Donald Trump once famously boasted he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, and not lose supporters. For years that seemed true.


But his latest actions – including the deployment of an ad hoc paramilitary force against protesters on avenues around the country – may have been too much.


Last Monday night, police and soldiers violently cleared protesters so Trump could walk from the White House to St John’s church for a photo opportunity. At that moment, Nolan Fuzzell had seen enough.


Fuzzell is a table server at a restaurant in Lawrence, Kansas, and previously supported Trump. But after the photo stunt he tweeted: “Beginning to regret wearing all Trump gear on Election Day 2016. This is not right, on any level.”


So how did Trump lose supporters like Fuzzell, and are they gone for good?


Trump adherents have had to boycott the reddest of American sports, professional football.


Among other things Trump has asked evangelical Christians, his staunchest allies, to overlook lurid descxtions of his sexual escapades, hush money paid to a porn actor and – with difficulty – the abandonment of vulnerable Christian communities in northern Syria.


But the most difficult demand of Trump’s followers is unfolding now.


For years, activists on the right railed against the possibility of US military deployment within the country’s borders. A conspiracy theory about such a program – called “Jade Helm 15” – grew so adamant that in 2015 Texas senator Ted Cruz requested an explanation from the Pentagon. It was a figment of the fevered rightwing imagination.


But now, under Trump, the American self-invasion is coming true: squads of troops from agencies that normally oversee prisons, borders and drug enforcement have taken to the streets, often with no identifying insignia, to tamp down protests and riots. This week, active-duty troops mustered outside Washington, awaiting Trump’s command.


The troop build-up alarmed Mattis, a retired marine general.


“Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington DC, sets up a conflict – a false conflict – between the military and civilian society,” he wrote. “It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part.”


All these circumstances have converged to chip away at Trump’s previously granite-hard base.


Fuzzell, the regretful waiter in Kansas, is not alone.


“If I were a Republican operative, I’d be concerned about some of these numbers,” said Natalie Jackson, director of research at the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).


“That’s an all-time low,” Jackson said. In 2019 that rating had averaged 52%. “It’s statistically significant.”


Much of the drop may be because those non-degreed white voters – Trump’s hard core – have suffered mightily during the coronavirus outbreak.


“They are more likely to work in the service industry, and are losing jobs at a higher rate, or going to work at a significant risk to their health,” Jackson said.


It’s difficult to know, yet, how the current civil unrest may affect Trump’s support. But the initial signs are not in his favor. PRRI researchers collected their information around the country between May 26 and 31. Midway through that span, protests reached an inflection point when rioters burned down the Minneapolis police’s third precinct building.


So the researchers, curious about the protests’ effect, divided their polling into pre- and post-precinct-burning samples. Among all Republicans, Jackson said, Trump’s favorability dropped a whopping 9% after the precinct fire, from 88% to 79%.


Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, said he didn’t want to “critique other people’s performances”.


Senator Mitt Romney, of Utah, said in a statement: “From the news clips I have seen, the protesters across from the White House were orderly and nonviolent. They should not have been removed by force and without warning, particularly when the apparent purpose was to stage a photo op.”


One voter, who requested anonymity due to threats, wrote in a message: “Considering how far right the Trumpublican party has moved, I’m now considered left.”


So he started a Facebook page, directly titled I Regret Voting for Donald Trump in 2016.


“Many are afraid of posting in public due to fears of being attacked by unforgiving people on the left,” the voter said.