Donald Trump is conjuring his most ominous image yet of a possible second term, urging supporters they need to “fight like hell” or they would lose their country in language reminiscent of the lead-up to the January 6 mob attack on the US Capitol.
At a rally in South Dakota on Friday night, the ex-president who has been indicted four times accused his potential opponent in 2024, President Joe Biden, of ordering his indictment on 91 charges across four criminal cases as a means of interfering with the 2024 election.
Trump said in a dystopian address that “I don’t think there’s ever been a darkness around our nation like there is now,” blaming Democrats for letting a “invasion” of migrants to cross the southern border and trying to rekindle Covid “hysteria.”
With his bleak address, the Republican frontrunner created the spectre of a second term that would be even more severe and hostile to the rule of law than his first. Trump’s belief that being president gives him unchecked power makes it likely that he will engage in illegal activities like bullying local officials in an alleged attempt to reverse his 2020 loss, for which he is currently on trial.
In typical fashion, Trump also used criticism of his actions to attack his political opponents, implying that the real threat to political freedom in the United States did not come from his attempt to invalidate a free and fair election but rather from efforts to make him face legal accountability for doing so. “It’s really a threat to democracy while they trample our rights and liberties every single day of the year,” he proclaimed.
According to what he told his South Dakota base, “this is a big moment in our country because we’re either going to go one way or the other,” with “the other” option leading to the country’s eventual demise. When he said, “We will fight together, we will win together, and then we will seek justice together,” he meant it. This came after a rally in March where he promised to deliver “retribution” for his fans if he were elected to a second term in 2024.
Injecting lies and conspiracies into the political veins of the country, Trump is a skillful demagogue who seems to benefit personally from the ensuing instability and animosity. And the public opinion is moulded by his remarks. For instance, only 28% of Republicans in a recent AWN poll believed Biden had genuinely secured enough votes to win in 2020. This comes after Trump spent years insisting he won the election, despite the fact that judges repeatedly rejected his objections to the outcome.
Because of Trump’s authoritarianism, the 2024 election could present a significant decision.
Trump’s campaign’s dictatorial tone has placed a pall over the 2024 race and presented voters and his opponents with difficult choices. For example, it strengthens the argument that, at age 80, Biden lacks the physical and mental fortitude to defeat Trump a second time. While his predecessor spent the weekend casting doubt on the integrity of American elections, Vice President Biden was in India and Vietnam rallying support for his signature foreign policy strategy to counter the threat to Western democracy posed by authoritarian leaders in China and Russia.
Back home, the ex-president’s radicalism reveals the cowardice of most of his Republican primary opponents, who have recently been banding together against rookie contender Vivek Ramaswamy but are only willing to criticise Trump in the most oblique terms to avoid crossing his millions of GOP fans. Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley was the only candidate to criticise Trump’s behaviour on AWN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, when she said, “we need to leave the negativity of the past behind us” while presenting herself as the model of a new generation of leadership.
The rising demagoguery of the ex-president also draws attention to crucial questions about the 2024 election:
Is it worth it for the GOP to nominate someone whose wild behaviour scared off voters in numerous suburban swing districts in 2020, especially if he could be a convicted felon by the time voters make their choice?
Concerns about Biden’s physical and mental competence and concerns about the economy were revealed in an AWN poll last week, capturing a generally negative view of his presidency. If Trump wins the nomination, will his liabilities and the prospect of four more years of chaos and recriminations alleviate these concerns?
Trump’s primary victory demonstrates, however, that his brand of strongman theatre is appealing to voters. Millions of people look up to him and have faith in his word, believing his statements that he will be elected in 2020 and that the criminal charges he is facing are politically motivated. For many who support the “Make America Great Again” movement, Trump is able to endlessly tap a seam of resentment against Washington and political, economic, and media “elites” thanks to his bluntness and carefully maintained image as an outsider despite having lived in the White House. This could explain why he’s doing better in the GOP primary polls after he’s been indicted.
Hunter Biden, the son of the current president, is being investigated by a special counsel for potential violations of tax and gun laws following the collapse of a plea deal. Republicans, having been educated by Trump, publicly complain that Hunter Biden is receiving preferential treatment from the Justice Department. They also accuse Hunter Biden of corruption for allegedly trying to use his father’s status as vice president to secure business transactions in countries like China and Ukraine.
To put political pressure on GOP leaders on Capitol Hill to investigate the prospect of an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden, Trump has cultivated and nurtured many of these themes for months. Those in favour of impeaching Biden have not yet shown evidence of the high crimes and misdemeanours or incidents of treason or bribery required by the Constitution. The president has denied any misconduct in his son’s business transactions, and the Republicans have not shown any evidence to the contrary. While 42% of respondents believe Joe Biden acted illegally and 18% believe his actions were immoral but not criminal, 61% of Americans in a recent AWN study believe that Biden had at least some participation in Hunter Biden’s business transactions. The majority of Americans (55%) believe the president has behaved badly in regards to the investigation into his son’s possible criminal activity, while only 44% believe he has behaved appropriately.
These national divides, which Trump masterfully expands, are indicative of a profound sense of alienation in American politics, which will only grow worse in the face of a divisive election. On Saturday, in the first-in-the-nation GOP caucus state, Trump, one of several GOP candidates in attendance, was met with a mixture of applause and boos at a football game. Multiple images of one-finger salutes from football fans were shared online. Ames, a college town in Story County and a liberal bulwark in an increasingly conservative state that Trump twice carried in general elections, saw its Iowa State Cyclones lose to the University of Iowa Hawkeyes.