.” But Brakey told The Free Press that the recent verdict is “a very blatant attack on democracy itself.”

“Democrats don’t preserve democracy,” said Brakey. “They’re afraid that the people, when presented a democratic choice, will not vote for them.”

He added: “Democracy is when the people decide.”

Olivia Reingold, Francesca Block, and Rupa Subramanya are reporters for The Free Press. Read Peter Savodnik’s piece on the 2024 election, “The Great Scramble.”

To support more of our work, become a Free Press subscriber today:

Subscribe now

our Comments

Use common sense here: disagree, debate, but don't be a .

the fp logo
comment bg

Welcome to The FP Community!

Our comments are an editorial product for our readers to have smart, thoughtful conversations and debates — the sort we need more of in America today. The sort of debate we love.   

We have standards in our comments section just as we do in our journalism. If you’re being a jerk, we might delete that one. And if you’re being a jerk for a long time, we might remove you from the comments section. 

Common Sense was our original name, so please use some when posting. Here are some guidelines:

  • We have a simple rule for all Free Press staff: act online the way you act in real life. We think that’s a good rule for everyone.
  • We drop an occasional F-bomb ourselves, but try to keep your profanities in check. We’re proud to have Free Press readers of every age, and we want to model good behavior for them. (Hello to Intern Julia!)
  • Speaking of obscenities, don’t hurl them at each other. Harassment, threats, and derogatory comments that derail productive conversation are a hard no.
  • Criticizing and wrestling with what you read here is great. Our rule of thumb is that smart people debate ideas, dumb people debate identity. So keep it classy. 
  • Don’t spam, solicit, or advertise here. Submit your recommendations to if you really think our audience needs to hear about it.
Close Guidelines