When elected, Trump made a big point that his opponent should be investigated and "locked up" over the email controversy. Almost immediately after winning the election, he made tacitly clear he was dropping that as a serious proposal, and to the best of my knowledge he did in fact drop it.

For example I remember him saying something to the effect that it was old news and he wouldn't pursue it, very soon after. I don't recall the DoJ formally being directed/asked to begin an actual investigation or inquiry , although the claim was constantly reused to attack and score points politically and energise his voter base. If the DoJ was at any stage asked to look into it, it's pretty clear by now that they have no interest in taking it further either. Nor do I recall him objecting, or railing against DoJ betrayals, trying to fire anyone in DoJ, or significant action being instigated to force them to investigate/prosecute, for example (as he did with other blocked pledges/issues that mattered to him, such as "Muslim country visitors", Muller inquiry, and the border wall). It really seems as if it's just a rallying cry, of no real interest to him now he has beaten her long ago, but useful to energise and counterattack.

But what about Trump's supporters? They can see these things too. They must have anticipated her arrest and likely trial after such a build-up. They can see she is unarrested. They can see he hasn't made, and never did make, any real effort to get her arrested. They can see he stopped really showing he cared about whether she was arrested long ago (if he ever cared other than as a means to win the election) and that he has no interest whatsoever in having her arrested now or in future. They can see that she is, in effect, already broken as a political contender, and is being left alone in peace, as an individual.

I can think of many things that, if I were a Trump supporter, I might chant. But a broken prominent campaign matter that he's made clear he bailed on directly after winning, and hasn't taken interest in pursuing in the years since? Why does that have any power, in 2019? I would feel that was a memory of betrayal rather that a positive attribute, and prefer to let it slide from memory, maybe chant something related to an area where he did visibly fight for what I'd voted and care about.

So why are his supporters adopting that as a "lead" chant at rallies, and not chanting something else - anything else - to avoid focus on such a visibly broken promise from his past election that is fairly clearly, gone nowhere, going nowhere now, apparently was never seriously intended to go anywhere once it got him elected, and virtually certainly is going nowhere in future even if re-elected?

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    The question needs a bit of rephrasing. Asking for internal motivations is off topic. Better ask what they gain by doing that. That should be answerable. Commented Jul 11, 2019 at 20:34
  • Closers: the motivations underlying pep rallies and propaganda are more statistical than "internal". More often than not their organizers are shrewd estimators of the needed ingredients in their public's motivational stew and write handbooks, leaflets, handouts, et al to help carry out their work.
    – agc
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 11:40
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    contra stultitia, ipsos deos frustra contendere
    – RedSonja
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 6:25
  • @RedSonja what’s that from? Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 1:58
  • @Stormblessed attributed to Seneca
    – RedSonja
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 8:33

5 Answers 5


Two Minutes Hate

People loved chanting "lock her up". So why should they stop? In some sense, that's why no effort has been made - actually locking up Clinton, or trying to, would detract from the purity of hating her and everything she represents.

But what about Trump's supporters? They can see these things too

I put it to you that they can't, don't or won't. They're watching a different set of news channels, pundits, and talk radio to you. They're not interested in having their prejudices unconfirmed. To substantiate that, consider this quote from the Atlantic:

Most Americans do not live in a totalizing bubble. They regularly encounter people of different races, ideologies, and religions. For the most part, they view these interactions as positive, or at least neutral.

Yet according to a new study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and The Atlantic, a significant minority of Americans do not live this way. They seldom or never meet people of another race. They dislike interacting with people who don’t share their political beliefs. And when they imagine the life they want for their children, they prize sameness, not difference. Education and geography seemed to make a big difference in how people think about these issues, and in some cases, so did age.

That's how the culture war operates. It's entirely symbolic. People who have bought into it fundamentally aren't interested in the underlying messy reality. After all, Clinton hasn't done anything personally to them. She hasn't even been responsible for any particular policy the hatred rallies around. What they hate is what Clinton represents.

That's why they don't care about "outcomes". Offending liberals is the desired outcome.

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    Without any reliable sources that this is indeed the motivation of Trump's supporters, this really just seems like speculation at best and an attempt to make them look bad at worst.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 19:46
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    Are we deleting answers for just having no sources now? I might have missed that memo. Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 2:23
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    I started a discussion about this specific answer on meta.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 8:25
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    The Atlantic cites that study stating: "a significant minority of Americans do not live this way. They seldom or never meet people of another race. They dislike interacting with people who don’t share their political beliefs. And when they imagine the life they want for their children, they prize sameness, not difference." Feel free to edit that into your answer, I think it will improve it as it adds a factual basis (namely, surveying Trump supporters).
    – JJJ
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 2:29
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    The edited quote does nothing to help the fundamental problems with this answer, which is mostly an extended "orange man supporters bad". Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 18:14

When elected, Trump made a big point that his opponent should be investigated and "locked up" over the email controversy. Almost immediately after winning the election, he made tacitly clear he was dropping that as a serious proposal, and to the best of my knowledge he did in fact drop it.

Your entire premise is wrong. Trump has and continues to see this as a serious proposal:

In November of 2018, the NY Times reported that Trump Wanted to Order Justice Dept. to Prosecute Comey and Clinton.

President Trump told the White House counsel in the spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with the conversation


Mr. Trump repeatedly pressed Justice Department officials about the status of Clinton-related investigations, including Mr. Whitaker when he was the chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversations

This was soon corroborated by CNN: Trump raised prosecuting Clinton with top White House, Justice officials:

President Donald Trump on multiple occasions raised with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Matt Whitaker, who was then-chief of staff to Jeff Sessions, whether the Justice Department was progressing in investigating Hillary Clinton, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The President also wanted his previous White House counsel, Don McGahn, to ask the Justice Department to prosecute Clinton on numerous occasions, but McGahn rebuffed doing that, the source said.

The Mueller report, released in April 2019, appears to confirm this reporting (page 321 of this huge PDF, or Part 2 Page 109):

Later in 2017, the President continued to urge Sessions to reverse his recusal from campaign-related investigations and considered replacing Sessions with an Attorney General who would not be recused.

On October 16, 2017, the President met privately with Sessions and said that the Department of Justice was not investigating individuals and events that the President thought the Department should be investigating. According to contemporaneous notes taken by Porter, who was at the meeting, the President mentioned Clinton's emails and said, "Don't have to tell us, just take [a] look." Sessions did not offer any assurances or promises to the President that the Department of Justice would comply with that request. Two days later, on October 18, 2017, the President tweeted, "Wow, FBI confirms report that James Comey drafted letter exonerating Crooked Hillary Clinton long before investigation was complete. Many people not interviewed, including Clinton herself. Comey stated under oath that he didn't do this-obviously a fix? Where is Justice Dept?" On October 29, 2017, the President tweeted that there was "ANGER & UNITY" over a "lack of investigation" of Clinton and "the Comey fix," and concluded: "DO SOMETHING!"

The fact that Trump was unsuccessful in his efforts says more about the (lack of) evidence than it does about Trump's desire to pursue this campaign promise.

Now in early 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions declined to appoint a special counsel, but did assign a US prosecutor to investigate several Clinton-related matters:

“I have already directed senior federal prosecutors to evaluate certain issues previously raised by the Committee,” Sessions noted, referring to a November letter to Congress that provided vague suggestions that he would consider congressional GOP complaints about the Clinton investigation.

If you read the original letter sent by the committee, you can see they're talking largely about Clinton's emails, the Clinton Foundation, and Clinton's (supposed) involvement in the sale of Uranium One.

We have not yet seen any results of this investigation.

Additional related articles:

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    "The fact that Trump was unsuccessful in his efforts says more about the (lack of) evidence than it does about Trump's desire to pursue this campaign promise." The alternative perspective, held by many on the right, is that these individuals are corrupt and biased in favor of Democrats. See Sidney Powell's discussions of her encounters with some of them, for example. (On a question about Trump supporter's opinions, this perspective would seem to be wholly relevant.)
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 10:20
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    @jpmc26 I concede that's what many on the right believe; I just think those claims quickly fall apart when fairly investigated. I also think Trump has been largely restrained by a DOJ staffed with people who actually take their oath of office seriously and therefore have been willing to push back on clearly illegal or inappropriate requests. But with Trump's appointments of Barr and others who pass Trump's "loyalty test", that may be changing, for the detriment of us all.
    – BradC
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 14:49
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    @jpmc26 Not looked into this before, but that article seems false on its face. The FBI interview of Flynn was post-inauguration, late Jan 2017, not Jan 2016. So the doc we have (see here, or a recently released less-redacted version here), which was typed up in Feb 2017, appears to be the original 302, not some "later summary", as suggested.
    – BradC
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 16:01
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    @jpmc26 Yep, looks like the editorial was written just before the 302 was released. Is that evidence that Mueller was slow to produce it? Perhaps. Is it evidence of Mueller destroying evidence and obstructing justice? No. And don't forget, Mueller (and Comey and McCabe, and Rosenstein, etc...) are all lifelong Republicans, so Trump's claims about only being opposed by "angry Democrats" is (like many of his other rants) entirely baseless.
    – BradC
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 16:55
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    The destroying evidence bit refers to text messages later in the article. The question of the 302 having possibly been destroyed was raised, but not asserted. Only the failure to produce them was asserted. I have no interest in defending everything Trump says, either, but I am concerned about corruption in our intelligence and law agencies.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 17:16

A large part of the problem here is that you are viewing the chanters as Donald Trump supporters. Perhaps that's not how they view themselves. Perhaps they view themselves as protesters who are bringing attention to the ongoing failure of the government to enforce proper treatment of classified information.

There is an argument that Hillary Clinton should be arrested and charged. She was given classified information that she then treated recklessly and carelessly. The decision not to charge her was made by someone who himself leaked classified material.

Another observation that the chants may be less about supporting Trump and more about Clinton:

But what struck me as odd, in retrospect, was that this man was still obsessing over his hatred of Clinton, nearly two years after she lost the election. He had nothing positive to say about the man he’d voted for, only wrath for the woman who ran against him.

Really though, if you want the answer to this, we're the wrong place to ask. Go to a Trump rally, find a chanter, and ask that person. Repeat until you get a nice selection of answers with many repeats. The only thing we could really do would be to link you to someone else who did that. But it seems like the media is more interested in speculating than in doing actual research, as I can't find anything like that.

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    So, from a purely procedural point of view, why did the FBI investigation not lead to a prosecution? It also seems odd, and unsourced, to describe Comey as a "(Democrat) partisan" when (per Wikipedia) he was a registered Republican for most of his life?
    – pjc50
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 14:53
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    @pjc50 Comey pushed for prosecution and was shut down by higher ups in the DOJ. This explains his half-hearted explanation of the investigation's findings, which amounted to, "she clearly broke the law, but we're not prosecuting because reasons." It would also explain why Clinton subsequently threw him under the bus in the media. Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 16:58

It's a bit of a sunk cost fallacy, or escalation of commitment.

Escalation of commitment is a human behavior pattern in which an individual or group facing increasingly negative outcomes from a decision, action, or investment nevertheless continues the behavior instead of altering course. The actor maintains behaviors that are irrational, but align with previous decisions and actions.

A non-trivial number of people bought into the idea of trial-by-political-rally that Republicans started in July 2016. In the time since, a Republican controlled House and Senate, and later Justice Department, were unable to find anything with which they could get charges filed against her (and certainly not for lack of trying).

Instead, an alarming number of prominent people under Trump have been found guilty of federal and state crimes, and if not for the Justice Department's policy against indicting a sitting president, Donald Trump would likely have been indicted by now as an unprecedented one-thousand-plus former federal prosecutes have come out to claim (numerous counts of obstruction of justice, and also the unindicted co-conspirator in the federal crimes he and Michael Cohen (who is now serving time) committed).

So what's a person in this situation to do? Unfortunately, many humans are remarkably resistant to admitting they have been duped. By some estimates, less than 5% of financial scams are ever reported because people are too ashamed to admit they were tricked, and that's when money has been taken from them. While some might snap out of it, many people will instead double-down on it, even as it continues to look more absurd, because they are already in too deep for their pride.


Looking at Politico Article from March, a month or so after the appointment of Barr as Attorney General, it seems likely that the re-emergence of "Lock Her Up" is linked to the same drain the swamp narrative used by the Trump campaign in 2016. I expect if he's ever asked about it directly he'll lay blame on Democrats for blocking investigations into Hillary Clinton.

The opening paragraph;

President Donald Trump said in an interview that aired Friday he hopes Attorney General William Barr will “do what’s fair” with regards to opening investigations to perceived crimes by his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton, former FBI Director James Comey, former intelligence chief James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan.

This plays into Trumps repeated comments about the Russia investigation as a Witch Hunt and the "Crooked Dems" positioning. By suggesting he's asking for "fairness" it paints anyone who disagrees with him as "unfair". Given the Democrat control of the house of Representatives and the subsequent difficulty of a Republican President to promote their own agenda it seems likely this will build toward the same plan as 2016.

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