As the court appearances pile up and the books, articles and commentary about Donald Trump’s past, present and future proliferate, the Great Discommunicator has returned to his songbook to keep his base riled up and ready to rumble in 2024.
All of Trump’s greatest hits are lies, distortions or outright fabrications, but they are road tested at dozens of rallies and guaranteed to get a rise out of the crowd. Let us take a look at a few of them.
I am a victim. Oh yes, a victim of political prosecution by vindictive district attorneys and special prosecutors aiming to score career points and put a huge trophy on their office walls. This resonates with Trump’s base because most of them feel that they are victims too, having been victimized by the government, or the economy, or the pace of change in society.
This is reinforced by Trump’s increasing poll numbers among black voters, who, apart from Indian tribes, are probably the least likely Americans to benefit from another Donald Trump presidency.
The Deep State—This old chestnut has returned, with help from former co-conspirator Steve Bannon. Special Prosecutor Jack Smith is Beelzebub, among whom Trump attacked thusly on his Truth Social site:
“Deranged Jack Smith, Andrew Weissmann, Lisa Monaco, the “team of losers and misfits” from CREW, and all the rest of the Radical Left Zealots and Thugs who have been working illegally for years to “take me down,” will end up, because of their suffering from a horrible disease, TRUMP DERANGEMENT SYNDROME (TDS!), in a Mental Institution by the time my next term as President is successfully completed. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
Vengeance is Coming— If elected, Trump is preparing to install 50,000-plus carefully vetted MAGA loyalists in every corner of the federal government to seize control and root out what he calls “vermin,” meaning those who oppose him. He also plans to weaponize the DOJ to go after those who have wronged or offended him.
Returning to past xenophobic themes, Trump has big plans scour the country to find and arrest people living here illegally while setting up massive camps to detain people while they are being processed for deportation and awaiting flights. And he will seek another Muslim travel ban, something that failed earlier on legal and constitutional grounds.
This is only a partial list, but themes and ideas like these are being tightly wound into a ball of seething resentment, vindictiveness and spite that Trump rolls out at every opportunity. Trump's "rhetoric is escalating," as conservative commentator Charlie Sykes put it. "The enemy is us. The ‘vermin’ are fellow Americans. And he is coming for them.”
And now the salient question: Will this work? Will this kind of rhetoric carry the day against a sclerotic Democratic administration with a sluggish economy and two hot shooting wars on its hands? It seems scarily possible unless something comes along that upsets the prevailing dynamic and alters all of the current political premises.
As Charlie Sykes warns: “So, once again, it is essential to pay attention. Trump may be clownish, but the clown car is carrying a neutron bomb. Possibly several.”
Bill Huey is president of Strategic Communications and the author of Advertising's Double Helix: A Proposed New Process Model. Journal of Advertising Research, May/June 1999. His article about advertising effects has been cited in books and academic papers around the world.