Donald Trump, speaking slowly and in dark tones, warned a "radical movement" on the political left is intent on pushing “propaganda” to undermine what he called Americans’ “heritage” and bring about an undefined form of “segregation” that he claimed would "destroy” the country.
Using the National Archives Museum that houses the country’s founding documents as a venue, the president delivered what amounted to a campaign speech on Constitution Day that railed against “critical race theory” and declared in a message to his conservative base: “We will never submit to tyranny.” He openly ignored the United States’ complex history of slavery and appeared to appeal to parts of his base that deal in widely dismissed conspiracy theories.
“This radical movement is attempting to demolish these treasures” he said of America’s history and what he described as Americans’ “precious inheritance.”
Speaking with grim-but-vague proclamations and warnings, the president said: “We can’t let that happen.”
“Left-wing mobs have torn down statues of our founders [in a] campaign of violence and anarchy,” he said, referring to protests across the country stemming from the deaths of black people while interacting with white police officers.
In the ornate hall in Washington, the president bemoaned “far-left demonstrators” and warned “the left has launched a vicious and violent assault on law enforcement.”
Describing the news media and many large US corporations as allies of these so-called “radicals,” the president issued a warning to what appeared to be his white, conservative base: “The goal is the same: to silence dissent” and “to scare you out of speaking the truth.”
The president said he made the short drive down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington “to declare we will never submit to tyranny.”
“The radicals burning American flags want to burn down the principles enshrined in our founding documents,” Mr Trump said, echoing what his Democratic – and some moderate Republicans – say about his presidency.
What’s more, he contended the “mob” wants to redefine “equal justice under the law in order to radically transform America." To do so, he said “they must first cause Americans to lose confidence in … where we came from and what we believe.”
That and other parts of the speech sounded like Mr Trump was both echoing and sending a message of support to some far-right fringe elements that support him and push easily debunked conspiracy theories about Democrats and others in positions of power.
Only that pro-black activists are calling for black people to be treated the same as, not superior to, whites.
He also called for America’s schools to install a “patriotic education,” saying the “radicals” want to push what he called curricula that teaches the country was founded on “oppression” rather than “freedom.”
Only that between 1525 and 1866, nearly 400,000 African slaves were transported directly to the United States, forced to work in hostile conditions and given no rights.
According to Mr Trump and other conservatives, both things cannot be true: That the country was founded on a principle of white freedom and bolstered, at first at least, by black slavery.
The president signed an order setting up a new commission to push this so-far undefined “patriotic education.”
Despite his ratcheted-up rhetoric on race and other matters in recent weeks, Mr Trump is gaining ground on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, slicing his leads in battleground states in half since late-July. That coincides with his turn to a re-election message largely based on a description of himself as fighting black protesters as the “law-and-order president.”