Donald Trump delivered a crowd-pleasing speech to thousands of adoring supporters in Arizona Saturday, insisting yet again that he won the 2020 US presidential election.
Some of the faithful had arrived in the area days in advance from as far away as Florida or Texas, waiting to hear the former president trot out a familiar list of grievances.
Their patience was soon rewarded.
“We are done having our lives controlled by politicians in Washington. We are done with the mandates,” he said, in reference to rules brought in to control the coronavirus pandemic.
“The radical Democrats want to turn the United States into a communist country,” he continued.
“We won those elections. We won them big. We can’t let them get away with it.”
Earlier speakers had kept to similar themes, slamming 2020 election victor President Joe Biden as “weak” and “deranged,” and taking aim at the “lamestream media,” who were duly booed by the crowd.
It was a greatest hits of Trumpism, playing all the expected notes: a stolen election, the unfairness of the media, open borders and how the United States has become “a laughing stock all over the world.”
There was a carnival feeling for much of the day.
Flags proclaiming “Trump 2020” and “Trump 2024” fluttered in the desert wind, as chants of “Let’s Go Brandon” erupted from the good-natured crowd. The slogan has become code in right-wing circles after a news reporter mistook coarse anti-Biden chants.
“It’s just a party atmosphere,” said Jonathan Riches, who was attending his 40th Trump rally.
“It’s almost like a MAGA Woodstock. It’s patriots from around the country getting together for the common good of this country. We love our president.”
MAGA is an acronym for Trump’s 2016 campaign call to “Make America great again.”
While some filtered out as Trump was still speaking, perhaps to escape the parking crush, those who stayed until the end declared themselves happy with what they had heard.
“He’s encouraging, because he’s not giving up and we’re not giving up because we’ve lost our country,” 58-year-old Tony Cunio said.
“I’m supporting him because I want the country to get back to where it was before.”
Trump abandoned a pledged press conference on January 6 – the anniversary of the invasion of the Capitol by his supporters – and the rally was his first major public outing since October.
As is customary, he proclaimed it to be “the biggest” crowd, going “further than the eye can see,” though accurate figures on attendance were not immediately available.