Donald Trump is back. The former president made a combative first public appearance on Saturday night to start 2022, the year of the mid-term elections that must renew the entire House of Representatives, a third of the Senate and elect the governors of 36 states and three territories. . To show muscle, he chose Arizona, a Republican state that in 2020 lost by just over 10,000 votes to Joe Biden. A year and two months later, he painted a bleak picture of the country that for four years he governed from controversy to controversy: “He is going to hell. It's a disaster. We have to be strong and take back our country and our future,” Trump assured before a massive audience of tens of thousands of people in an event that makes it clear that the battle for the presidency in 2024 has already begun.
“Few imagined that it would be such a disaster,” said Trump, who took to the stage wearing a red cap pulled low to keep the strong desert winds from blowing his hair out for the cameras. “Inflation is the worst in 40 years. The stores are empty, there are no merchandise… The streets of Democratic cities are full of blood and homicides, there are four times more cases of covid than before,” he assured in a speech that lasted more than an hour and a half and began with a funeral march and a huge message on the screens: Joe Biden is a complete failure. He also criticized the current government for the “persecution” of those who participated in the assault on the Capitol in January of last year. “Political prisoners,” the former president called the detainees after the events in which five people died.
Trumpism, which has used anger as fuel since 2016, now exploits Biden's weaknesses. The tens of thousands present roared with laughter, just minutes before Trump took the stage, with a montage of goofs by the president. From his stumbles going up stairs to his forgetfulness of the speeches. Supporters peppered the speakers' speeches with the “Let's go, Brandon” (Vamos, Brandon), a code insult for the president that has become popular among Republicans. The slogan Fuck Joe Biden (Fuck you, Joe Biden) is everywhere. “Biden body bag”, a local senator called him on stage.
“ He has humiliated our country. Putin is playing with us. Russia and China no longer respect us. They no longer fear us,” Trump said. The former president, who has not yet clearly confirmed his intentions to run again in the 2024 presidential elections, leaves everything between the lines. “The easiest thing would be to continue with my life. I competed twice and won twice…”, he suggested at one point before digressing to another topic.
Several kilometer traffic jam
The Trump circus caused a stir in Arizona. His first rally of 2022 caused a traffic jam of several kilometers in Florence, a city southeast of Phoenix, the state capital, which saw thousands of Trumpists arrive from various parts of the country. Victor, 64, flew in from Las Vegas on Friday night. He wore the typical red Make America Great Again cap, but his had an autograph on the visor. “It was signed for me in 2019 by Don Jr. (Trump's son),” says the man, who says he will do his best to get Trump back in the White House. “He's going to clean up this whole mess,” he says. It all begins, in his words, with “regaining the House of Representatives and the Senate” in the November 8 elections.
“We need a landslide victory. A victory that the Democrats cannot steal,” Trump told his faithful. The fraud narrative has created a paradox for him that he must now deal with. After more than a year of undermining confidence in the electoral system, a period in which he has never admitted defeat, he now needs the system to gain control of Congress. This idea was seen at some points in his speech: the former president asked his followers on several occasions to “go out into the streets and vote.”
“If you want a safe election, we must have two things : voting on the day of the election and paper votes”, he assured. The Republicans have promoted in the states they govern, including Arizona, reforms to make it more difficult to vote by mail, something that the Trumpists consider an instrument of fraud. All this despite the fact that there is not a single evidence of irregularities in this State, according to the data that has been produced by several audits. There was a recount of the votes validated by the two parties, a dozen courts have ruled that there were no irregularities, the security agencies have also certified the results and even Trump's own attorney general, Bill Barr, the Arizona prosecutor and others local authorities have given their approval. But all this does not matter. Trump and his supporters insist that he was the legitimate winner in November 2020.
The script that Trump has written does not allow the page to be turned from those elections. All the speakers that preceded the former president assured in one way or another that the Republican won the elections. This has become an unwritten rule for candidates in next November's election who want their support. “I will never endorse that idiot again,” Trump said this week, referring to Mike Rounds, a Republican senator from South Dakota who said there is no evidence in any state to reverse the result. “Is he crazy or is he just stupid?” Trump added. It is the same treatment that he grants to the current governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, who endorsed Biden's victory. Pejoratively, Trump labels him a “RINO”: a Republican in name only, far from the far-right positions of his movement.
The former president has already announced his second rally for the end of month in Texas. Trump uses these events to prepare the ground for his candidates. For Arizona, he has chosen Kari Lake, a former host of the local Fox News network, criticized for her radical positions. The applicant promised, together with her political godfather, to “close the border” with Mexico. “They are invading us. China is shipping fentanyl through Mexico. That ends with me,” he said. “And I have a message for everyone who is crossing the border. When I am governor they are going to be arrested and deported,” she said to applause.
Fox News, blacklisted
A year ago, Mike Lindell, a former gambling and cocaine addict reborn as a mail-order pillow salesman, was greeted by Trump at the White House. The scene marked the moment the character left the fringes of the Trump fan movement to become one of its main spokespersons. Captured then by photographers with notes in a notebook requesting military deployments and a national curfew, on Saturday night he painted a future of hope for Trumpism: “We all know that God will correct what is happening. There will be no problems with the voting machines in 2022″.
Lindell charged against the media, but not only against the regulars. Conservative media are now also added to the blacklist. “These are now our biggest problem,” said the businessman, especially underlining Fox News, a network that accompanied Trump during his presidency, but has put aside the idea that the election was rigged. “It's disgusting. When was the last time you talked about the 2020 fraud? They no longer say anything.”
Trump launched his first rallying cry of the election year on Saturday. He did it sheltered by thousands of supporters in an event that, at times, made one think that very little has changed in the United States in a year. “People are thirsty for truth,” added the former president, who does not hide his desire to lead again. “We are the laughingstock of the world”, he concluded.
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