Trump’s Nashville rally shows Americans are in for a hot, angry summer

Proudly deplorable. Nashville, May 2018.
Proudly deplorable. Nashville, May 2018.
Image: Reuters/Leah Millis
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Donald Trump’s rally last night in Nashville, Tennessee had many familiar touches: chants of “Build the wall,” MAGA hats, and anecdotes from the president’s 2016 election campaign. But it was also more focused, polished and angry than the speeches Trump has delivered in recent months: In contrast to his speech on unity in Nashville one year ago, this time the president systematically attacked Democrats, the Russia investigation and the “animals” of gang MS-13.

Americans can expect more of the same rhetoric this summer. In November, all 435 Congressional House seats, 35 Senate seats, and hundreds of local races will be decided in the midterm elections. Trump will campaign all summer on behalf of the Republican party, and plans to holding an event every week, White House aides told told NBC.

Trump is focusing on Trump-voting strongholds first, Republican consultants say, which means rallies in states like Texas and North Dakota. As his heated Nashville talking points show, he’s hoping to draw out far-right voters, whom GOP consultants worry might not otherwise vote.

Here are the highlights:

A call-and-response slur: “Animals!”

Trump used the term earlier this month to describe members of the MS13 gang, drawing criticism of dehumanizing Latin Americans broadly. In response, the White House doubled down, using the term repeatedly in a press release. “What was the name I used last week?” Trump asked the crowd, last night. “ANIMALS!!!” the crowd shouted back.

Nancy Pelosi is the new Hillary Clinton

Minority leader Nancy Pelosi has been portrayed as a villain by the Republican party for months. To Trump, she represents everything he doesn’t like about Democrats. She’s “a MS-13 lover,” Trump accused last night.

Attacking the press

Deriding the “fake media” continues to be a cornerstone of Trump’s public speaking engagements. Three separate times at Nashville, Trump mocked the media pen at the rally, pointing to them, calling them “fake” and encouraging the crowd to boo, which it did.

Denigrating the Russia investigation

Both Trump and daughter-in-law Lara spoke last night of the FBI investigation into Russian election meddling as an insult to Trump voters. “When I hear nonsense about Russian collusion, it makes me very angry,” Lara said in her warm-up for Trump. “They are trying to tell you that your vote didn’t count, folks.”

Defeating Democrats as a matter of national security

“If you want to be safe, you must go out and get the Democrats the hell out of office,” Trump said.

The Republican party is known for its top-down management style, with the president often dictating the party’s campaign message for the midterms. In 2016, many mainstream Republicans tried to distance themselves from Trump’s populist and sometimes racist rhetoric; but now that he’s in the White House, it may not be so easy to draw the line between their positions and Trump’s.

Moderate Republicans “left the president for dead in 2016, and he’s proved time and time again he had a better antennae than they do,” said David Bozell, President of conservative grassroots political organization ForAmerica. Thanks to social media, he added, “there is no such thing as an intimate local election for federal office.”

Winning federal races is “all about ginning up your base” to get people to turn up to the polls, a model that Barack Obama employed effectively in the past, he said. “Trump is basically taking that model and throwing gasoline on it, and trying to pull the Republican party across the finish line,” said Bozell.

The weather this summer is already expected to be exceptionally hot in America, particularly in the southwest and southern plains. The GOP’s campaign strategy, led by Trump, insures the temperature will be high politically as well.