Breaking with precedent, and flouting the Hatch Act designed to prevent politicization of public service, he spoke from the White House grounds to an audience that mostly neglected to wear any protective gear against the raging coronavirus pandemic, but never failed to applaud him on cue.

The acceptance of a presidential nomination is a hallowed American political ritual and the highlight of every election year’s conventions. Comparing Trump’s 2016 and 2020 speeches, and the political theater that surrounded them, reveals how emboldened Trump has become in his authoritarian designs to protect White privilege, criminalize dissent and turn the Republican Party into an instrument for the consolidation of his personal power.

The 2016 speech made it clear that Trump never intended to be the President of all Americans, but only of Whites victimized by the supposed chaos that had beset the nation under President Barack Obama. Like strongman leaders from Benito Mussolini to Vladimir Putin, Trump sought to create a sense of threat in order to propose himself as the “law and order” solution. Diagnosing “a moment of crisis for our nation,” with (in his telling) police under siege from illegal immigrant-criminals who roamed the streets, he promised to act on behalf of those “forgotten” during eight years of rule by a Black President. “I AM YOUR VOICE,” he intoned.