I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.
The President has never shrunk from floating his desire to bring violence on those who disagree with his policies. His defenders tend to laugh this rhetoric off as "libs having another freak out." Maybe. But there's a track record. During the 2016 campaign he encouraged his rabid supporters to rough up protesters. On Twitter he's floated the idea of using police state tactics to stop crime.
Lately he feels more emboldened. The emergency declaration to build the border wall (his shutdown failed), in effect entails a take over of the treasury for his own benefit. While there's been push back, today Senate Republicans defected in their strike down of the declaration, they may face the wrath of his minions in a primary fight.
His statements today are no joke, one of the most despicable ever made by a sitting President (he holds a monopoly in that area.) Today's statement implied he may use the military, police, or violent gangs to check his political opponents. Troubling questions arise:
Would martial law be declared if he loses the 2020 election? If the Mueller Report provides enough evidence for impeachment, would he use the military to stop Congress from moving forward? Will he keep pushing the limits of executive power until a point of no return is passed? (if it hasn't already)
There's a big difference between talking and action. It goes without saying that a sizable number of the President's supporters feel an authoritarian dictatorship may be their only hope of seeing their troubling agendas pass - overturning Roe v. Wade, a costly border wall, no human rights for refugees and undocumented people, a Christian theocracy, corrupt tax codes, gun mobs, overturning every aspect of a pro democracy agenda. A majority of Americans do not support the President, but he does have at least 30 percent who are with him all the way.
The threat of political violence is nothing new in recent American history. It's ebbed and flowed from the heady days of the 1960s and 1970s and then settled into a cultural Cold War through the Reagan/Clinton/Bush years. The Tea Party Movement crossed a Rubicon, linking mainstream conservatism with fringe ideals (white nationalism). As a candidate Trump managed to win approval from the fringes and the mainstream, blurring the lines between the two. Rhetoric from the President and his supporters have facilitated this process further.
The President's statement can be read in different ways, none of them comforting. A sign of desperation as the Mueller investigation closes in? A way to quash disloyalty from the GOP Senators who defied him? A pledge that he's not leaving office without causing heavy disruption? A bluff to trigger his many critics? None of these are within the bounds of normal behavior from a so-called leader in a democratic society. What the statement will do is ramp up tensions even further, encourage extremists, setting the stage for more chaos on which he thrives.