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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Analysis: Trump is playing the victim, does anyone care?

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Photo by Photo by Caleb Elizondo

A man wearing a Trump hat during a rally in Waco, Texas. 

There’s not a cloud in the sky as the harsh sun beats down on the tarmac. The crowd waits for Donald Trump to emerge from his plane. “Hallelujah” plays and some supporters sway to the chorus. A painter onstage moves to the rhythm, coating her canvas in streaks of orange. 

“Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Halleloo-ooo-jah.”

The painting is done, it’s Trump’s profile. The former president makes his way down the stairs of the plane and toward the stage as “God Bless the USA” plays. 

“I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”

“Justice for All,” a song by the J6 Prison Choir — a group of people convicted for crimes committed during the 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol — begins to play and Trump places his hand over his heart. Most of the audience follows suit. 

“Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light …”

The anthem is interrupted by audio of Trump reciting the first line of the pledge of allegiance. Footage of Trump supporters trespassing on the Capitol building play on the jumbotrons. The song continues with the choir singing the “Star Spangled Banner,” and audio of the pledge dispersed throughout. 

A song and pledge typically associated with patriotism and loyalty was misappropriated to glorify one man and his efforts to overturn a democratic election. It’s March 25, 2023. Welcome to Trump’s first 2024 presidential rally. Welcome to Waco.

Clawing for attention.

Without the bully pulpit and infamous Twitter account, Trump has resorted to increasingly divisive political stunts to gain attention and news coverage. Late last year, the former president courted Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, and white nationalist Nick Fuentes and even called for the death penalty to be used on drug dealers. 

In Waco, Trump praised far-right congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green and defiled the national anthem, portraying insurrectionists as martyrs in the process. Towards the end, he even jumped on the transgender moral panic, declaring he would outlaw “genital mutilation” in all 50 states. 

In the world of Trump, the temperature must keep rising to maintain his base. 

This isn’t a flawed strategy as far as the primary is concerned. If Ron DeSantis truly is the future of the Republican Party, as pundits claim, someone should really tell Republicans that. In the most recent polling on the matter by The Harris Poll, respondents were asked to select a Republican candidate as if the primary were held today and Trump came out on top with 50% with DeSantis trailing at 24%.

Remember, Trump doesn’t need a majority of the Republican vote to win a nomination — only a plurality. The easiest win condition is simply maintaining the support and energy behind his campaign. If the party fails to both completely consolidate around another candidate and scrape away at Trump’s base, he wins by default.

“I am your justice.”

The “fake news” media, “deep state,” “globalists” and immigrants all made returning appearances in the cast of American boogeymen on Trump’s stage. So what’s changed? In 2016 these actors attacked his supporters directly, but now they play second fiddle to Trump’s personal political and legal troubles. 

New York prosecutors and tax returns received center stage. The politics are simple: cast threats against you as an attack on your supporters. 

“So they’re not coming after me, they’re coming after you and I’m just standing in their way.” Trump said. 

This performance was already written in 2020. Back then, the starring roles were an impeachment and the media’s portrayal of his leadership during COVID-19. As you may remember, it didn’t work. 

“I am your warrior,” Trump said. “I am your justice … I am your retribution.”

Is he? Does the average voter care about a potential Trump indictment? The release of his tax returns? The “weaponization of law enforcement?” None of these issues translate to any effect in the lives of the general public.

Again, the intent is clearly to rally his base, but Trump’s political well-being isn’t listed on Pew Research’s list of top policy priorities for a reason. 

Looking toward the primary, the former president’s chances look quite favorable even as conservative commentators continue to drool over a potential DeSantis run. However, for each day that passes Trump appears even weaker in a general election. 

Gasping for attention, Trump has surrounded himself on all sides by the likes of congressman Matt Gaetz and disgraced pillow salesman Mike Lindell. Each political stunt and new ally only further alienates him further from the general electorate. Facing a country primarily concerned with the economy, healthcare and terrorism, according to Pew Research, Trump allows policy to be overtaken by personal grudges and threats. 

The start of this presidential bid is essentially a worse incarnation of his 2020 one. If history is prologue, it’s due to fail as well. 

Caleb Elizondo is a computer science sophomore and opinion editor for The Battalion. 

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