From encouraging his supporters to chant "Lock her up!" against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to again trolling the nation with the idea that he would ultimately stay in power longer than the constitutionally-mandated two-term limit, President Donald Trump's fascist instincts—leanings also clearly shared by many in the crowd—were on full display at a Michigan rally Saturday, just over two weeks before Election Day.
Earlier this month, federal agents said they foiled a plot by far-right individuals to kidnap Gov. Whitmer over Michigan's Covid-19 health restrictions, but that didn't stop Trump from going after her in his remarks at the event in Muskegon.
"You've got to get your governor to open up your state," Trump said to cheers from the crowd. Acknowledging the recent plot against Whitmer but downplaying its seriousness—"I guess they say she was threatened," Trump said—the president railed against what he called "draconian, unscientific" lockdowns that public health experts have specifically and repeatedly said are crucial to stem severe outbreaks and keep the pandemic in check.
In response to Trump's comments about Whitmer, the crowd began chanting "Lock her up!" As the chant spread and grew louder, Trump said into the microphone: "Lock 'em all up!" which seemed to be reference to other Democratic lawmakers in the state or elsewhere who have pursued—unlike the president and many GOP-led state governments—robust public safety measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The crowd for Trump's rally in Muskegon, Michigan. https://t.co/eOOw20IhXi— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1602969788.0
Even as the rally continued, Gov. Whitmer responded in real-time to condemn Trump's rhetoric and goading of the crowd.
"This is exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family, and other government officials' lives in danger while we try to save the lives of our fellow Americans," Whitmer tweeted. "It needs to stop."
Trump’s behavior in MI, stoking a “lock her up” chant about @GovWhitmer—just 9 days after a plot to kidnap her was… https://t.co/q9Kv6cLgq6— Abdul El-Sayed, MD, DPhil (@Abdul El-Sayed, MD, DPhil) 1602975922.0
Later, when the crowd began chanting "Four more years! Four more years!" in favor of Trump's reelection, the president interjected and said: "You really drive them crazy if you say 12 more years—12 more years. Then they say 'He is a fascist!'"
In response, the eager crowd followed his lead and chanted: "Twelve more years! Twelve more years!"
Crowd: "Four more years! Four more years!" Trump: "You really drive them crazy when you say 12 more years... then… https://t.co/kjRphSiFng— The Hill (@The Hill) 1602975856.0
"Joe Biden will surrender our country to the mob," Trump told his supporters, vowing that if reelected he would "save our country from the mob." Trump then promised to build in his second term what he dubbed the National Garden of American Heroes—or maybe, he said, it would be called "The Trump Garden of American Heroes"—as well as instituting a new pro-America education curriculum for the nation's students designed to counter critical explorations of U.S. history that have become reviled by the Republican Party and other right-wing factions.
Trump then returned to the idea—as he has repeatedly during his first term—that he would find a way to remain in power not for just one more term, but perhaps indefinitely.
"We'll be here for four years, and then if we decide to go for an extra four, or eight, or something," Trump said.
"January 1, I better damn well be president, I'll tell you. Well, I will be. I will be, for 20 days. Don't do this… https://t.co/iE2FMY3p5j— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1602974490.0
In response to the display by the Republican president and his supporters, writer and political analyst Jodi Jacobson tweeted Saturday night: "Trump held a Nazi rally in Michigan. There is no other way to describe it."