Trump’s new depths of campaign depravity

  • Burning issue: protesters burn American flags in front of Trump Tower (Photograph by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP)

    Burning issue: protesters burn American flags in front of Trump Tower (Photograph by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP)


It should be no surprise that Donald Trump has chosen to centre his re-election campaign on appeals to racism and the demonisation of his opponents.

After all, that is what he did from the opening of his 2016 run with his invocation of Mexican immigrant “rapists”, and before the 2018 congressional midterms, when he decried a supposed “invasion” by “caravans” packed with “bad hombres”.

Still, Trump plumbed new depths of depravity in two speeches he delivered over the weekend, nominally in celebration of the July 4 holiday.

On a day when presidents typically extol the values that bring Americans together, Trump launched an unhinged attack on the movement for racial and social justice that has surged in the past month.

“Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities,” he claimed — an obscene misrepresentation of the mostly peaceful marches by millions of citizens in hundreds of cities and towns. “Their goal is not a better America, their goal is the end of America.”

As The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin pointed out, Trump’s description of “the radical Left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters”, who want to destroy the country closely echoed the rhetoric of George Wallace, the avowedly racist 1968 independent presidential candidate.

Wallace won only five states in the Deep South, and half a century later a solid majority of Americans reject such hate speech. Polls show a majority support the Black Lives Matter movement and want monuments to Confederate leaders removed.

Even many Republicans believe that Trump is wrong in calculating that he can eke out a victory in the electoral college simply by remobilising the white voters who carried him to victory four years ago. But whether or not it is politically wise, the President’s renewed attempt to polarise the country along racial and cultural lines is despicable.

But wait, protest some of Trump’s most disingenuous supporters: there was no racism in those July 4 addresses! Why, the President even cited the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr!

It’s true Trump’s teleprompter texts did not make explicit whether his zeal to defend “our monuments” and “our national heritage” extended to the former Confederacy.

Unfortunately for his apologists, however, the unedited president was back on Twitter on Monday morning, decrying the decision by Nascar to ban Confederate flags from its races and attacking its only African-American driver.

He is threatening to veto the annual defence Bill if it includes a mandate to rename military bases that honour Confederate generals. And he still has not renounced the “white power” slogan shouted by a supporter in a video he tweeted last week.

Trump claimed his opponents would “tear down the beliefs, culture and identity that have made America the most vibrant and tolerant society in the history of the Earth”.

In fact, in describing his political adversaries as traitors and in bluntly appealing to racial animus, it is this president who poses the greatest threat to American democratic values.

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Published Jul 8, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 8, 2020 at 8:48 am)

Trump’s new depths of campaign depravity

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