We’re supposed to believe that Donald Trump chose Waco, Tex., for his first official campaign rally only because of logistics. It’s easily reached by folks in Dallas–Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. Of course, Trump intended no connection to the 30th anniversary of the Branch Davidian tragedy, when a right-wing cult provoked a government standoff that resulted in the death of 86 people, including 28 children of the cult.
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick insisted that he, not Trump, chose Waco—and only because of its centrality. And its blood-red voting patterns. So forget Branch Davidian leader David Koresh.
The truth is, Trump probably has forgotten David Koresh, because he doesn’t think about anybody but himself. He’s particularly wrapped up in his own sense of grievance and victimhood right now, with at least one indictment impending and many other legal clouds gathering above him.
Maybe Waco didn’t matter to Trump on Saturday. But Trump mattered to Waco—the place, as well as the paranoid wing nut frame of mind that’s grown even more deadly in the past 30 years. “Remember the Alamo, Remember Waco, Remember Mar-a-Lago,” one sign in the crowd blared. That’s two centuries of white grievance right there.
Trump’s Waco event included insurrection porn, i.e., violent January 6 videos to rile up the already rabid crowds, and insurrection kitsch: Convicted rioters serenaded the twice-impeached president with a song called “Justice For All,” a song that mixes “The Star Spangled Banner” with Trump saying the Pledge of Allegiance. (Maybe I’ve mixed up my porn and my kitsch.) During “Justice for All” on Saturday, Trump solemnly placed his hand over his heart as if it were the national anthem. It probably will be, if Trump has his way.
I was trying to ignore the Waco debacle because it happened on a weekend and I need to detox for at least a day or two a week. But not today. I welcome the media’s relative restraint in not blasting Trump’s meltdowns wherever, whenever, as of late. More such restraint might have elected President Hillary Clinton.
But the ex-president has taken a real turn toward darkness. On the eve of his Waco rally, he warned Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is expected to indict Trump on charges related to the Stormy Daniels payoff, that “potential death & destruction in [bringing] such a false charge could be catastrophic for our country.”
He’s not just metaphorically calling for violence; he’s posting how-to videos at his rallies. There can be no doubt about what he wants. The question is what the rest of us are going to do to stop it.
Trump spent much of his Waco rally making the kind of case he made at the sad CPAC convention: It only seems like they’re coming for him. They’re really coming for you.
The “weaponization of our justice system,” he told the Waco crowd, is “the central issue of our time.” Our enemies don’t run Russia or China. They are the “high-level politicians that work in the US government like McConnell, Pelosi, Schumer and Biden.” Hmm…
And that “Justice for All” video? It’s terrifying. The violent, dangerous folks are the peaceful underdogs. Sure, we see some violence while they are getting inside the Capitol, but it seems defensive. The cops look way more active and malevolent than in any other video I’ve seen from that day. And we see Ashli Babbitt’s shooting.
So this is the show Trump brought to Waco. Meanwhile, he attacked his other enemies. He seems to be making short work of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is plummeting in the polls. Trump mocked him for begging for his endorsement when trying to move from the House to the governor’s mansion in 2018. He claims DeSantis came to him “with tears in his eyes…at almost nothing in the polls” and “no cash”—a little political Oliver Twist. “Sir, if you endorse me, I’ll win,” he recounted DeSantis saying. “Please, sir.” Please, sir.
Trump called Alvin Bragg a “thug,” a really nice term to use on New York City’s first Black DA. “The thugs and criminals who are corrupting our justice system will be defeated, discredited and totally disgraced,” he said. We’ll see.
And he again mocked Stormy Daniels for being insufficiently gorgeous for him to have fucked her. “I never liked her. It’s just not… it’s terrible,” he said. “That would not be the one! There is no one. We have a great first lady.”
We do! Her name is Jill Biden! Obviously, Trump has the worst advisers, or else he’d realize he’s not making political progress by calling Daniels unattractive. It’s not the biggest issue, obviously, but it’s such a sign of bad judgment.
The right knows what the right knows. The right wants what the right wants. The paranoid violent Branch Davidian story is widely known on the wing nut fringe. And I think it helped float Trump’s Waco boat.
The factions on the right have a long history of supporting one another’s extremism. It doesn’t matter when you check in; they can never leave. Just rooting for Bragg, Fani Willis, Jack Smith, and, yes, Merrick Garland. Someone has to see what Trump is doing.