Using rhetoric straight from the dictator's playbook, Trump offered up an apocalyptic vision of America at his rally Monday night.
Trump’s authoritarian tendencies were on full display Monday night as he took the stage at a campaign event for GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, and proceeded to dive headfirst into an angry, unhinged, and at times terrifying rant riddled with lies, bigotry, and fearmongering at its most extreme.
Using rhetoric straight from the dictator’s playbook, Trump offered up an apocalyptic vision of America in which criminals are hiding around every corner, “bad people” are pouring over the border, and “violent mobs” are taking over the streets.
Furthermore, he warned, if Democrats take control of Congress in November, these fictional threats will “destroy” the very fabric of the nation.
The speech reflected the campaign strategy that Trump and the GOP have settled on in the final stretch leading up to midterms, which is one based on fear and fear alone. With few accomplishments to speak of, Republicans have apparently decided that if they can’t motivate people to vote for them, they’ll scare people into it, instead.
Trump’s rhetoric on Monday night embodied the GOP’s fear-based campaign strategy, which itself mirrors tactics used by oppressive autocratic regimes, not usually democratic nations.
In an expression of power favored by authoritarians, Trump openly and brazenly trampled over the notion of truth, crafting his apocalyptic narrative with an abundance of lies — and then used those lies to manufacture fake crises for which he offered himself as the only solution.
He lied about the migrants traveling from Central America to the border of Mexico, absurdly claiming that Democrats are behind the “caravan” of people “pouring” over the border.
The group of migrants are currently still 1,000 miles away from the U.S. border and many will never make it that far. When some do reach the border, a large number will go through the entirely legal process of applying for asylum. But Trump didn’t mention that, because it doesn’t align with the scary picture he wants to create, which involves hordes of people (“illegals,” in his words) rushing over the border in a mass act of lawlessness.
He lied about illegal immigrants voting in large numbers, telling the crowd, “They demand to be able to vote, the illegals. You get to California, there’s so many illegals voting there. There’s so much voter fraud. Voter ID folks, voter ID.”
Research, including from the Justice Department, shows that voter fraud is extraordinarily rare, to the tune of just 31 instances out of 1 billion votes cast from 2000-2014. But Trump didn’t mention that, either, because that actually doesn’t sound terrifying at all.
He lied about his poll numbers and falsely proclaimed himself to be one of the country’s most popular presidents, something he has done on repeated occasions. He’s actually historically unpopular, in the U.S. and abroad, but of course he didn’t mention that.
He lied about the press, saying media outlets refused to cover his “good” poll numbers.
He lied about his political opponents, misrepresenting Democrats’ positions on issues from border control and immigration, to policing, jobs, taxes, and more.
And in between the lies, he weaponized fear, anger, and bigotry, apparently in an attempt to appeal to voters’ primal emotions since activating their rational side would send them running.
Per usual, he raged against the free press, using anti-press rhetoric to rile up his base just days after he glorified violence against journalists.
He raged against Democrats and their non-existent “violent mobs,” warning that the Democratic party wants to let crime run rampant and “destroy” America. However, he didn’t warn about the mob of pro-Trump gang members who violently assaulted people on the streets of New York less than two weeks ago.
After falsely smearing Democrats as disorderly and dangerous, Trump then decried how unfair it was that Senate Democrats followed the rules and actually vetted his Supreme Court nominee, the thrice-accused sexual predator Brett Kavanaugh.
And of course, he also singled out vulnerable groups like immigrants, characterizing the so-called “caravan” of Central American migrants as gang members and violent criminals intent on destroying America. This came after he claimed with no evidence whatsoever that unknown “Middle Easterners” are part of the “caravan,” a reference meant to imply that terrorists are traveling with the migrants.
“In that caravan you have some very bad people,” Trump said, referring to the people seeking asylum as an “assault on our country.”
And then, he offered up his solution: Vote for Republicans, he said, because they’re the only ones capable of solving the problems that he just manufactured.
The rhetoric deployed Monday is not exactly new for Trump, who kicked off his presidential campaign by demonizing an entire nationality, threatening to “open up” libel laws, banning reporters from his events for coverage he didn’t like, and suggesting that “Second Amendment people” might have to do something to stop Hillary Clinton if she won.
But at that point, some Republicans were still willing to stand up for democracy and denounce Trump’s dangerous authoritarian rage. This time, they’re joining right in, offering up a false promise of safety and stability to hide their own record of creating the current state of instability.