Trump blasts free press, political opponents at his campaign kick-off
Trump rallied his base in Orlando, Florida with appeals to fear and hatred. | Evan Vucci/AP

ORLANDO, Fla.  — Attacking the free press and calling for jailing of his political opponents Trump sounded exactly like the autocratic right-wing extremist he is at his official campaign kickoff here last night. Most of the speech, none of which dealt with the dangerous war moves his administration is making in the Mideast, was aimed at winning support for his intention to go after whoever he perceives as a political enemy.

The rally was held, appropriately, at the Amway Center. Amway, a corporation that heavily funds numerous rightwing causes, got its start in the late 1960’s and early 70’s by running exploitative pyramid schemes that lured people into scams that were supposed to make them rich by selling soap door to door.

Like Trump did later with his “university” the company made money but the rank and file soap sellers usually lost the little they had started out with.

Trump characterized the Mueller investigation as an “illegal witch hunt” aimed at overthrowing the 2016 election. He painted an apocalyptic picture of the future in store for the country if he loses the election in 2020. Of the Democrats he declared, “They want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as we know it.”

Nowhere did he seriously address any of the issues being tackled by those Democrats. Waiting until the end of his speech he addressed health care by promising, with no plan on how he would do it, “eradication of AIDs and a cure for cancer.”

In a disturbing sign of what is to come in his campaign he resurrected the worst aspects of political speechifying during the McCarthy era by trying to redbait not just his opponents but the entire Democratic Party.

“A vote for any Democrat in 2020 is a vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the American dream.” he said. He claimed all of his Democratic opponents are “radical” and “unhinged.” Nothing in his speech indicated even the slightest attempt to reach out for support to anyone beyond his already firm and committed right wing base.

He also seemed to lay the groundwork, in the style of right-wing dictators, for coming investigations of his political opponents. He literally yelled out about the Hillary Clinton emails and encouraged the familiar chants at his rallies of “Lock her up.” The fact that Clinton is not running against him made no difference to a president determined to whip his base into a frenzy, much the same way he did when he ran for the White House the first time.

Some of the scene in Orlando would have frightened any of the few who are old enough to remember fascist rallies in Europe in the 20th Century with press reports yesterday that there were  groups like the neo-nazi Proud Boys and others marching around outside in support of Trump.

Anti-Trump protesters displayed the now-familiar huge balloon of  an angry-looking baby Trump. That balloon was also a feature of the recent anti-Trump marches in London.

Trump claimed that his election and presidency was and is “historic” and that he has brought back “government of, by and for the people.”

Trump launched into another of his vicious attacks on immigrants declaring that next week he will “begin the process of removing millions of illegal aliens who have illegally found their way into the United States.” Democrats, unions, immigration rights activists, businessmen, mayors and governors have been responding with almost universal condemnation. The social and economic damage to the country that would result from Trump realizing his plan are inestimable, of course, but many in his crowd loved the remarks anyway.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said  that Trump’s speech was “all about dividing us” in ways that are “dangerous — truly, truly dangerous.”

Another Democratic presidential candidate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, said Trump had delivered “an hour-and-a-half speech of lies, distortions and total, absolute nonsense.”

Trump launched his campaign in Orlando because Florida is a state he absolutely has to win in order to be reelected. Polls show that at least two of the Democratic candidates are leading him in that state. While Trump defeated Clinton there in 2016, a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday found Biden leading Trump 50%-41%, and Sanders leading him 48%-42%.

AP contributed to this article.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.