Was President Trump’s Fourth of July speech authoritarian?

The Millennial Source
4 min readJul 6, 2020

This appeared in The Millennial Source

After President Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore on July 3, the evening before Americans celebrated their Independence Day, many observers noted that the president seemingly went out of his way to emphasize the country’s widening social divisions during his remarks.

The New York Times and The Washington Post claimed that Trump used the occasion to lean on “ culture wars” and exploit “ social divisions,” while The Associated Press headlined its coverage of the event as one where the president pushed “ racial division.”

Critics of these interpretations of the speech, including the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), suggested that these headlines cherry picked the president’s remarks and even misrepresented what he was saying.

“Contrary to the media reporting, the America Mr. Trump described is one of genuine racial equality and diversity. He highlighted the central ideal of the Declaration of Independence that ‘all men are created equal’,” argued the WSJ’s editorial team, adding that Trump cited Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. as two examples in America’s “unstoppable march of freedom.”

“There was not a hint of racial division in his words except for those who want to distort their meaning for their own political purposes,” concluded the WSJ.

Others claimed that the centrality of the country’s polarizing disagreements in the speech was a clear departure from the way past presidents spoke on Independence Day, which is typically to find a unifying message.

Authoritarian messaging?

In a quote of the speech that was later tweeted by the official White House account, the president characterized the United States as a country besieged by internal enemies.

“Our Nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values & indoctrinate our children. Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials & unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities,” Trump said.

According to Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University, the…

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