Trump’s 2020 playbook: Excoriate the left and charm his base

Reigniting his racially divisive rhetoric, Trump is testing whether an amped-up version of his 2016 strategy can deliver victory again in 2020.

There are political signs, and then there are President Donald Trump’s supporter’s signs. Trump is campaigning for a second term, which means more rallies. Political rallies need signs and placards. Luckily, he’s got a large, vocal pool of supporters, and many of them come to support him bearing some pretty wild examples.

Topics on the signs include the wall between the US and Mexico, the “political swamp” in Washington, Trump’s intellect, the perils of socialism and communism, the necessity of guns, the “fake news” media, and a whole lot of love for the current president.

Seems like the weather is mostly gloomy when we talk about the Trump train. As was the mood the moment we found out we’d be covering a small protest for Trump allies. As an outsider, or a “brown person” I wasn’t expecting a warm welcome. Adorned with signs of all kinds, what I found amongst a small crowd was a mix of passion and despondency. Yes, there were enthused Trump supporters.

It isn’t surprising that Trump has attacked one of his most regular targets of abuse, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). But what was jarring was not only how extreme his attacks were, but also the fact that he went out of his way to demonize the Somali community. The Donald has called Omar “a disgrace to our country” and has pushed unfounded conspiracy theories about her marital history. He has also attacked the community of Somali refugees in Minneapolis of which Omar is a part. This serves as a window of sorts into the strategy he hopes will win him a second term in office. The picture that emerged was not a pretty one.

That’s exactly what we saw at this protest. An exact echoing of the hateful Trump message — spoken by his blinded supporters. One protestor followed me around recording me with her smart phone and yelling “here they are, the fake news media — CNN!” they falsely assumed. Another constantly demanding for Omar to be sent to jail alongside Adam Schiff and Hillary Clinton. Another spoke to me about her unconditional love for the president and how they would do “whatever is necessary” for the president. “I’d Rather Be a Russian Than a Democrat.” others have said at different rallies.

The sound you hear is the GOP presidents of the Cold War era — Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford and Reagan — whirring like turbines in their graves. This is the state of derangement to which Trump has brought a once-great political party. Anyone tempted to dismiss these cult-of-personality rallies as freakish sideshows should keep in mind one sobering fact: His approval rating within the GOP is at a staggering 90%. We’re in for a much longer ride if the GOP doesn’t put a stop to him whilst they still can.

We used to think that the rhetoric would fade away. That the disquiet that he was tapping into in 2016 would be a thing of the past. It has worsened and his supporters hatred for the system stands stronger than ever. The attacks on Omar and Somalis illustrated how, with an impeachment inquiry underway in the House and the legal net tightening around his associates, the president is doubling down on the sort of barely varnished bigotry that got him there in the first place. Of course, it’s not exactly breaking news at this point that Trump’s brand of politics is all about dividing and conquering, not bringing people together. But if you expected after nearly three years in office that he would campaign for reelection based on his actual record, all of his rallies indicate that you will be disappointed. As was the case in 2016, Trump’s 2020 campaign is shaping to be all about demonizing the opposition, race-baiting, and warning of dire consequences if he loses.

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