Trump’s kickoff rally speech in Waco: half whining victim, half pompous overpromising | Opinion

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If the crowd in Waco on a warm Saturday is any indication of Donald Trump’s remaining popularity among Texas Republicans, it will be difficult for any other presidential contender to best him. And yet in his speech, Trump vacillated between victor and victim.

At once, Trump voiced suspicions of our nation’s election system and repeatedly cast doubt on it while also claiming that he would lead the entire GOP to smashing wins.

Thousands of Texans, and some surely from outside the state, too, waited in long lines and thorough security checks to see the former president speak at the first large rally of his 2024 campaign. Attendees parked more than a mile away and walked to the Waco Regional Airport, the rally site. At least a dozen vendors were scattered through the area, offering T-shirts, hats and flags with slogans such as “FREE TRUMP” and “[EXPLETIVE] BIDEN.”

A T-shirt for sale at former President Donald Trump’s rally March 25 in Waco.
A T-shirt for sale at former President Donald Trump’s rally March 25 in Waco.

“It’s great to be back in this beautiful state with thousands of patriots,” Trump said when he finally landed via helicopter to cheers and the Lee Greenwood song “God Bless the USA.”

In his signature speech style, rambling and at times disjointed, Trump told some of his most ardent followers something they already firmly believe: how awful life has been during the Biden administration.

“We’ve been fighting for seven years,” Trump said in a speech that stretched to an hour and a half. “We’ve been standing up to the Marxists, the socialists, the stupid warmongers … the fake news media. … They don’t want to tell the truth, that’s why they’re going down the tubes.”

Trump slammed Joe Biden’s administration as “one of those depraved” chapters in American history.

“Straight out of Stalinist Russia horror show,” he said. “A banana republic, that’s what we’ve become,” Trump said. But he vowed: “When this election is over, I will be the president of the United States [and] you will be vindicated and proud.”

A vendor at former President Donald Trump’s rally March 25 in Waco.
A vendor at former President Donald Trump’s rally March 25 in Waco.

Statements like this are an example of the dichotomy Trump lays out for his voters: In Trump’s vision, America is awful and elections are rigged, and only he can save America, even as he’s persecuted with investigations.

One would think hard-working, responsible, logical Americans are beyond such repeated assaults on the country they reside in and love is flawed without Trump, especially since this was his line when he ran before.

And is anyone who isn’t already in love with Trump convinced by a vision of total disaster now and utopia if we just re-elect him?

Trump called 2024 “the final battle.”

“Our enemies are desperate to stop us because they know we are the only ones who can stop them,” he said. “There’s never been a movement like this in the history of the U.S,. or, probably, in the history of the world.”

Trump couldn’t help but ruminate for a long stretch on the 2020 election “We won the most counties in the United States, in the history of our country,” he said, as if counties, not people, cast votes.

“We had a rigged election. We have a rigged system,” he said, despite courts rejecting every claim he made about fraud or abuse in 2020.

Trump didn’t specify why he chose Waco for his first big campaign stop. But Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — Trump’s campaign chief for the state — said he had recommended Waco or another city, which Patrick didn’t identify, as areas where Trump won big.

“I told Dan, ‘You know, Dan, let’s not do one of those 50/50 areas,” Trump said. “Let’s go where we’re close to 100%.”

Not quite. Trump won Waco’s McLennan County, 61% to 38% for Biden. And he took just 52% of the state’s overall votes, a low for the Republican nominee in recent decades.

Toward the end of his speech, Trump applauded several Texas Republican supporters, including Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and U.S. Reps. Ronny Jackson and Wesley Hunt. He also mentioned Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.

“By the way, these are all people who have endorsed me,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t acknowledge anyone who hadn’t.

Perhaps Trump started in Texas because its Republicans are so fervently for him, at least in places such as Waco. But he didn’t exactly win Texas in a landslide, either, so maybe he realizes there’s work to be done as well.

In either case, this is certain: Trump remains the most polarizing candidate, offering wild swings of vision. Like Trump’s personal life, his political slogans are extremes: selfish and selfless, hopeful and helpless, awful and great.

“In 2024 we’re going to have the greatest victory of them all,” he said. “Either the deep state destroys America, or we destroy the deep state.”

Here we go again.