Its official name is the Trucking the Truth America First Bus Tour.
It’s also known as the Mega MAGA Bus or simply the Trump Bus, although other buses have claimed that name. But whatever you call it, John Fredericks just wants you to see it — and hear his message.
“We’re here to celebrate what’s going to be the first total takeover of a major state party by the MAGA movement from top to bottom,” Fredericks told the Ledger-Enquirer on Thursday. “Georgia is going to be a launching pad to take over the whole country. … You can’t get elected for president if you don’t win Georgia.”
His bus was parked at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Columbus, across Front Avenue from the Columbus Convention & Trade Center, where the Georgia Republican Party’s 2023 State Convention.
Based in Richmond, Virginia, he runs the John Fredericks Media Network. Along with his wife, he owns 12 radio stations, spanning from Pittsburgh to Atlanta (WMLB AM 1690). For the past 11 years, he’s been preaching conservative politics on the John Fredericks Radio Show, simulcast on Real America’s Voice TV and available on podcasts.
How John Fredericks started his Trump bus
Fredericks, 65, has worked in various media jobs for about 40 years. In 2012, he said was fired from his position as an editorial page editor for the Tribune Company in Newport News, Virginia, after writing an editorial sarcastically welcoming Barack Obama to town during the presidential campaign.
“They didn’t tell me that was the reason,” Fredericks said. “But it was like three days later.”
He had been a guest commentator on political talk shows, so he figured he could host one himself and start his own network — from which nobody could fire him.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Fredericks realized he could better connect with his audience and be a more effective booster for Trump if he got closer to voters. So he rented a bus to take his show on the road.
“If you stay in the studio and you don’t go out and engage with people across the country, go to diners and things of that nature, go to restaurants, go to events, you really become isolated,” he said. “… The whole purpose of our bus tour is to get people involved, rally the troops, give them a point of contact and obviously spread our word as we go. … We want to be able to take our message to people and get them excited and fired up.”
Fredericks was the Virginia chairman for the Trump campaign in 2016 and 2020 and the state’s delegation chairman for Trump in 2020. During the Trump presidency, he was a White House correspondent, representing his network.
How people react to this Trump bus
In 2021, Fredericks bought a 35-foot bus and remodeled it to accommodate a mobile studio. He also had a larger-than-life image of Trump emblazoned on a wrap around the bus.
Sometimes, passersby ask whether Trump is on the bus. Sure, they’re disappointed when Fredericks tells them it isn’t really Trump’s bus, but he lets them sign the outside nonetheless.
“They want to be a part of it,” he said. “That’s why you see all the signatures. … This bus tour represents not the president, per se, but the movement that right now he’s the head of.”
So even when Trump isn’t on the ballot, Fredericks said, his vision of Make America Great Again still can generate votes for candidates in other races.
“We agree with his policies, and we want to drive them into more activities,” he said. “The first thing is voting. … We’ve got to tell them there’s an election, other than a presidential one. When you look at the turnout in 2018, it just wasn’t there. Then you look at the turnout in 2022, it was equally as pathetic: 52% of Republicans turned out.”
Fredericks didn’t have an estimate for the number of trips, stops or miles his bus has driven, but he said, “I can tell you that driving in the Northeast during the midterms tore my bus up. I had to get $8,000 worth of repairs.”
The Northeast also is where his bus has received its worst reception.
“We would stop at a light, and some people would give us the New Jersey salute,” he said. “But, mostly, the reaction is very, very positive. I mean, there’s never been any vandalism.”
Bipartisan lesson John Fredericks learned the from Trump bus
A typical trip through eight states in three weeks, Fredericks said, allows him to talk with thousands of folks.
“We’re the voice of working people, of the common man, and we get that through going out and talking to them,” he said. “That’s how we learn.”
Fredericks explained the bipartisan lesson those folks have taught him.
“Working people feel they’ve been betrayed, they’ve been sold out, they’ve been kicked to the curb, nobody cares about them, and they feel they’re just basically political fodder,” he said. “The Republicans lie to them, the Democrats exploit them, the unions take their money, their wages go down, their earning power goes down, they get crap, and they get kicked in the teeth.”
Trump’s political genius, Fredericks said, taps into that sensibility and mindset.
“The Trump movement is a working class, blue-collar movement,” he said. “When Trump won in 2016, it was a big F-you to the elites.
“The Democrats are all tied up in what race you are, what gender you are or what gender you think you are, where you came from. … Nobody gave a rat’s a-- about the working stiff that lost his home and got kicked out to the street. Finally, some guy comes along and says, ‘You know what? I’ve got your back.’ … He leads a movement of working people rising up against elitists, globalists, Washington, swamp — everything that keeps working people down.”
MAGA taking over the Georgia Republican Party?
Now, the MAGA movement is poised to take back political power from Gov. Brian Kemp’s wing of the Georgia Republican Party, Fredericks said. He noted Kemp and other prominent Georgia Republicans, such as Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Attorney General Chris Carr and Insurance Commissioner John King, aren’t scheduled to attend the convention.
“Seventy percent of the delegates that are here at this convention have turned over since two years ago,” he said. “Think about that. … This is why Kemp’s not coming.”
The shift among Georgia Republicans could spark similar changes in other states, Fredericks said.
“The MAGA forces, from A to Z, are going to take it over, lock, stock and barrel,” he said. “This is unprecedented. You take on the (Georgia Republican) slate, from chair to assistant secretary, every single one is part of the MAGA movement. … This is going to be the blueprint for us to go out and get other state parties to get involved and see that it can be done. … You can’t take the national party over until you take the state parties over.”
Now, he insists America must rehire Trump. Fredericks used stark terms to describe what he thinks is at stake in this presidential election.
“If Trump doesn’t win,” he said, “there’s no country.”