Texas newspaper slams ‘bombastic, bullying’ Trump for ‘stoking the fires of Waco’ ahead of rally

A Texas newspaper has lambasted former president Donald Trump’s decision to hold his first 2024 presidential campaign rally not far from the site of the deadly law enforcement siege in Waco, Texas, an event that galvanised far-right conspiracy theories as a symbol of violent government overreach.

As the state of Texas recognises the 30th anniversary of the deadly 51-day siege, The Houston Chronicle’s editorial board writes that “dog ears won’t be the only ones twitching” when Mr Trump lands on 25 March.

“Trump doesn’t do subtle; dog-whistle messages are not his style. The more apt metaphor is the blaring air horn of a Mack 18-wheeler barreling down [Interstate-10],” the newspaper writes.

The editorial compares the visit to Ronald Reagan’s first major campaign speech in 1980 during a trip to Philadelphia, Mississippi, remarks invoking “states’ rights” just miles from where three civil rights workers were killed by the Ku Klux Klan 16 years earlier. The speech was roundly criticised for its dog-whistle politics “conveying a subtle message for those with ears to hear, while maintaining plausible deniability,” the newspaper notes.

Mr Trump won McLennan County by more than 20 percentage points during the 2020 election, and the editorial board notes that Waco has “every right” to host the former president, “but ‘Waco’ the symbol, like ‘Philadelphia, Mississippi,’ the symbol, means something else entirely.”

“‘Waco’ has become an Alamo of sorts, a shrine for the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters, the Oath Keepers and other anti-government extremists and conspiracists,” according to the editorial board.

“Don’t bother with a bombastic, bullying candidate inclined to incitement and bent on ‘retribution.’ His appearance is ample reason to stay home,” the board writes.

The rally on 25 March comes in the middle the 30th anniversary of the 1993 siege at Mount Carmel Center ranch in Elk, Texas, that concluded with a fire that engulfed the compound and killed 76 people, including children and cult leader David Koresh.

Federal agents with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were met with gunfire while attempting to search the property outside Waco in February 1993, igniting a siege that ended on 19 April.

Mr Trump’s campaign rally also comes as the former president potentially faces looming criminal indictments from prosecutors in his home state of New York, involving hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign.

He also is at the centre of an investigation in Georgia, where he sought to pressure election officials to overturn 2020 presidential election results after losing the state to Joe Biden. Special counsel investigations from the US Department of Justice also are investigating the former president in connection with January 6 and his alleged mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida.

Meanwhile, his increasingly dark and incendiary rhetoric surrounding looming indictments and his 2024 campaign has included demands for his supporters to launch mass protests, while he suggests his prosecution would spark violence and cause “death and destruction” across the country.