Donald Trump held a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania last week in support of GOP candidates Doug Mastriano and Mehmet Oz, candidates for governor and US Senate, respectively. Both candidates are trailing significantly in the polls.
However, as is common when Trump comes to town to stump for a candidate, he spent most of the time talking about his own grievances. In this episode, he unleashed his fury at the FBI and the Department of Justice. A warrant was served recently at Trump’s resort in Florida, and several boxes of highly classified documents were seized. Many believe that an indictment is imminent for violations of The Espionage Act, so the former president has a lot more than a midterm election on his mind.
Trump not only accused the FBI and the DOJ of being part of some sinister plot to bring him down, but he also accused President Biden of weaponizing the agencies against him. In the crescendo of Trump’s grievance-fueled speech, he called Biden an “enemy of the state.”
This add-on to the regular set of accusations and conspiracies that have become common at Trump rallies is likely a response to Biden’s speech last week in Philadelphia, when the President called the MAGA subset of the Republican Party a “clear and present danger” to American democracy.
While some will certainly see this simply as an exchange between two presidents, the reality is that each claim carries very different implications, mostly due to the very different audiences hearing and perhaps responding to the messages.
While Biden’s warning about the potential fall of American democracy is frightening, and likely intended to be, it is a call for political action, and at no time was it considered to be a call for anyone to break the law or commit acts of violence.
The same cannot be said of Trump’s remarks. Many times in the past several years, Trump’s fiery rhetoric has been linked to criminal acts, whether directly instigating violence as he did on January 6, or indirectly as we have seen time and time again. At present, right-wing domestic extremists are the number one terrorist threat in America, and that extreme right wing is also the biggest base of support for the former president.
It may not be fair that Biden can speak more freely than Trump, but that is simply the state of play in today’s America. Donald Trump’s performative threats are consistently followed by real world threats and real world violence, including attacks against law enforcement itself, and not everyone he targets has a Secret Service detail to protect them.
As the battle for the soul of the nation continues, and the mainstream American press reaches mindlessly for a way to present a “both sides” narrative that will get them the most clicks and views, it is very likely that the next attack is being planned.
The words of two presidents are not the same. They are significantly, and often tragically different.