Don’t expect an end to the war of words between Donald Trump and Joe Biden

·3 min read
Donald Trump showed in Pennsylvania on Saturday that creating a situation where he and his supporters are outsiders is exactly what he wants  (AP)
Donald Trump showed in Pennsylvania on Saturday that creating a situation where he and his supporters are outsiders is exactly what he wants (AP)

Donald Trump had some choice words for Joe Biden at his weekend rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, held nominally to support the midterm campaigns of Dr Mehmet Oz for the US Senate and Doug Mastriano’s bid to become next governor of the state.

But the pair appeared only briefly and Trump generally got on with the business of verbally attacking both Biden and the FBI following the raid on his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last month.

During the search of that property, the FBI recovered a significant number of documents, some with classified or top secret markings. Trump has denied wrongdoing. On Saturday night, Trump called the raid “shameful” and a “travesty” and reached into his usual political playbook to link his frustrations and the frustrations of his supporters. “We are being assaulted … by the FBI and DoJ [Department of Justice],” he said – adding a bit of general denunciation as he is want to do: “The FBI and the Justice Department have become vicious monsters, controlled by radical-left scoundrels, lawyers and the media, who tell them what to do.”

He later further crystallised his idea, summing up the Trumpian political mantra in one sentence: “It was not just my home that was raided last month. It was the hopes and dreams of every citizen who I’ve been fighting for.”

So far, so Trump. But earlier in the week, Biden used a primetime address in Philadelphia to make clear that he believes America is facing a battle for its political soul, an extension of his presidential campaign from 2020. “There’s no question,” Biden said, “that the Republican party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the Maga Republicans, and that is a threat to this country.”

There has been plenty of discussion in recent years about how much Democrats have to get into political mud-slinging with Trump, and how much they have to rise above the petty insults and talk about greater ideals. Biden is trying to hit both bases with his remarks about the safety of American democracy. Although, given Trump’s repeated false claims about the result of the 2020 presidential election and the support those claims have had from midterm candidates Trump is endorsing, it is not unjustified.

The issue comes in how much Trump is able to make of it. Creating a situation where he and his supporters are outsiders is exactly what he wants. On Saturday, Trump called Biden’s remarks “the most vicious, hateful, and divisive speech ever delivered by an American president”. Exactly the type of extreme rhetoric he likes – and something that makes a good soundbite.

So what now? Biden has set out his stall and is set to make his third visit to Pennsylvania in a week with a stop in Pittsburgh on Monday (results in the state will have a significant impact on the shape of Congress in the midterms). Don’t expect him to change his tune. Trump certainly won’t change his. It just depends on how much each message drives voters to come out in November and beyond.