On Saturday evening, Donald Trump held his first big campaign event. It was at the regional airport in Waco, TX. Waco? Huh? Waco is a city of 140,000, 150 miles north of Austin and 140 miles south of Dallas. Waco is the 24th biggest city in Texas. Surely Trump could have found a friendly venue closer to, say, Dallas, and gotten more attention and drawn a bigger crowd. So why Waco?
Readers older than 40 probably have an idea. In the early spring of 1993, a right-wing religious cult called the Branch Davidians was holed up at a ranch outside of Waco. Texas and federal law enforcement laid siege to the cult for 51 days until law enforcement attacked on April 19, 1993. This resulted in a fire in which 82 Branch Davidians died, including 28 children. Many details of the Waco siege are disputed, but for many right-wingers and anti-government types, the Branch Davidians are heroes and martyrs for resisting the Big Bad Gubmint. Trump is over 40 and knows the symbolism Waco has to many of his supporters. That's why he went there, rather than, say, Dallas. It was like a Native American politician going to Wounded Knee or an Israeli politician going to Masada.
Trump's speech in Waco was a collection of his biggest grievances, rather than his vision for the country and what he would do if given a second term. He talked about how "Ron DeSanctus" begged for his support when he ran for governor in 2018 and how he took off like a rocket when Trump granted the boon and how the damn ingrate is planning to oppose the man who made him governor.
Trump also railed against Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg, who is widely expected to indict Trump this week. He called the "weaponization of our justice system" the central issue of our time. This plays very well to his supporters' sense that straight, white, Christian men are victims. He noted: "You will be vindicated and proud the thugs and criminals who are corrupting our justice system will be defeated, discredited and totally disgraced." He also put in a plug for his good friend, Vladimir Putin, and noted how smart he is. The crowd lapped it up.
CNN's reporters interviewed some of the attendees to get a feeling for what was on their minds. Supporter Debby Cravey said Trump would be a "shoo-in" for president if he gets indicted. Todd Castro said Bragg's probe amounted to "persecution." Mike Gilbert said: "You can't keep taking an honest man down." Bobby Wilson was understanding. He said: "We all have sin. We all have some things that we've done."
Trump rolled out a list of endorsements. The list included Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-TX), Texas AG Ken Paxton (R) and a dozen Republican congressmen from Texas. Not included were the state's top politicians: Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Maybe they have other plans for 2024. They didn't show up to explain.
Before Trump spoke, he had a warm-up act to get the crowd into a good mood. The warmer-uppers were Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL), both of whom are from states 700 miles away. Greene suggested that Texas set up its own immigration checkpoints—on its northern and eastern borders, not its southern border—to keep Americans from blue states from moving to Texas. Trump loved her speech and suggested that she run for the Senate in 2026. The fact that would probably put her on a collision course with Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) would make it all the better from his vantage point. (V)