Trump Mixes Grievance Politics With Bread-and-Butter G.O.P. Issues


Former President Donald J. Trump has consistently generated headlines on the campaign trail for his apocalyptic, often violent rhetoric and for extreme policy proposals that would reshape long-held norms of American government.

They include his vow to use the Justice Department to prosecute his foes, his statement that he would be a dictator but only on the first day of his presidency and his use of language echoing authoritarian leaders.

But those comments are wrapped around more traditional political statements. A significant portion of Mr. Trump’s stump speech focuses on core conservative issues that are the bread and butter of Republican politics.

Though they draw less media attention, his statements on those issues, which often push the edge of truth, appear to resonate more with his audiences. Here are some of Mr. Trump’s biggest applause lines from a speech in Reno, Nev., on Sunday, many of which have been fixtures of his appeals to voters throughout his campaign.

In his 2024 bid, Mr. Trump is building on two safety-related messages from his previous campaigns, when he stoked fear about urban crime in Democratic-run cities and staked out a hard-line position on immigration, in part by using anti-immigrant rhetoric to paint migrants as criminals.

Since leaving the White House, Mr. Trump has consistently attacked President Biden’s record on immigration, criticizing him as doing little to deter the record number of migrants crossing the border. This proposal is one of several in which Mr. Trump promises to restore and strengthen his previous immigration policies, which were hugely popular with his supporters. Mr. Biden has recently signaled a willingness to enact new restrictions on migration.

Underlying this line is Mr. Trump’s oft-repeated notion that Mr. Biden is a weak leader who has made America’s adversaries see the country as vulnerable. With statements like these, Mr. Trump suggests that he projects such an image of strength that his election alone — which he presents as an inevitability — will deter migrants from illegally crossing the border.

Mr. Trump presents a dark, often dystopian, vision of an America that is ravaged by crime, building on his message in 2020 that the nation’s cities were decaying. He is again trying to present himself as a “law-and-order” candidate, vaguely alluding to crime in cities led by Democrats, for which he blames progressive politicians, activists and policies. (Mr. Trump sometimes exaggerates crime statistics to make his point.)

Pocketbook concerns are central to Mr. Trump’s campaign this year. He has recently begun using the slogan “Better Off With Trump,” telling voters that the economy was better when he was president.

“Drill, baby, drill,” a mantra during the 2008 presidential campaign, has become a rallying cry for Mr. Trump, who insists that America must be less reliant on imports of oil and gas. He presents greater domestic production of fossil fuels as a solution to rising energy prices that he blames chiefly for inflation in the United States. And he is critical of environmental restrictions imposed by the Biden administration that limit drilling for oil and gas.

Mr. Trump draws roars of approvals when he talks about rolling back the Biden administration’s efforts to encourage Americans to transition to electric vehicles. (The administration does not have a federal electric vehicle mandate, as Mr. Trump often claims.)

He often tailors his criticism to his audience. In Nevada, he suggested that initiative would hurt automobile union workers, a criticism he has made in other speeches. But when in Iowa, Mr. Trump deems electric vehicles a threat to ethanol, a fuel that is made from corn and other crops and that is a major factor in the state’s economy.

Often toward the end of his stump speech, Mr. Trump turns to a set of divisive social issues that have become rallying cries for the Republican Party.

These vows, which encapsulate a number of issues that fire up Mr. Trump’s conservative base, consistently elicit some of the loudest responses at his events. His views largely align with his 2024 rivals for the nomination. Republicans have hoped such “parental rights” issues could help them win over suburban voters in particular.

Mr. Trump often played down the effectiveness of masks during the coronavirus pandemic. Even as his vaccine development program, Operation Warp Speed, spurred progress, the vaccines are deeply unpopular with his Republican base, and he has railed against requiring them as an affront to personal freedom.

This line effectively cements the belief by many conservatives that gender is fixed at birth and based on biological sex. After saying it, Mr. Trump will often marvel that politicians even have to talk about it, a way for him to ridicule L.G.B.T. rights activists. The sentence has been criticized as offensive by L.G.B.T. rights activists for misgendering transgender women athletes.

Underlying Mr. Trump’s campaign speeches are two key grievances: his false claim that Democrats stole the 2020 election from him and his position that the four indictments against him are politically motivated. He draws on both as he condemns his opponents and suggests he would exact vengeance if elected.

Mr. Trump faces 91 total felony counts in four criminal cases. He devotes considerable time in his stump speech accusing Mr. Biden of masterminding all four. With this line, Mr. Trump positions himself as a kind of Christlike political martyr: a victim of corrupt political enemies who is absorbing their blows to spare his conservative supporters.

Mr. Trump consistently portrays himself as the last bulwark defending American democracy from an onslaught of forces, among them the political left. With this sentence, he turns his legal woes into a collective problem. He often adds, “In the end, they’re not after me, they’re after you. I just happen to be standing in the way.”

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