On January 18th, presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke at a weekly convocation at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Founded by Jerry Falwell and currently headed by president and chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty University is a prominent (and conservative) Christian educational institution.
C-SPAN captured Trump rambling remarks, which flattered Christians, celebrated militarism, and slammed Iran. Many of his remarks appealed to right-wing fears and American pride, regardless of whether such fears and pride were grounded in reality. For your edification, I've shared some quotes from the speech below.
First, Trump assured the audience that if elected president, he would protect Christians. At the 5:01 mark, he pointed to the oppression of Christians in Syria as evidence that Christianity is "under siege". I hope that Trump was not conflating ISIS atrocities against Christian minorities with the imagined "persecution" of Christians in the U.S.
"We're going to protect Christianity, and I can say that. I don't have to be politically correct. We're going to protect it. You know? ... I hear this is a major theme right here, but, Two Corinthians, right? Two Corinthians 3:17, that's the whole ball game. 'Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty', and here there is Liberty College, Liberty University, but it is so true ... It's so representative of what's taken place. But we are going to protect Christianity, and if you look [at] what's going on throughout the world, you look at Syria, where if you're Christian, they're chopping off heads. You look at the different places, and Christianity, it's under siege."At the 17:11 mark, Trump used the imaginary War on Christmas as a way to appeal to his audience. He claimed that if elected president, stored would be allowed to display the words 'Merry Christmas'.
"You go into a department store now, right? Where was the last time you saw 'Merry Christmas'? You don't see it anymore. They want to be politically correct. If I'm president, you're going to see 'Merry Christmas' in department stores, believe me."Trump trumpeted his support for a stronger military (despite the fact that the U.S. has one of the strongest militaries in the world in terms of armed forces personnel and funding). He warned listeners that an election victory by one of the Democratic candidates would mean "high taxes" and "things are not going to happen with the military" At the 8:55 mark, he had this to say.
"We need to build our military so big, so strong, so powerful that nobody, nobody is going to mess with us. We have to do it!At the 11:26 mark, Trump appealed to American humiliation over the Iranian capture of 10 U.S. Navy sailors and contention over the Iran nuclear deal. He vowed that America would be strong and respected, with "powerful borders".
"Iran is taking over the Middle East ... We have totally destabilized the Middle East. It's a disaster. And you look at this new Iran deal, which took forever to get done. You look at how bad it is and how one-sided it is. You look at how one-sided this deal is, and yesterday I heard that we're getting our hostages back. Some people call them prisoners, some people call them hostages. I don't care ... [Iran is] getting all sorts of advantages including free market oil. They're getting unbelievable advantages. They're going to be an immensely wealthy country -- wealthy terror country -- and they're getting $150 billion.On the topic of U.S. borders, Trump repeated his plan to have Mexico pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to keep immigrants out. At the 27:20 mark, he assured his audience that building a wall would be easy.
So when our sailors were captured last week, I said that's one of the saddest things I've seen, when those young people were on their hands and knees in a begging position, with their hands up and thugs behind them with guns, and then we talk like it's okay. It's not okay. It's lack of respect. We can't let that happen to this country ... We're going to be strong, we're going to be vigilant, we're going to have powerful borders and strong borders."
"Who's going to build the wall, folks? You tell me. Who's going to build the wall? MEXICO. Everybody knows ... They say, 'Oh, you can't build a wall.' So easy. You have no idea ... I just built a 92-story building. I mean, when you build buildings, building a wall, it's like, give me some pre-fab plank. Bing! ... I have to make it look beautiful. Why? Because someday, they'll name the wall Trump Wall! ...At the 42:10 mark, Trump appealed to right-wing paranoia about gun rights, claiming that Second Amendment rights are "under siege". Tastelessly, he insisted that terrorist attacks in Paris and California could have been thwarted by armed bystanders.
And by the way, we want people to come in, but we want people to come into our country legally! They'll go through a process. They'll go through a process."
"Second Amendment, very good. We've got to have the right to protect ourselves ... The whole gun situation, it's under siege. Now they're talking about we want to give less bullets, we want to take bullets away ... You can't let it happen. By the way, in Paris, which has probably the toughest gun laws in the world, and France, had bullets been going the other way, you wouldn't have had 130 people killed and plenty more to follow who were so badly injured.Anti-refugee sentiments found their way into Trump's speech. At the 44:30 mark, Trump played to right-wing fears over terrorists masquerading as Syrian refugees, suggesting that an influx of refugees was to blame for recent violence in Europe.
In California, recently, two weeks ago where you had the 14 people killed ... by these two radicalized people, where the people that were killed gave them wedding parties. They held wedding parties. They knew them. They were friends. They went in and they killed 14 people. If we had somebody, a couple of guys like him or him or definitely him with the white hat on with a gun strapped in here [Trump motions to belt] and the bullets could go the other way ... you would have had problems. You wouldn't have had it to the same extent at all.
We need the Second Amendment. Don't let anyone take it away. If I get elected, it's totally protected."
"I won't let the Syrians that we have no idea who they are. They want to come into our country. They may be ISIS. It may be the great Trojan horse of all time. Who knows? We cannot take a chance. I want to build a safe zone some place in Syria. What's happening in Germany is a disaster. What's happening in Brussels, what's happening all over Europe. Europe is being absolutely swamped and destroyed, what's going on with the crime and the problems. And it could be some sinister plot."Trump's speech at Liberty University did not elaborate on policy or include logical observations about current events. As the right-wing's id personified, he appealed to his listeners' pride, soothed their egos, and gave voice to their anxieties. And the audience ate it up.
Demagoguery has always been part of politics, but Trump's demagoguery speaks to the Religious Right's persecution complex, fear of outsiders, and love for American hegemony. A political campaign that feeds irrational emotions should make us all uncomfortable.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links
The Daily Beast: Trump Pledges to Make God Great Again
Salon: Donald Trump’s speech at Liberty University proves just how gullible evangelical voters are
The Atlantic: The Religious Right's Donald Trump Dilemma