How Trumpism Explains the GameStop Stock Surge

In early 2021, a group of individual investors coordinating on Reddit dramatically drove up GameStop’s stock price in a massive short squeeze against established hedge funds. This episode revealed how an anti-establishment mindset fueled speculative trading. Analyzing how Trumpism’s core themes align with the GameStop saga offers insight into the populist motivations underpinning it.


In January 2021, shares of videogame retailer GameStop surged a staggering 2,500% in two weeks [1]. This massive “short squeeze” inflicted billions in losses on hedge funds who had bet against the stock expecting it to fall.

Driving the surge was an informal network of traders on the Reddit forum r/WallStreetBets buying GameStop en masse in a defiant stand against traditional Wall Street. Their goals went beyond making money to target establishment players symbolizing economic elitism.

In this post, we’ll explore how core elements of Trumpism – anti-elitism, online grassroots mobilization, embrace of chaos – manifested in the GameStop saga and help explain its origins.

Populist Anti-Elitism

A defining theme of Trump’s political brand is railing against out-of-touch elites. The GameStop surge reflected similar anti-elite economic populism:

Resentment Toward Wall Street

  • Many traders expressed anger at wealthy hedge funds manipulating markets while ordinary investors suffer [2].
  • Targeting Melvin Capital specifically gave the anti-Wall Street sentiment a concrete enemy aligned with economic grievances.

Channeling Economic Frustrations

  • Years of sluggish wage growth and inequality have fueled populism across the political spectrum [3].
  • Beating Wall Street at their own game by coordinating buying was an outlet for those feeling powerless in the modern economy.

Defiance Toward Establishment

  • Incumbent short sellers expecting GameStop’s failure represented the complacent establishment.
  • Reddit traders sought to actively defy rather than blindly accept the anticipated outcome [4].

This “retail revolt” against presumptions of Wall Street reflected the same anti-elite anger Trump activated in politics.

Online Grassroots Mobilization

Trump leveraged the democratizing power of social media. The GameStop rally demonstrated similar online populism:

Harnessing New Technology

  • Trump’s Twitter skill reached voters outside traditional media channels.
  • Reddit forums like WallStreetBets provided a novel tool for individuals to coordinate outside establishment systems.

Organic User-Driven Movement

  • Trump’s Twitter account gave him direct unfiltered access to supporters.
  • WallStreetBets offered raw access to fellow individual investors without intermediaries.

Creativity Empowers Followers

  • Trump tweets sparked memes and viral slogans like MAGA from supporters.
  • WallStreetBets users actively brainstormed creative buying strategies as a community against Wall Street.

Both reflected the populist potential of direct digital engagement between leaders and followers.

Embracing Conflict and Chaos

Trump revels in creating unpredictable conflict. The GameStop surge was similarly chaotic:

Delighting in Market Volatility

  • Trump’s turbulent style generates constant market volatility [5].
  • The massive spikes and collapses in GameStop’s stock mirrored the chaos Trump introduces.

Exploiting Uncertainty

  • Trump benefited politically from an endless string of controversies keeping opponents off guard.
  • Rapidly shifting GameStop prices exploited market uncertainty and confusion.

Breaking Institutional Order

  • Trump’s presidency disrupted government norms and protocols through improvisation.
  • The GameStop rally induced a temporary disorder in financial markets outside normal mechanisms.

In both cases, embracing chaotic disruption generated short-term benefits while undermining institutional stability long-term.

Unprepared Institutions

The existing system proved unready for populist upheaval in both politics and markets:


  • The Republican Party struggled to integrate the angry faction attracted to Trump [6].
  • Rioters violently occupying the Capitol showed institutional breakdown.

Financial Markets

  • Online brokerages like Robinhood panicked under the Reddit-fueled trading spike and halted buying [7].
  • Regulators lacked policies to address manipulation concerns around mass social media-driven trading.

Populist insurgencies easily overwhelmed institutions clinging to traditional order.


The GameStop saga represented a version of the Trumpist ethos translated to financial markets – empowerment of ordinary people through technology to confront elites. Both reflected a modern distrust in gatekeepers and expert opinion. And just as Trump’s nihilistic populism threatens dysfunction when governing, the GameStop volatility entailed danger when scaled.

Ultimately, both showcase the turbulence when ideological movements collide with complex fragile systems. Institutions that resist necessary evolution inevitably risk disrupting revolt from those left behind by the future.









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