About an hour into a presidential campaign announcement speech so boring that even Fox News cut away, former President Trump made an interesting point.
For the most part, Trump hit all his usual tired talking points, some said with low energy. He ranted about immigration, “radical left Democrats,” critical race theory, MS-13 (he called them “savages”), fentanyl, the threat of nuclear war, inflation, gas prices, and “the blood-soaked streets of our once-great cities” that have become “cesspools of violent crimes.”
But when Trump laid out his plans for how to “dismantle the Deep State and restore the government by the people,” he went beyond the usual calls to “drain the swamp.”
Instead, he promised a series of anti-corruption measures.
Trump said he would push for a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on members of Congress; a permanent ban on taxpayer funding of political campaigns; and a ban on “members of Congress getting rich by trading stocks with insider information.” If you read the comments out of context, you might have thought you were hearing from Elizabeth Warren.
Trump used these reform suggestions as a segue to complain about the United States’ lengthy elections and to advocate for “paper ballots, same-day voting, voter ID—so simple.”
The discussion was far tamer than his January 6, 2021, declaration that the previous election constituted an “egregious assault on our democracy.” The audience at Mar-a-Lago did not seem as enraptured with Trump as the typical MAGA rally crowd, and the speech was so disjointed that it was hard to tell how the former president expected to frame his 2024 run. Still, one could see a path forward in which Trump attempts to twist his 2020 election lies into an anti-corruption message—even if that seems a little rich coming from a man embroiled in constant scandal.
If the final minutes of Trump’s speech were a reliable predictor of the points he’ll be hammering home on the campaign trail, we just might see a more toned-down Trump, with a commonsense reform message that will appeal to more than just his sycophantic right-wing fans.
I’m not sure which is scarier.