On Saturday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma, President Donald Trump tried to relaunch his reelection campaign. This was his chance, after the onslaught of the novel coronavirus and three months without a campaign rally, to tell Americans what he would do in a second term. The election, he argued, was about defeating an array of enemies: anarchists, journalists, Democrats, and “millions and millions of illegal aliens.” But the common theme was enmity itself. Trump can’t run on four more years of prosperity. So he’s running on four more years of strife.
At the rally, Trump shrugged off the 120,000 Americans killed by the virus, joking that he preferred to test fewer people so fewer infections would be found. He said he had shaken hands with children in the arena. This was no big deal, he opined, because if a kid got sick, he’d “recover in about 15 minutes.” Critics “always blame a president,” Trump scoffed. “Other than all of the horrible, horrible death,” he concluded, “people are going to say, ‘Man, this guy is doing a good job.’ ”
Instead of talking about his accomplishments, Trump devoted his speech to skewering people he didn’t like. He called them “sadistic,” “vicious,” “hateful,” and “sinister.” He ridiculed an unnamed government employee, labeling him a “dumb son of a bitch.” Trump encouraged the crowd to boo reporters in the arena, calling them “the most dishonest people anywhere on earth.” He denounced athletes who knelt for the national anthem. He claimed that anarchists were really Democrats: “Democrat, all Democrat. Everything I tell you is Democrat.” He insulted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“She doesn’t have a clue”) and threatened D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “They ripped down a statue … with our radical left mayor watching on television,” Trump fumed. “That’s going to be very expensive for D.C. They’re always looking for money” from the federal government, he said, ominously. “So it’s not going to be good for Mayor Bowser.”
Trump directed slurs and insinuations at several ethnic groups. He called the coronavirus “Kung Flu.” He railed against undocumented immigrants and vowed to abolish DACA. He pitted black Americans against Latin Americans, claiming that former Vice President Joe Biden had “hollowed out our middle class, including our black middle class, with open borders.” He compared murders in Baltimore and Detroit to Guatemala and El Salvador. He speculated that some of the people who had caused trouble in Minneapolis during the George Floyd protests “aren’t even from our nation.” He described a hypothetical home invader this way: “It’s one o’clock in the morning, and a very tough—I’ve used the word on occasion, hombre—a very tough hombre is breaking into the window of a young woman whose husband is away.”
The president didn’t just aim these ethnic attacks at foreigners. He also challenged the loyalty of a naturalized American. “Rep. Ilhan Omar is going to be very much involved in a Biden government,” Trump told the crowd. “She would like to make the government of our country just like the country from where she came, Somalia.” The crowd booed, and Trump went on: “Now she’s telling us how to run our country.” A vote for Biden, said Trump, was a vote for Omar “deciding the fate of your country.”
Trump went beyond hatred, appealing explicitly to violence. He dismissed immigrants with criminal records as “animals” and praised Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who “start swinging” at them. He extended this argument to Americans involved in the Floyd protests. Journalists “call them protesters,” he sneered, but they were really “thugs.” He encouraged his followers to take matters into their own hands. “When you see those lunatics all over the streets, it’s damn nice to have [fire]arms,” he declared. “Damn nice.”
Trump said he would enjoy sending troops to put down domestic unrest. “I have an offer out,” he said of protesters who had claimed a six-block section of Seattle. He urged the governor, Jay Inslee, to attack the protesters: “Gov. Inslee ought to get his act together. Get in there! I’ll help you.” As he spoke, Trump could hardly contain his excitement. “I’m waiting for a call. I would love to do it,” he said. “It’ll take less than an hour, and it’ll all be over with.” But perhaps, he suggested, it would be better to let the people of Seattle suffer, in order to teach them a lesson. “It’s probably better for us to just watch that disaster,” he said of the standoff. He claimed that on the flight to Tulsa, a Republican congressman had told him, “Let it simmer for a little while. Let people see what radical left Democrats will do to our country.”
This is what Trump offers in a second term. There would be more lies, hatred, demagoguery, and subversion of constitutional government. And perhaps, with his encouragement or at his hands, there would be more violence. He’s not even hiding his intent to accelerate the destruction of America. He’s running on it.
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