EVERY ACTION, every gesture and every tweet from President Trump is the opposite of what he would do if he were intent on calming cities now seized by protests and violence. No calls to national unity. No pleas for reconciliation. No effort to recognize grievances or address them. Instead, Mr. Trump lionizes vigilantes and demonizes racial justice protesters, thereby inciting the former and enraging the latter.

The president’s weekend tweet storms — toxic eruptions of personal attacks, conspiracy-mongering, vicious threats and false accusation — serve his election strategy of deepening the nation’s divisions. They perfectly distill the idea of an us-vs.-them United States that he believes will galvanize his base and frighten suburban swing voters into his camp.

As rage erupted on the streets of Portland, Ore., and a man reportedly affiliated with a far-right, pro-Trump group was shot to death there, the president did his best to stoke the rage. He gave credence, in a retweet, to the risible theory that racial justice protests are an organized coup attempt led by “well-funded network of anarchists”; endorsed a call to arrest New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D); embraced the teenage vigilante in Kenosha, Wis., charged with two murders after he was shown on video shooting protesters; and repeatedly savaged the mayor of Portland. To the president, his partisans in the streets, some of them armed, are “patriots”; Black Lives Matters activists, whose protests have been mostly peaceful, are “thugs.”

His acolytes at last week’s Republican convention argued that Joe Biden’s America would descend into anarchy. In fact, the unrest now engulfing cities is in Donald Trump’s America. For voters wondering what a second Trump term would hold in store, here it is: a country steeped in hatred.

He would have voters believe the anger arises from an enemy within. “Most of Donald Trump’s America is peaceful,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Sunday, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The violence, he contended, is confined to cities led by Democrats, like Portland. Could any expression of a nation at war with itself be more explicit?

This is a dangerous moment. Citizens armed with paintball guns, chemical sprays, handguns and assault weapons are appearing in the streets, spoiling for a fight. In Portland, Kenosha and elsewhere, the police are beleaguered; some are welcoming or encouraging vigilantes.

As President Trump threatens to unleash the military on American cities roiled in civil unrest, it's clear that he's embracing his inner Nixon. (The Washington Post)

Four years of the Trump presidency, capped off by the coronavirus pandemic and raw video footage of violence, including by police against Black people, have torn at the nation’s social cohesion. Amid a widening sense that restraint is fraying and grievances have become intractable, no countervailing emollient force can rival the potency of the president’s bullhorn. Mr. Biden, in blaming the president and appealing for calm, seems all but drowned out. As Mr. Trump heads to Wisconsin on Tuesday, against the pleas of the state’s governor, there seems every reason to fear he may further provoke protests.

The president has bet on a law-and-order electoral strategy that depends on turmoil. And no one in our recent political history has such a talent for fomenting turmoil as Mr. Trump himself.

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