President Donald Trump meets with Governor-Elect Ron DeSantis and others.
President Donald J. Trump meets with Governor-Elect DeSantis and others. Photo credit: The White House / Wikimedia

Former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis used the occasion of Memorial Day to stoke violence and sow division.

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Usually, Memorial Day is one of those occasions where politicians from across the political spectrum put aside their differences to commemorate the more than 1 million US servicemembers who died in the nation’s wars. This year, however, former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the frontrunners for the 2024 GOP nomination, spent the day spewing incendiary rhetoric.

To illustrate the first point, below you will find four statements from four senators from opposite sides of the political divide — Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Let’s see if you can tell which statements come from a conservative lawmaker and which one from one of the progressives.

“Today, on Memorial Day, let us honor and remember those who died serving our country, and recognize the unimaginable losses their families have experienced.”

“On this Memorial Day — and every day — let us never forget the service and sacrifice of those who fought to preserve our freedom.”

“This Memorial Day, we honor the brave men and women in uniform who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country. And we honor them by following through on promises we’ve made to our military families and those in service.”

“This Memorial Day weekend, we remember those who gave their lives defending our country and the freedoms that make America the greatest nation on earth. It is up to each and every one of us as Americans to carry on their memory, and uphold the values they sacrificed dearly to protect.”

If you are wondering, the order is Sanders, Johnson, Warren, and Cruz. However, they are essentially interchangeable.

And then there are Trump and DeSantis, who used this Memorial Day to fiddle with matches while sitting on a powder keg of potential political violence.

DeSantis went on Fox News and vowed to “destroy leftism” in the US. As is his style, the governor is usually vague when it comes to what exactly he means by “leftism” or “wokeism,” so it is up to the viewer to determine if he is referring to any Democrat or specific policies, such as wanting to provide health care or allow accurate history to be taught in classrooms.

In any case, the message is clear.

And, to drive home the point, the “DeSantis War Room,” the quick response unit of the governor’s presidential campaign, tweeted out the clip and put “DESTROY” in all caps.

To be fair to DeSantis, he later delivered more traditional and less incendiary remarks at a Memorial Day event.

Not Trump, who doesn’t do “traditional” and “less incendiary.”

The former president, who has a long history of stoking violence, had his own Memorial Day message (originally in all caps, but we will spare you that experience but will leave the liberties Trump takes with grammar in place):

Happy Memorial Day to all, but especially to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the country they love, and to those in line of a very different, but equally dangerous fire, stopping the threats of the terrorists, misfits and lunatic thugs who are working feverishly from within to overturn and destroy our once great country, which has never been in greater peril than it is right now. We must stop the communists, Marxist and fascist “pigs” at every turn and, make America great again!

In case you are wondering, when talking about “terrorists, misfits and lunatic thugs,” Trump is probably not referring to the hundreds of his supporters who have been sentenced for crimes related to storming the Capitol on his behalf.

And it stands to reason that the fascists he mentions are not the many US Nazis who are firmly on Team Trump.

Instead, those are just the kind of people who will listen to Trump — and to a lesser extent DeSantis — and feel that they have to do something about the situation.

Rhetoric like this is one of the reasons why political violence is on the rise and why law enforcement officials now say that white nationalism poses the greatest domestic terrorism threat in the US.

It is more than troubling that the two men most likely to win the 2024 Republican nomination can’t even dial down that rhetoric on a day like Memorial Day.



  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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