President Trump formally began his 2020 re-election marketing campaign Tuesday night time in Orlando, Fla. If the kickoff rally was any indication, Season 2 of this political actuality present guarantees to be largely a rehash of Season 1 — besides darker, whinier and much more divisive.
The throng that got here out to have a good time Mr. Trump’s announcement was large and boisterous. The president could also be broadly unpopular, however to a lot of the Republican base, he’s a cult idol — Justin Bieber with a fake tan and an unearthly combover.
Mr. Trump mentioned his marketing campaign acquired greater than 120,000 requests for tickets to the occasion. Supporters started lining up 30-plus hours earlier than showtime, hauling in sleeping baggage, coolers and stadium chairs. Rainstorms on Tuesday drove the group to hunt shelter, however couldn’t dampen its ardor. Inside and outdoors the sector, folks danced, whooped and reveled in MAGA-mania.
There was little new in Mr. Trump’s efficiency. He didn’t supply a governing imaginative and prescient and even an up to date coverage focus for a second time period. His 76-minute speech was the same old brew of aggrandizement, aggrievement and demonization of political foes. He vilified Democrats as “ruthless,” “unhinged” monsters devoted to “the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the American dream.” He whined about his persecution by the “fake news” and the deep-state rogues who perpetrated the Russia “witch hunt.” He devoted a lot time to attacking “Crooked Hillary” that it appeared as if a confused aide may need by accident loaded one in every of his 2016 speeches into the teleprompters.
While delivering a jolt of adrenaline to his followers, the act has misplaced its freshness — maybe inevitable contemplating that Mr. Trump has performed some 5 dozen of those rallies since taking workplace. Even so, the president was in his component and visibly relieved to have wrested the highlight from Democrats for one superb night. Every so usually, he’d pause in his remarks to wander in regards to the stage, basking within the adulation. Whenever the group erupted in one of many chants which have change into a staple of his rallies — “Build the Wall!” “CNN sucks!” “Lock her up!” — the president glowed. If nothing else, Mr. Trump made clear that he has no real interest in increasing his attraction this cycle. He is digging in and doubling down along with his base, for whom he can do no mistaken.
But 2020 shouldn’t be 2016, and working as an establishment-bashing outsider is ever a lot more durable from contained in the Oval Office. In the kickoff of his insurgency 4 years in the past, Mr. Trump drifted down the escalator of Trump Tower to the thumping strains of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” and sold himself as the antidote to politics as usual. Dismissing America’s political leaders as “losers,” he declared the American dream dead and pitched himself as the only candidate who could bring it back “bigger and better and stronger than ever before.” He was going to solve the nation’s toughest problems, and it was all going to be so easy.
In Orlando, Mr. Trump reprised that theme. “The fact is the American dream is back,” he crowed. “It is bigger and better and stronger than ever before.” Two and a half years into his presidency, however, many of the miracles he vowed to perform have not come to pass. He has not repealed and replaced Obamacare with something better, nor stopped manufacturing jobs from flowing overseas. He has not rebuilt America’s infrastructure, brought Iran to heel or tamed the national debt.
This is not to say he hasn’t achieved anything — tax cuts, deregulation, judicial appointments and criminal justice reform to name a few. He has a concrete record now for people to judge, and he owns the good and the bad alike.
It is a tricky line that Mr. Trump will attempt to toe over the next 18 months. As the sitting president, he needs voters to feel good about the job he has done — good enough to turn out and give him another four years. The animating force of his political success, however, has always been cultural grievance. He is the master of stoking voters’ most primal anxieties and resentments. Tuesday’s speech suggests that going forward, the president’s struggle to reconcile these conflicting imperatives will not be pretty — or good for the country.
If his message in 2016 was that the political establishment and cultural elitists were exploiting, ignoring and sneering at regular Americans, his message this time is that the opposition despises and is aggressively plotting to destroy MAGA country. “Our patriotic movement has been under assault from the very first day,” he declared.
As Mr. Trump tells it, this hatred for “hard-working patriots” is at the root of any and all attacks on his leadership. It’s not that Democrats are out to get him; they are out to get his people. “They went after my family, my business, my finances, my employees, almost everyone I have ever known or worked with, but they are really going after you,” he told the Orlando crowd. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about us. It’s about you. They tried to erase your votes, and erase your legacy of the greatest campaign and the greatest election probably in the history of our country.”
Despite this unprecedented assault, Mr. Trump said, he — and by extension, his people — have prevailed. “We accomplished more than any other president has in the first two and a half years of a presidency,” he said. “And under circumstances that no president has had to deal with before. We took on a political machine that tried to take away your voice and your vote. They tried to take away your dignity and your destiny. But we will never let them do that.”
So, even as Mr. Trump brags of having made America great again, he does it in a way that fuels voters’ anger and fear. Democrats are “driven by hatred, prejudice and rage,” he warned. “Just imagine what this angry, left-wing mob would do if they were in charge of this country.”
Mr. Trump stressed to the crowd the importance of next year’s vote: “This election is not merely a verdict on the amazing progress we’ve made. It’s a verdict on the un-American conduct of those who tried to undermine our great democracy and undermine you.”
In that, at last, he spoke the raw truth.
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