The line began forming early Tuesday morning in Racine, Wisconsin, the usual river of red hats, cargo shorts, canes, and conspiracies, except that here and there were the fresh faces that the old-timers needed most.

I was in fifth grade when Trump was elected, Kylie Smith, 18, was saying, excited for her first rally. I just remember my dad yelling, Trump won! Trump won!

I just wanted to be hereits a learning experience, her friend Libby Kramer, 20, was telling me, as an older man in an Im Voting for the Felon T-shirt listened in.

Welcome to the party, he said.

Its so good to see you girls, a white-haired woman wearing a Fuck Biden hat said.

Nearly a decade into the Make America Great Again movement, what Donald Trump needs to return to the White House is new voters, and among the most promising are the youngest, most impressionable voters of all. They were in elementary school when Trump was first elected, and the machinations being deployed to sweep them into the fold are less about issues such as Gaza or the planet or student loans than lights, screens, music, and the emotional appeal of righteous belongingwhich has always been necessary for building armies and social movements.

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That kind of production has remained the essence of Trump rallies such as the one in Racine. And it has been the year-round specialty of Turning Point USA, the right-wing youth organization whose recent Peoples Convention in Detroit was a carnival of swirling lights and booming music, with sponsors including the Association of Mature American Citizensthe MAGA version of the AARP. That event drew a crowd of young attendees who cheered 70-year-old Steve Bannon as he yelled Victory or death!, and 78-year-old Trump as he spoke of the largest deportation operation in American history, and two young men in sunglasses who walked onstage and unfurled a red flag that read White Boy Summer , a white-supremacist slogan.

Outside of such events, the task of introducing young people to the shame-free camaraderie of the MAGA movement has been up to social-media influencers, parents, and, as the election nears, long-timers at rallies such as the one in Racine, where an older woman scanned the faces up and down the line.

Its so good to see all the young people here, she said.

Just ahead, the rally was setting up in a park along a harbor of Lake Michigan: the stage, the screens, the speakers, the huge American flag hanging limp from a crane.

I think were moving, said a young man holding hands with his wife, both of them 21-year-olds for whom supporting Trump was a kind of rebellion.

I grew up in a Democratic household, but Im an adult now and I have to think for myself, the woman was saying as her husband pulled her ahead. Were against abortion, were against illegal immigration.

We dont support the culture Biden supports, her husband said, and behind him, an older woman in the ubiquitous Fuck Biden T-shirt offered her solidarity: And the economy has gone to hellIm scared for you young people.

Behind her, a man from the state GOP was handing out cards. Join the Milwaukee GOP! Were on Instagram! Were on Twitter! The whole political world is coming to Milwaukee! he was saying, referring to the Republican National Convention next month.

Behind him, the line was getting longer. There were mothers whod brought daughters, and fathers whod brought sons. Joe Vacek smiled and nodded as his 18-year-old son, Chase, said, I guess I was 12 when Trump was elected.

Yep, we were at hockey practice, his dad said.

I remember the TVs in the lobby and these big portraits kept coming up, the son said, recalling how Trumps image began to seep into his consciousness. I guess I started paying closer attention in 2020, especially when people started talking about election integrity. I was like, What are they talking about?, and I started researching.

He glanced at his father.

Youre doing great, Joe Vacek said.

Behind them was 19-year-old Jordan Lazier, whod come with his grandparents. He had decided that his first presidential vote would be for Trump.

I remember when he was elected, I just liked him, he said, recalling how his mother felt similarly. I just knew he was better than Hillary, I couldnt tell you how.

Youre a smart kid, his grandmother said. Dont forget about the evil versus good.

Good versus evil, Jordan repeated, looking at her. I know about satanic stuff most Democrats are into. Republicans talk about worshipping Jesus Christ, and Democrats worship the government.

We listen to a lot of prophets, and we understand Bohemian Grove, his grandmother said, referring to some bleak corner of the QAnon conspiracy.

Behind her, a veteran rallygoer was explaining something called the Rattle Trap conspiracy to a newcomer who was saying, Theres so much out there I dont know about.

Behind them was Bob Harper, 18, and Katherine Hughes, 19, who figured her journey to this point had begun in fifth grade, when her teacher instructed the class to color the states on a U.S. map red and blue after Trump got elected in 2016. That was the first time she thought about people as red or blue, and the country as something other than united. And she wanted to feel united, which is how being here made her feel.

We cant really talk about all this with many kids our agethey call you racist, homophobic, Hughes said, referring to the mood on her community-college campus, where she said most students were liberal, and many were Muslim, and she felt ostracized.

I just feel we should really be one country instead of divided, Harper said, and soon the line began moving faster.

Music started blaring from the rally site. Someone from the pro-Trump Right Side Broadcasting Network began filming, and people chanted for the camera, Trump! Trump! Trump!

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Tyler Marquisse, 19, was getting excited. He had driven over from his hometown of Kenosha, where the formative experience of his young political life had come in the summer of 2020, when protests and riots had broken out after the police shooting of a Black man named Jacob Blake, and a young white man named Kyle Rittenhouse had shot and killed two protesters. Marquisse was 14 at the time, and his reaction had mostly been fear. He recalled his parents telling him there was a gun in the bedroom, and a gun in the kitchen. They told him, If someone walks through that door, you protect yourself, and he remembered Trump coming to Kenosha soon after that.

Trump protected us, he said now, standing near the front of a line that stretched several blocks past tables piled with T-shirts depicting Trump as an Old West outlaw, as a mafioso-looking convict, and with two middle fingers held up to the world.

Seeing all of this, Matt Lahee, 20, was not sure what to think yet. Im just curious mostly, he said, standing in line with his younger brother and his friend, both of whom were wearing red MAGA hats.

Lahee was not. He wasnt sure whom he would vote for in November. He had come with his siblings because he was home from school in Vermont, and because he wanted to see for himself what Trump and his rallies were all about.

What he remembered about growing up in an upper-middle-class Chicago suburb with Trump as president: bobblehead dolls of Trump and Hillary Clinton. Snapchat groups where kids took sides. A social-studies teacher who had a Trump T-shirt on the classroom wall. Another teacher who taught students about mass incarceration. Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia. Having Latino friends. Running track, fishing, and doing what you do as a kid up until 2020, when everything was upended by the pandemic and the police killing of George Floyd and the protests he never joined, even though he remembered the video, and feeling very sad about what happened.

Hey, Matt? his brother, Ryan, said now. What was that thing you were saying in the car? About nostalgia?

I was saying things seemed like they were going smoothly befoe COVID hit, Lahee said. But I dont know if thats just nostalgia, or if it was really better?

He wasnt sure, and now the line was moving, and soon they were all inside.

Their first Trump rally had soft green grass, and a view of Lake Michigan, and the smell of hot dogs and fries. A warm breeze was blowing, and the sun was out.

Isnt it a great day to be at a Trump rally? one of the warm-up speakers said.

People milled around. A young couple talked about the possibility of Trump being assassinated. A young man with long black hair, a beard, and an ankle monitor stood alone for a while until several police officers approached and quietly escorted him away. The loudspeakers began blaring Time in a Bottle and older people mouthed the words.

Matt Lahee found a place toward the back of the crowd. He yawned. He sat on the grass through Pinball Wizard and a video of Elvis Presley, and when the crowd got restless and started chanting We want Trump!, he did not join in.

When Trump arrived and God Bless the U.S.A. swelled and people hoisted their phones, Lahee folded his arms.

He listened as Trump mocked his successors age, and the crowd chanted Fuck Joe Biden, and he did not join in. He listened as Trump talked about illegal immigrants and all the killing youre going to see unless you elect me, and as the crowd chanted Kick them out! and Do it! Do it! And he did not join in, and instead listened.

He listened to the whole hour-and-a-half speech, and when it was over and the Village People were blasting, he headed toward the exit, still unsure what all of this meant.

I dont know, Lahee said. It was kind of dark.