Donald Trump didn’t even speak for an hour during his rally in Florence, South Carolina, on Saturday night, but he still managed to lay out a sufficiently terrifying vision of what the United States could look like should he run for and win the presidency in 2024, while cycling through the gamut of right-wing talking points about Ukraine, Biden, and beyond.
The former president railed against President Biden’s handling of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and once again failed to condemn Vladimir Putin; he bashed Democrats for advocating for a more humane immigration policy and acknowledging the reality of climate change; and went on an extended rant about the 2020 election, claiming that not only is there evidence the election was rigged (there isn’t), but that the matter is “beyond the standpoint of evidence” (it’s not). “I ran twice, I won twice, and I did much better the second time,” Trump said of the election he lost by over seven million votes.
The takeaway from all of this is what Trump has hinted at repeatedly since he left office: “We may have to run again,” he said to what may have been the loudest applause of the night.
The rally was Trump’s first since Russia invaded Ukraine, and he spent the beginning of it recycling several of the points he’s made in recent weeks. He claimed the invasion is Biden’s fault and would have never happened if he was still in office. He wasn’t so harsh on Putin, whom he described as someone who is “driven to put it together.” Trump, again, took credit for the Ukrainian resistance, touting the military assistance sent to the nation during his administration. He did not mention that he delayed said military assistance in an effort to extort Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky into digging up dirt on Biden and family.
Trump, in Florence, South Carolina, takes credit for sending military aid to Ukraine — ignoring that, you know, he was impeached after he got caught trying to withhold it pic.twitter.com/OevrrJP5WI
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 13, 2022
Trump was in South Carolina to support House candidates Katie Arrington and Russell Fry, as well as the Republican Party as a whole ahead of the midterms in November. He thusly spent plenty of time bashing Democratic policy initiatives.
He dismissed the idea that climate change is anything to worry about. “The oceans are going to rise 1/100th of an inch in the next 300 years and it’s going to kill everybody,” he said sarcastically. “It’s going create more oceanfront property, that’s what it’s going to do.”
He fear-mongered at length about how “Joe Biden has thrown the gates open to these murderous cartels” across the border, noting how “bloodthirsty criminal gangs” are “torturing and slaughtering hostages,” insinuating you and everyone you love may be next if the Democrats keep control of Congress.
He also claimed that Democrats are to blame for empty store shelves, which they aren’t, of course, because store shelves aren’t empty. “This all came out of the stench of the Biden administration,” Trump said.
Trump: You can’t get anything. The stores are half empty. pic.twitter.com/rnMGOHvwtz
— Acyn (@Acyn) March 13, 2022
The most terrifying part of Trump’s speech may have been not only his relentless insistence that he won the 2020 election (“It was a fraudulent election and the proof is beyond anybody’s wildest expectation”), but the preview he offered of what another Trump administration might look like, should he win in 2024. He’ll have fashioned a Congress that is far more compliant with his authoritarian impulses than the one he took office with in 2017, and that wouldn’t really have a problem with him deciding, say, that he should be able to just go ahead and get rid of anyone in the executive branch who isn’t sufficiently loyal.
“We will pass critical reforms making every executive branch employee fireable by the president of the United States,” Trump said. “The deep state must and will be brought to hell. It’s already happening.”
“We will pass critical reforms making every executive branch employee fireable by the president of the United States. The deep state must and will be brought to heel.” — Trump proposes a drastic expansion of presidential power pic.twitter.com/u09FV910iA
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 13, 2022
Trump seems like he fully intends to be in a position to wield that power. “In 2024 we are going to take back that beautiful, beautiful White House,” he said. “I wonder who will do that. I wonder. I wonder.”