It's clear by now that Donald Trump gives speeches that amount to national political arson.
Week after week, year after year, he rips the Band-Aids off every one of the long-festering grievances of conservative white men and women across this nation, telling them that he shares their pain, although living large with his bejeweled, foreign-born wife in his golden penthouses, he certainly doesn't.
As well as inciting intense national division, he then works to maintain it. Name one other president who has given weekly rallies for his supporters with anything like the regularity of Trump?
In order for his message to work, in order for his political support to be maintained, he must keep his audience in a state of intense agitation and resentment, so out he goes each week to every state and ballpark where he can make all of his inexhaustible contempt heard.
It's important to remember that no one expected him to win the presidency, including himself. When he announced that he was running the press thought his candidacy was a joke, a casualty of the inevitable winner, Hillary Clinton.
But Trump didn't care about the derision of the press because he has always faced it. The press didn't buy his 'I'm a gifted businessman' claims because they had investigated all his endless bankruptcies, they didn't concern themselves with his political skills because they had seen how disrespected he was in his own city, they didn't hate him with the same fiery contempt that he hated them, they thought him a joke, an 80s throwback who forgot to stop wearing shoulder pads.
I wasn't laughing. In 2015 I wrote, earlier than most, that Trump's one unexpected political strength was that he made subtext text. Because he never expected to win the nomination or the presidency, Trump felt free to say things that would have sunk any other political campaign in any other year.
Trump didn't hide his racism in other words, he doubled down on it. He didn't just flirt with the far right, he embraced them. He didn't scoff at every fringe conspiracy lunatic, he made them feel like he was the first person to ever hear and respect them. He lit a firestorm and it's still burning.
For the first time in the nation's history, a presidential candidate calmly held the door open for every bigot in the nation, warmly embracing “white power” supremacists and heavily armed Neo-nazi militias, all of whom he would later call “fine people.” Instead of barring the door, he later urged them to attack the nation's Capitol on January 6, 2021. “Fight like hell,” he instructed them, and they did.
I grew up through the Troubles in Ireland and I learned this much, many white conservatives here live and behave just like Ulster unionists over there, under siege from the diversity of the wider nation.
Just like the unionists in the North, over here they have made the disastrous decision to become a fading minority who try to call the shots for the majority, with all the strife and conflict that results from that.
So Trump is the American conservative white man's (and woman's) Ian Paisley and his disastrous four-year presidency is now their prelude to the Troubles. As minorities of all stripes successfully agitated for their rights, along came Trump to beat them back into the shadows.
That's why his supporters are going to follow him to the last bunker, seeing no other choice. Their masks have slipped over the past four years. The true stakes have been publicly revealed. Trump's presidential story may be over but his legacy, which is one of conservative white grievance at the wider nation, will still go on.
Stoking racial resentment instead of trying to heal it, Trump blasted the Black Lives Matter protests as the enemies of America, he ignored the growing coronavirus catastrophe because he felt his own authority challenged by it, and he turned the rule of law here on its head by appointing a rogue Attorney General, who was tasked with representing the American people but who in fact only represented Trump.
Then last year, on July 4, 2020, Trump made a speech at Mount Rushmore that should define his presidency for all time. In it, he said: “Here tonight before the eyes of our forefathers, Americans declare again, as we did 244 years ago, that we will not be tyrannized, we will not be demeaned, and we will not be intimidated by bad, evil people.”
The bad, evil people he was talking about were his fellow Americans who did not vote for him. Potentially you. No other American president has ever dared to talk like this about his opponents.
Trump drew a line between good and evil with well over half the nation dismissed on the offending side. So when you next see a Trump rally know that he's talking about bad, evil fellow Americans. You, potentially. And know how late the hour is. Wake up.