All in all, it was, in the words of Daniel Dale, the Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star, “one of the least-hinged speeches Trump has given in a long time.” It was indeed all over the place but like the weirdly wide-ranging and digressive speech in which he declared a national emergency, it was also an absolute tour de force, laying out every major point of disagreement between Republicans and Democrats (abortion, the Second Amendment, and taxes, among other things) while tagging the latter aggressively as socialists who will not only end the private provision of health care but take over the energy sector too. Those charges take on new life in the wake of the announcement of the GND and comments, however short-lived, by Democrats such as Kamala Harris, who at one point recently called for an end to private health care. And over 100 House Democrats have signed on to a plan that would end private health insurance in two years. For all the biting criticism and dark humor in today’s speech, Trump has mostly ditched the “American Carnage” rhetoric that marked his first Inaugural Address, pushing onto liberals and Democrats all the negativity and anger that used to surround him like the dust cloud surrounds Pigpen in the old Peanuts cartoons. “We have people in Congress right now who hate our country,” he said. “We can name every one of them. Sad, very, very sad.”
At moments, he seemed to be workshopping his themes and slogans for 2020. “We believe in the American Dream, not the socialist nightmare,” he averred at one point. “Now you have a president who finally standing up for America.” The future, he said “does not belong to those who believe in socialism. The future belongs to those who believe in freedom. I’ve said it before and will say it again: America will never be a socialist country.” That’s a line that may not work forever, but it will almost certainly get the job done in 2020.