Photo illustration by John Lyman

Trump Looks to Excite His Base by Protecting the Dark Side of American History

President Donald Trump is looking upon his 2016 playbook to spark a fire for his underwhelming and underwater 2020 campaign. After being consistently down by seven to eleven points in each of the recent national polls, Trump is now digging for a variety of ways to excite his base. Adding new legislation that protects American history at all costs during this brand new “cancel culture” era is a conversation that Trump is looking to nationalize.

In his recent televised speeches, Donald Trump has preached that he is the “Law and Order President” by protecting Civil War history and adding new legislation to safeguard Confederate monuments.

When Trump hosted his campaign rally in late June in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he announced that he would be signing an executive order that any individual who vandalizes an American monument will receive a sentence of ten years in prison.

During his speech at Mount Rushmore on July 3, Trump praised American history and added that he would be signing an executive order to create a display showcasing American heroes, ranging from beloved political figures to pop culture icons.

Trump used the nationalism tactic during the later months of his victorious 2016 campaign, and it worked. Now, he is trying it out again and hoping history repeats itself, especially during a period when he has received extensive bipartisan criticism for the way he has handled the coronavirus pandemic.

“My impression is that this (nationalistic) messaging is less about expanding his base and more about assuaging the desires of his loyal supporters in hopes that it will generate excitement and, thus, compel them to turn out in November,” said Jared Clemons, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Duke University.

As Clemons said, the recent conversations about the modern-day value of having Confederate monuments stand in national parks across the country have struck an emotional, but historical debate among Americans, and could provide a track of powerful messages for Trump’s reelection campaign.

During recent interviews on national networks, Trump has stuttered when explaining why he wants a second term. By adding the last second emergency orders, President Trump is trying to portray why he wants another four years in the White House. With no plans in place, besides his usual rhetoric of claiming to have done the most in office in his three and half years as president, Trump believes by throwing out many controversial messages, he could leave a trail of reasons to elect him again.

While many Republicans have sided with the president on protecting Civil War history, recent conversations in Mississippi have provided a different argument in the predominantly Republican state. GOP Governor Tate Reeves, alongside state legislators, decided that it was time to remove the Confederate symbol from the state’s flag.

“It is easy to imagine that Trump might use this as a wedge issue of sorts to excite his core supporters, though I am not certain that the issue will have much mileage beyond that,” said Clemons. Clemons believes that these conversations will not help Trump’s campaign attract undecided voters in November. Clemons added, “I am not sure that Trump’s rhetoric will really make that much of a difference in the grand scheme of things.”

While Clemons studies national polls and believes that they are an accurate representation of the result of the popular vote, he also noted that these polls are difficult to predict the outcome of the electoral college. “A lot can happen between now and November. If I were Biden, I would be cautiously optimistic. If I were Trump, I would be moderately concerned.”

Since Trump started his nationalistic tirade of protecting American history in mid-June, national polls have suggested that voters’ mindsets have remained unchanged on who they plan to vote for in November. In a recent GOP-based Rasmussen Reports poll, former Vice-President Joe Biden has a comfortable lead of ten points over Trump.

Despite this last-second Hail Mary attempt by Trump and the RNC, Clemons believes that the winner in the upcoming election will be dependent upon recent racial injustice and U.S. history conversations.

“Given many Americans’ heightened awareness of racial injustice in light of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others, many view Trump’s rhetoric as throwing salt on the country’s wounds, so to speak, and want a president that at least presents himself as being committed to rectifying racial injustice.”