President Donald Trump officially launched his re-election campaign at a massive rally in Orlando, Florida, June 18. It was a spectacle that should have concerned congressional Democrats and, even more so, their party’s 2020 candidates. An enthusiastic crowd of some 20,000 people – with many more gathered outside the arena – watched a very on-message president pull no punches with his pitch for a second term.
Trump rallies are always raucous and entertaining, but there is no denying the fact that the man himself – the former reality TV showman – can easily wander off script to the point where he almost seems to be thinking aloud. As able as he is to ad lib, Trump sometimes meanders wildly, for minutes at a time, from his teleprompter. In Orlando, there was very little of that; the president knew the message he had to deliver, and he completed the task with focus and clarity.
Optimism v. Pessimism
Though the anticipated 2020 campaign narrative is freedom versus socialism, the Orlando message – soundbites aside – was much more universally understandable: optimism versus pessimism. The president laid out what has been accomplished over the past two and a half years in terms of improvements in the lives of ordinary Americans. He described the victory of a grassroots movement over the political establishment – the Washington, D.C. swamp.
Having devoted time early in his speech to calling out the Obama administration for the investigations and surveillance of his 2016 campaign, the president used much of the latter part of his re-election pitch to warn about the consequences of handing political power to the Democrats. In stark contrast to his upbeat vision of Trump’s America, he claimed the Democratic Party was “driven by hatred, prejudice, and rage.”
Red Meat or Plain Honesty?
Some observers would say Trump threw a lot of “red meat” to his base, and that may be true, but this was a president who gave voice to exactly what conservatives already think and fear about a future under Democratic Party rule. “[The Democrats] want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as we know it.” Trump described his opponents as “more radical, more dangerous, and more unhinged” than at any previous time in modern history.
Perhaps the most jovial moment of the night was the president’s thoughts on how his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, managed to escape prosecution for something with which no other American would have gotten away – least of all Trump himself: “33,000 emails deleted, think of it. If I got a subpoena for emails – if I deleted one email, like a love note to Melania, it’s the electric chair for Trump.”
There was also an impromptu poll on the president’s 2020 slogan. Trump asked the crowd first to cheer for sticking with “Make America Great Again” and then for adopting the alternative “Keep America Great.” The latter appeared the more popular choice, but it almost seemed as though Trump himself would rather stick with the former. He appears fond of the “MAGA” slogan; hailing it as one of the greatest political campaign taglines of all time.
Hundreds of Trump supporters had waited outside the Orlando arena for more than 40 hours prior to the event. The venue was packed and would likely still have been packed had it been twice the size. In contrast, not one of the Democrat 2020 hopefuls appears capable of generating anything like that level of enthusiasm. Nor are any of them capable of playing to the crowd the way Trump does.
Whoever claims the Democratic nomination should hope that American voters view his or her policy positions as clearly superior to Trump’s achievements. If the next presidential election comes down to enthusiasm and hope for the future, the Democratic Party should be very afraid.
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