Fresh off the heels of his campaign's supposed "reboot" to pivot away from Donald Trump's damaging off-the-cuff remarks, the Republican nominee for president uttered what is perhaps his most incendiary comment yet — positioning himself squarely in the white supremacist tradition of using the Second Amendment to voice discontent in a democracy.
While speaking to a crowd Tuesday in Wilmington, North Carolina, Trump tried to play on the audience's fears that a Hillary Clinton presidency could have long-lasting impacts on the Supreme Court.
"If she gets to pick her judges — nothing you can do folks," Trump said, referring to Clinton's ability to nominate justices if she were elected. "Although, the Second Amendment, people, maybe there is."
This call to fall back on the Second Amendment isn't a particularly new theme in U.S. politics. It's part of a long, conservative tradition that's already been taken up by the likes of North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst. What separates Trump from that pack is the not-so-subtle white supremacist undertone to his presidential ambitions.
Trump's campaign has already built up populist support by playing on white America's racial prejudices against Mexican immigrants and Muslim Americans. On Twitter, his preferred method of communication, he's tweeted out white supremacist memes. And less than 24 hours after his latest gaffe, white supremacists are publicly loving his call to kill. As Jim Dalrymple II wrote on BuzzFeed, they're showing their support in big ways:
When Barack Obama was elected in 2008 and became the country's first black president, death threats against him from white supremacists spiked early and often. During his first terms in office, he received 43,830 threats.
Similar threats, this time tinged with a special dose of sexism, have popped up at Trump's campaign rallies. His supporters have shouted, "Hang that bitch!" and "kill her!" and "Trump that bitch!" at various campaign stops, as chronicled by the New York Times. And then there's the merchandise that was on sale in July at the Republican National Convention, where Trump became his party's official nominee:
Trump knows exactly what he's doing. He knows exactly what he's saying. And, given the white populist anger that's gotten him this far, he's playing to a base that's getting scarier by the day.