Donald Trump is conjuring his most ominous vision yet of a possible second term, telling his supporters, in language reminiscent of the period before the Jan. 6 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, that they must “fight like hell” or lose them their country.
The rhetorical escalation of the four-time indicted ex-president came a rally in South Dakota on Friday evening, where he accused his potential 2024 opponent of President Joe Bidento order his indictment on 91 counts in four criminal cases as a form of election interference.
“I don’t believe there has ever been such darkness in our country as there is now,” Trump said in a dystopian speech in which he accused Democrats of allowing an “invasion” of migrants across the southern border and trying to reignite Covid to start “hysteria.”
The Republican front-runner’s sober speech raised the prospect of a second presidency that would be even more extreme and demanding on the rule of law than his first. His view that the Oval Office confers unfettered power suggests that Trump would engage in behavior similar to that for which he is awaiting trial, including intimidating local officials in an alleged attempt to overturn his 2020 defeat to undo.
Tellingly, Trump also directed criticism of his behavior at his political opponents, implicitly arguing that the real threat to America’s political freedoms lay not in his attempt to invalidate a free and fair election, but in his efforts to legally prosecute him for doing so to be held accountable. “It is truly a threat to democracy when they trample on our rights and freedoms every day of the year,” he said.
“This is a great moment for our country because we are either going to go one way or the other, and if we go the other there will be no country left,” he told supporters in South Dakota. “We will fight together, we will win together and then we will seek justice together,” he added. This followed a rally in March in which he described his 2024 campaign and possible second term as a means of “retaliation” for supporters who believe they have been wronged.
Trump is a highly skilled demagogue whose ability to inject falsehoods and conspiracies into the country’s political bloodstream creates a vortex of chaos and bitterness in which he alone seems to thrive. And his words shape public opinion. In a recent CNN pollFor example, only 28% of Republicans believed Biden legitimately won enough votes to win the 2020 election. This came after years of Trump’s relentless denial that he had lost, and despite courts rejecting his numerous challenges to the result.
Trump’s authoritarianism could make the 2024 election a profound decision
The autocratic occupation of Trump’s campaign creates a threatening atmosphere around the 2024 election and creates profound dilemmas for voters and his opponents. This adds significance, for example, to a growing debate about whether Biden, at age 80, has the stamina and political resilience needed to beat Trump a second time. While his predecessor spent the weekend voicing doubts about the American electoral system, Biden was on the other side of the world in India and Vietnam, he built international support for his signature foreign policy strategy of combating threats to Western democracy from authoritarian leaders in China and Russia.
At home, the ex-president’s extremism also reveals the timidity of most of his Republican primary rivals, who have lately allied themselves with newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy but are only willing to criticize Trump in the most superficial terms to avoid losing his millions GOP hurting supporters. Approximately the next candidate, the former South Carolina Governor Nikki HaleyAs she criticized Trump’s behavior on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, she warned that “we must leave the negativity of the past behind us” while presenting herself as a role model for a new generation of leaders.
The former president’s increasing demagoguery also puts important unknowns of the 2024 election in the spotlight:
— Does the GOP risk nominating a candidate whose unruly behavior will anger voters in many suburban swing districts that turned against him in the 2020 election, especially given the possibility that he could be a convicted felon if the Voters make their choice?
– And if Trump wins the nomination, his liabilities and the prospect of four more years of chaos and recriminations will ease concerns about Biden’s physical and mental performance and worries about the economy, as in a CNN poll last week, which reflected a largely negative view of his presidency?
At the same time, Trump’s strong lead in the primaries shows that there is a market for his brand of strongman theatrics. Millions of voters trust and admire him, convinced both by his false claims that he won the 2020 election and that the criminal charges he faces are an attempt to persecute him for his political views. Trump’s outspokenness and carefully cultivated outsider image, despite formerly living in the White House, allow him to endlessly tap into a vein of resentment against Washington and the political, economic and media “elites” that is deeply felt among many who support them the “Make America Great Again” movement. This may explain why his charges appear to have made him more popular in the Republican Party primaries.
And schooled by Trump, Republicans are widely complaining that the current president’s son, Hunter Biden – who is being investigated by a special counsel for alleged violations of tax and gun laws after a plea deal collapsed – is receiving preferential treatment from the Justice Department. And they denounce corruption when they say Hunter Biden is trying to exploit his father’s former position as vice president to make deals in countries like China and Ukraine.
Trump has sown and spread many of these narratives for months, putting political pressure on GOP leaders on Capitol Hill to consider the possibility of an impeachment inquiry against Joe Biden. Supporters of the move have not yet outlined which high crimes or misdemeanors, or cases of treason or bribery – the constitutional standard for impeachment – apply to Biden. The president has denied involvement in his son’s business dealings, and Republicans have offered no evidence of wrongdoing on his part in those dealings. Still, a majority of Americans in a recent CNN poll — 61% — say they believe Joe Biden was at least partially involved in Hunter Biden’s dealings, with 42% saying they believe he acted illegally , and 18% said his actions were unethical but not illegal. A 55 percent majority also said the president acted inappropriately in investigating his son for possible crimes, while 44 percent said he acted appropriately.
These national divisions, which Trump is skillfully deepening, reflect a deep sense of alienation in American politics that a bitter election will only exacerbate. Such a divide was evident at a football matchup Saturday in the nation’s premier GOP caucus state, where Trump, one of several GOP candidates attending the game, was greeted with a mix of cheers and boos. Several soccer fans greeted him with gestures that were captured on social media. The host Iowa State Cyclones lost to the University of Iowa Hawkeyes in the game in Ames, a college town in Story County – a liberal bastion in an increasingly conservative state that Trump won twice in general elections.
Why Trump’s language is the engine of his political power
Some commentators have previously questioned what they see as alarmist media coverage of Trump, pointing out that his performative combativeness is often interpreted too literally. But the hundreds of pages of evidence in criminal indictments alleging that Trump used presidential power to steal an election and the way he uses his appearances and social media to prey on judges and potential jurors Intimidating its processes have led to such criticism being severely outdated.
Trump’s fiery rhetoric is central to his political appeal and his method of building power. From his biting put-downs and nicknames denigrating his rivals to the speech in Washington before telling the crowd to “fight like hell” or they would no longer have a country on January 6, 2021, Trump is taking advantage Language to advance his political movement.
In his remarks in South Dakota – where he accepted the endorsement from Gov. Kristi Noem, a potential vice presidential candidate if he becomes the GOP nominee – Trump complained that he was the victim of “corrupt and blatant” victimization and “election interference.” He said the cases filed against him would “enable” him, if elected president, to call his attorney general and demand an investigation into his political opponents. “Impeach my opponent, he’s fine,” Trump said, suggesting that Biden had done just that. The former president used a sarcastic tone in the loud atmosphere of a campaign rally, so context is important. But considering how much he made good on his threats, his comments could ultimately be a prediction for a win in 2024.
As president, he often argued that he had almost unlimited constitutional power, a stance clearly reflected in three of his impeachments – for attempts to overturn the election and for his hoarding of classified documents after he left the White House.
So when Trump makes threats during the election campaign, it’s worth listening.
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