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Roving Periscope: The subtle “M” word enters Trump’s campaign lexicon

Roving Periscope: The subtle “M” word enters Trump’s campaign lexicon

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: Controversial former US President Donald Trump has done what none of his predecessors could. He stirred up the hornet’s nest by raising the influx of ‘Muslims’ into America, hinting at them without naming them, and promised he would deport them wholesale if he returned to the White House after the November 2024 elections.

His surprise mention came a day after three European countries—Norway, Spain, and Ireland—announced to recognize Palestine amid the Israel-Hamas war, and the recent pro-Palestinian demonstrations that paralyzed several US universities for weeks. Many in the West believed that the Muslim immigrants and students were pressurizing the US and its allies to break up with Israel.

Sensing this rising sentiment, while addressing a historic rally on Thursday in the Democratic party stronghold Bronx neighborhood in New York City, Trump claimed that immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere were “building an army” to attack Americans “from within.”

“Almost everyone is a male and they look like fighting age. I think they’re building an army,” the Republican presidential candidate told thousands of supporters who gathered to hear him in the South Bronx’s Crotona Park.

“They want to get us from within.” “We are not going to let these people come in and take our city away from us and take our country away,” Trump said, vowing to carry out “the largest criminal deportation operation in our country’s history” if re-elected to the White House, the media reported on Friday.

The ex-president also sought to tie record levels of migrants caught crossing the US-Mexico border illegally with the economic plight of Black and Hispanic voters, arguing, without evidence, that migrants were taking their jobs.

Trump is locked in a tight race with Democratic incumbent President Joe Biden ahead of the November 5 election. The Bronx rally was part of his effort to exploit Biden’s weakening support among Hispanic and Black voters.

Nearly 55 percent of Bronx County residents are Hispanic and about one-third are Black, and the crowd on Thursday was more racially mixed than his usual rallies, which are predominantly White. Trump’s campaign had a permit for up to 3,500 people to attend the rally, the New York City Parks Department said. Recent polls suggest that Trump is gaining ground with Blacks and Hispanics, who were critical to Biden’s win in 2020.

Trump campaigners believe many of them could support him and make a difference in swing states in November. He is the first Republican presidential candidate to make a stop in the Bronx since Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

Besides wooing the Whites, Hispanics, and Blacks, Trump again invoked authoritarian leaders, a reminder of a vision he has been outlining for a potential second term.

He referenced Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban — authoritarian foreign leaders he has praised numerous times before — during the campaign stop in the South Bronx.

Seeking to contrast them with President Biden, Trump said those leaders were “at the top of their game, whether you like it or not.” He also said that if he was elected for a second term, he would bring the United States to a position where “the world is going to respect us again.”

During his presidential race, Trump has repeatedly noted that he would push further from his first-term agenda, including on issues such as immigration and public safety. On Thursday, he pledged to improve transportation infrastructure and rebuild “the greatest economy.”

The authoritarian leaders he has praised, however, have been embroiled in conflict and criticized on the world stage.

For example, since February 2022, when Russia launched a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, Putin has led a protracted war that has killed thousands. Kim presides over one of the most isolated countries in the world, with a contracting economy and a population staring at food insecurity. And Orban, who met with Trump during a US visit in March, has cracked down on Hungary’s judiciary and the media.

The former US President has previously called President Xi Jinping, the leader of a major world economy criticized for human rights violations, both a “brilliant man” and a “very good friend”, but also engaged in a trade war with China during his presidency. Earlier this year, he favored imposing even stronger controls on US trade with China.

In December 2023, Trump told a Fox News town hall that he would not be a dictator in a second term, “except for Day One,” comments that drew praise from supporters and elicited concern from scholars and critics in both the major parties.

“Donald Trump has been telling us exactly what he will do if he’s reelected and tonight he said he will be a dictator on day one,” Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said in a statement at the time. “Americans should believe him.”


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