President Donald Trump devoted his Fourth of July weekend speech at Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday night not to uniting the country for Independence Day, but to trying to own the libs who take issue with the Confederate statues he sees as vital to American culture.
“There is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance,” Trump proclaimed to supporters who came out to see him in spite of the recent surge in coronavirus cases in the United States. “This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution,” the president said, before repeatedly going on to compare himself and his supporters to Patriots during the American Revolution—and protesters to members of the British Army.
Speaking as if preparing his political supporters for battle, he said, “Just as patriots did in centuries past, the American people will stand in their way, and we will win, and win quickly.”
“Their goal is not a better America. Their goal is to end America,” he said of the “radical left” who he claimed is intent on “indoctrinating our children.”
“We will not be tyrannized, we will not be demeaned, we will not be intimidated by bad, evil people,” he said.
Following weeks of a resilient pandemic, a still-cratered U.S. economy, and his ongoing diminished standing in the polls against presumptive Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, the president decided to focus heavily Friday evening on protesters and Black Lives Matter activists who want various American monuments, including those honoring Confederate, white-supremacist, and slave-owning figures of history, torn down and destroyed for good.
“Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders,” he said. “They think the American people are weak, and soft, and submissive.”
To prove that he has taken decisive action against protesters who want to tear down monuments, the president claimed he has taken executive action to ensure anyone caught defacing federal statues or monuments gets a 10-year prison term, even though a law mandating such a sentence for such a crime has already been on the books for almost two decades. Perhaps sensing that the prison term would not be enough, Trump went on to announce further executive action for the creation of a “national garden of American heroes,” an outdoor park that will be home to statues of “the greatest Americans to ever live.”
Trump also appeared to take a shot at former Vice President Biden, saying, “no person who remains quiet at the destruction of this resplendent heritage can possibly lead us to a better future.”
Trump’s speech comes at a time when he has leaned heavily into campaigning on culture-war terrain and “tough on crime” and “law and order”-style rhetoric, as part of an effort to save his sagging re-election campaign, where poll after poll—including the Trump campaign’s own internal data—has shown Biden enjoying significant leads over the incumbent. At this point, however, the shift to full-on culture-warrior tactics has yet to pay the desired dividends for Trump in poll numbers.
Two individuals close to the president told The Daily Beast earlier this week that they each believe that focusing so much time and resources on statues, Confederate or others, is not going to help revive his campaign or help close the gap with Biden, and that each intended to gently nudge Trump to go in a different direction. One of the sources said that they’d already told the president once before in recent days that making statue-defense a cornerstone of his re-election bid—with everything else going on—was a “distraction,” and not the issue that would move and keep the necessary vote in his column, come the election in November.
As evidenced by Friday’s address, Trump has yet to be convinced of this.