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A Fourth of July weekend in the midst of a pandemic calls for a unifying, somber presidential speech, one that mourns the nearly 130,000 coronavirus dead and inspires the hope that the coming months will be less bleak than those that preceded them. So of course, Trump gave the exact opposite of that on Friday, in a fire-and-brimstone speech delivered in the shadow of Mount Rushmore that attacked protestors and bashed the ongoing anti-racism uprising.
"Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children," said Trump. "Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities."
Trump made almost no mention of the coronavirus pandemic, which is surging across the South and West as the country broke its recorded for newly diagnosed cases for the sixth time in nine days on Thursday. Instead, his remarks focused on the removal of statues and "cancel culture," symptoms of what he oxymoronically termed "far-left fascism." The crowd taking in Mount Rushmore speech was largely packed together rather than practicing social distancing.
"We will expose this dangerous movement, protect our nation’s children from this radical assault, and preserve our beloved American way of life," he continued:
In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance. If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted, and punished. It’s not going to happen to us. Make no mistake. This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution.
The demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd's killing by police are one of largest social movements in the nation's history, with between 15 and 26 million Americans participating in protests. The movement is supported by a majority of the American public and by many Republicans, so in characterizing it as a "merciless campaign" to "defame our heroes," Trump is appealing squarely at a minority of the public.
But his total rejection of any attempt at Independence Day unity isn't exactly surprising. Just days ago, it was announced Joe Biden's campaign out-raised Trump's for the second month in a row, as polling continues to show Trump trailing his opponent. Axios reported this week that Trump has privately told those close to him that he regrets following his son-in-law Jared Kushner's advice and supporting some measures of criminal justice reform, as he doesn't think it will help increase his share of the black vote. Instead, Trump reportedly vowed to hew to his own instincts—and those instincts always seem to lead back to deeply divisive and racist rhetoric.
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