Donald Trump, the defeated and twice impeached former president in the face of growing legal and political peril, announced Tuesday night at his private club in Florida that he was running again. The campy but iconic Trump Tower escalator ride, it was not.
The hour-long speech was a low version of what Trump has been saying for years: His failures aren’t failures, they’re successes. His losses are not losses, they are victories. “I am a victim,” he said. “I am a victim.” Everything is fine when he’s in charge, and everything’s bad when he’s not. “America’s comeback starts now,” he said in perhaps his strongest line of the night, but he couldn’t avoid the midterm reckoning – that voters across the country do not necessarily look to him to lead it. At one point, he unwittingly admitted that his apocalyptic depiction of a “failing nation” beset by “difficulties, anxiety and despair” is not the United States most people seem to see. “The citizens of our country have yet to realize the full extent and severity of the pain our nation is going through,” he said. “But they will.”
What was most striking, however, about this event in the gaudy, golden ballroom of Mar-a-Lago was not what he said or how he said it. The Trump aesthetic has always been a mask, a glitzy, garish cover for his angry, brawling approach, and these images by inimitable photographer Mark Peterson capture how his most stubborn supporters have embraced this paradoxical style as their own: biker vests. and brick wall patterned suits, dazzling brooches and handbags, a “Let’s Go Brandon” tattoo. In this chapter of the life and political rise and (perhaps) fall of Trump, there was a thick mob of conspiracy theorists riding or dying and visibly light on the most important and powerful figures in the a party that he once held totally under his yoke.