Somehow, amid the horror of the January 6 assault on the Capitol by right-wing extremists, not much attention has been paid to the 73-minute speech Donald Trump delivered immediately beforehand. To read the transcript of his “Save America” rally is to realize just how ghastly, poisonous and absurd the rhetoric of the Republican Party has become.
It’s a toxic, sneering rhetorical style that’s been built up over the decades by Roger Ailes, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and so many others. Did Trump say, “Please storm the Capitol”? No. But here are just a few of the things he did feel free to say to his followers, from a public stage, that day:
“All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical left Democrats, which is what they’re doing and stolen by the fake news media.”
“They rigged it like they’ve never rigged an election before.”
“Democrats attempted the most brazen and outrageous election theft. There’s never been anything like this. It’s a pure theft in American history, everybody knows it.
“This is a criminal enterprise… There’s never been anything like it.”
“This is the most corrupt election in the history, maybe of the world… This is not just a matter of domestic politics, this is a matter of national security.”
“We’re gathered together in the heart of our nation’s Capitol for one very, very basic and simple reason: to save our democracy.”
“We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about.”
Democrats are the enemy. They are criminal. They are a threat to democracy. What a surprise that after all that, Trump’s followers went to the Capitol with mayhem on their minds. Who could have predicted it?
None of this is new, sadly. None of this is unexpected. 17 years ago, Rush Limbaugh was saying of Iraq War protesters, “It’s beyond me how anybody can look at these protestors and call them anything other than what they are: anti-American, anticapitalist, pro-Marxist communists.” A threat to democracy, don’t you know.
Perhaps, at long last, we can stop pretending that such speech is in any way normal, harmless, or healthy for the common good.