Former President Donald Trump launched his revenge tour Saturday during his first campaign-style rally since President Joe Biden took office, blasting his usual targets: Democrats, the media, and the 2020 election—though offering nothing new even as he hints at a 2024 run.
“With your help, we’re going to defeat the radical Democrats,” he told supporters in Wellington, Ohio. “And we have no choice.”
Fanning the flames of the GOP-orchestrated panic over critical race theory on the right, Trump tore into military leadership, accusing them of becoming “weak and ineffective” and “woke.”
“They have to get [critical race theory] out of our schools, and they have to ban it in our workplaces… and ban it in federal agencies, and ban it in our military,” he said, promising that would be a priority “when we win giant Republican majorities next year.”
Trump called the rally, which ran just over an hour and a half, the first of the 2022 cycle, hoping to use his influence over the party to lead Republicans toward winning control over Congress next year.
“Our movement is far from over,” he told the crowd. “In fact, our fight has only just begun.”
The rally was in support of Max Miller, a former Trump aide and Republican congressional candidate hoping to unseat the incumbent Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH). Gonzalez was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump following the Capitol riot.
Trump accused Gonzalez of being a Washington, D.C., grandstander, claiming he had once tried to curry favor with the Trump White House by requesting a ride with Trump on Air Force One.
“He’s a sellout, he’s a fake Republican and a disgrace to your state,” he said. “He’s the candidate of Liz Cheney.”
Although the rally was ostensibly meant to bolster Miller, Trump stuck to his old ways and used the event to air his own grievances and sing his own praises, repeatedly peddling the bogus claim that he was the true winner of the 2020 election.
“We won the election twice; it’s possible we’ll have to win it a third time, it’s possible,” he said. “We did much better the second time. With all of the shenanigans, what’s the real number?”
In attendance were some of Trump’s top loyalists since his departure from the White House: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.
Saturday’s event, Trump’s first large-scale rally since he left the White House and lost access to his millions of Twitter followers, was his first major punch-back toward those who he believes wronged him since the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He’s vowed to campaign against those who voted to impeach and convict him after the attempted insurrection.
The event was also Trump’s attempt at exerting further dominance over the Republican Party. The Daily Beast reported Friday that the twice-impeached former president plans to use his new series of rallies, which includes stops in Florida and an appearance at the southern border, to ward off any potential challengers to the election.
But he appeared far from offering any new ideas or plans in case of a 2024 run.
Throughout the rally, Trump stuck to his oft-used line about the “fake news” supposedly shutting off their cameras to avoid airing comments that might make them look bad—but this time the event was not covered by any of Trump’s old media foes. Indeed, only Newsmax and One America News aired the rally; Fox News opted not to broadcast it.
The rally also came as Trump faces opposition from different governmental fronts. On Thursday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced a select committee focused on the Jan. 6 insurrection, which will likely examine the totality of the raid led by Trump supporters—including whether Trump helped incite them. The New York Times also reported Friday that the Trump Organization, his family business, could face criminal charges in New York next week.
The most extended period of Trump's speech came when he bizarrely began reciting the lyrics from The Snake, a song written by civil rights activist Oscar Brown in 1963. The lyrics tell of a “tender” woman who takes in a snake that later bites and kills her, which Trump used to condemn a rise in immigration.
It remains to be seen whether the Republican Party, which has continued to take Trump in after his 2020 defeat and the events of Jan. 6, has risked a fatal bite in its quest to win the 2022 midterms.