I am on Donald Trump's email list. Some of us like to know what's going on before it hits the news. What better way to gauge what's really on the president's mind than to see what he's saying directly to his supporters?
It is typical for candidates to flood email boxes during a campaign cycle. It's their way of rallying the troops and, more importantly, getting supporters to prove how much they care by going into their pocketbooks and writing a check.
I was on Barack Obama's email list when he was seeking reelection too. I was on Hillary Clinton's four years ago. And I'm also on Elizabeth Warren's, Bernie Sanders', Joe Biden's and Kamala Harris'.
But there's something about the daily emails I get from the Trump campaign that seems more menacing than the others. They have become increasingly desperate since the House impeachment inquiry began late last month. It's as though Trump is trying to turn his supporters against America by making them think they are under attack -- by America.
His aren't simply the routine "time is running out, I need your help" calls for aid. His are more like a call to arms, an attempt to force Americans to choose sides and retreat to their respective corners. Either they are with him or against him. There is no middle ground.
In a country already divided over political ideologies, Trump's campaign strategy appears to be to divide it even further. With basically no support among Democrats, he seems to have decided it's not worth his time to even try to appeal to half the country. He's written them off as un-American enemies of the state.
In his endless criticism of Democrats, Trump has frequently resorted to name-calling. Using childish rhetoric like the "do-nothing Democrats," "pencil-neck Adam Schiff" and "Sleepy Joe Biden," he sounds like a bullying first grader trying to pick a fight on the playground.
He brings up the old stereotypes Democrats have had to fend off for years -- that they ignore the middle class and spend all their time pandering to their Hollywood megadonors. But he has added a scarier element designed to present liberals as the archenemy of what he calls "real Americans."
If you are a Democrat, he seems to suggest, you are not a "real American." And anyone who does not stand with Trump against this "witch hunt" of an impeachment inquiry cannot possibly be a "real American."
He prefers, he says, to spend his time "meeting REAL Americans like YOU." Those are the folks, no doubt, who will crowd into an arena and bask in whatever he happens to say.
So what exactly is a "real American?" His emails do not say explicitly, but there are plenty of hints. It's like he is winking his eye at his followers and saying, "If you're a real American, you know it."
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Obviously, if you despise the left, you are a real American. If you distrust the media, you're a real American. And if you are suspicious of the CIA, the FBI and other American institutions, and believe that their sole mission is to bring down Trump, then you're definitely a real American.
In one email, he pointed out a few specific indicators. He reiterated the claims in a video on his campaign website.
The left wants to "take away your VOTE, your Freedoms, your Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and your God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!"
So it appears that real Americans are only those who choose to carry guns, are Christians, support war, think his border wall is a great idea and believe they were handpicked by God to be American citizens because they had the good fortune of being born here.
The thinly veiled message is that the people who believe in Trump are special. They are the ones who truly belong in America, and they are under siege. Democrats are on a mission to take away the America they love, to rob them of the country their forefathers built just for them. And he is the only one who can stop them from succeeding.
In other words, America is becoming browner, and that's a problem for real Americans. If there is any chance of maintaining any semblance of the America that has stood for generations, there must be a president at the helm who understands the importance of basic American values, as determined by real patriots.
In one of his most ludicrous campaign items for sale on his website, Trump is depicted as a cartoon-type Superman character, soaring through the air with his fist pointed upward as if he has come to rescue America from itself.
This is still a less direct tone than he took in 2016, when there was no filter. Four years ago, he made no secret of how he felt about Mexicans, African Americans, Muslims and other minorities. He mocked a reporter with disabilities. When a protester was removed from a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Trump told the crowd, "I'd like to punch him in the face."
He announced his campaign for president with these words: "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists."
While in office, he has garnered the support of white supremacists, including former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, for various comments that appeared favorable toward white nationalism. This speaks volumes about whom he sees as "real Americans."
It's too early to know how far Trump will go with his divisive rhetoric this time around. But based on what we've seen in the past, he's not a man who handles pressure well. When his back is against the wall -- as it is now with his potential impeachment looming -- Trump tends to go off the deep end.