Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
Donald Trump appears to relish pitting Americans against each other because he believes it helps him politically. And now in the closing days of the 2020 campaign, he has taken this to a new, potentially dangerous level as he appeared to praise supporters who surrounded a Joe Biden campaign bus in what a Biden campaign official described as an attempt to run the bus off the road.
The incident occurred Friday in Texas as the Biden campaign bus was traveling from San Antonio to Austin as part of a push for voters to cast their ballots on the state’s last day of early voting. The bus was suddenly surrounded by a long line of vehicles that were part of a “Trump Train” group that features cars and trucks adorned with Trump flags.
The Trump supporters reportedly began screaming profanities and obscenities at the people on the Biden campaign bus, whose passengers included US Rep. Lloyd Doggett and Democratic congressional candidate Wendy Davis.
Then it became much more alarming and potentially deadly. The Trump supporters surrounded the bus, slowing their vehicles down to about 20 mph in what Biden supporters said was an effort to stop the bus in the middle of the highway. Other witnesses believe that the trucks were trying to run the bus off the road.
Concerned Biden campaign staffers called 911, which led local law enforcement officers to escort the bus to its next event. However, the Biden campaign canceled events scheduled later in the day out of concern for the safety of supporters. The FBI is now looking into the incident.
Did Trump condemn the actions of these supporters? Of course not. In fact, he did the very opposite – he praised them. Twice. First, on Saturday evening, Trump shared on Twitter a video of the Biden bus surrounded by trucks and cars waving Trump flags with the words all in caps: “I LOVE TEXAS!” Given this incident occurred the day before and received extensive media coverage, it strains belief that Trump didn’t know by Saturday evening that police had been called to protect the people on the bus and that his own FBI was investigating the incident.
Trump again praised his supporters who harassed those on the Biden bus later that night at his rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, telling the audience, “Did anyone see the pictures of the crazy bus surrounded by like hundreds of cars?! They’re all Trump flags all over the place…what a group!” These remarks elicited big cheers from his supports. Earlier, he’d spoken glowingly of supporters who went to Biden’s drive-in campaign events, saying most who showed up to honk their horns “are our people” who are “taunting” Biden. Trump then moved to those on the road in Texas, saying, “it’s like a hot thing” and was what was really “number one trending” on social media, but the tech companies “won’t put that.”
Well, Trump did get his wish – sorta – on Sunday morning, when Twitter’s top hashtag was Trump’s approval of his supporters’ behavior. Except that the meme was “TrumpTerrorism.”
Trump’s praise of his supporters raises even more alarm bells given Trump’s call to his fans to form an “army” of poll watchers on Election Day to prevent what he baselessly called efforts at “thieving and stealing and robbing” this election. Will his supporters view the praise of those in Texas as a greenlight to intimidate or harass voters on Election Day?
Still, this incident reminds us of why Trump is trailing Biden by 10 points nationally in CNN’s most recent poll of polls. (For perspective, if Biden ended up winning the popular vote by 10 points, it would mark the largest margin of victory in a presidential election since Ronald Reagan defeated Walter Mondale in 1984 by over 18 points.)
Get our free weekly newsletter
Biden leads Trump on a host of issues from who can better handle the coronavirus to racial equality. But the issue where Biden holds one of his biggest leads over Trump is on the question of who will unite the country, not divide it. A CNN poll released on October 28 found that 60% of registered voters believe Biden will be better, compared to 34% who say Trump. In fact, Biden has made national unity one of the focal points of his campaign, repeating the mantra: “I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president,” adding, “I’ll work as hard for those who don’t support me as for those who do.”
The choice is clear. If you want four more years of a President who pits Americans against each other, Trump is your choice. But if you want a candidate who tells us, “I don’t see red states and blue states. What I see is American, United States,” then Biden is your candidate. Isn’t it time we had a President who roots for all of Americans, not just his supporters?