Donald Trump made a naked base play in West Virginia last night, by first invoking his love of the Second Amendment and then telling impassioned rallygoers that they were being cheated of their choice of a leader.
"Are there any Russians here tonight? Any Russians?," Trump taunted. "They can't beat us at the voting booths, so they're cheating you of the future and the future that you want."
"They're trying to cheat you out of the leadership you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our constitution," Trump thundered.
Steve Schmidt was plain-spoken about what Trump was doing: "We don't live in a country at some some level where facts exist in the space that they've always -- where they've always existed. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said in America everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts."
"We objectively don't live there anymore," declared Schmidt.
He also warned Trump that "a reckoning is coming," reminding everyone that "the alternate reality the president is describing is colliding with reality."
"And in the real world it's not a hoax," he said. "It's a real investigation. That's a real grand jury that's impanelled."
Mocking Trump, he went on to say that even if there were Russians, no one would remember meeting any of them, and they'd "lie about it in the immediate aftermath, and it would unravel."
Brian Williams turned to the real problem with Trump's speech, the claim that "we're trying to cheat you of the leadership."
Eugene Robinson: "That's the most alarming and certainly the most dangerous locution in the speech. The formulation -- who is they? It's Robert Mueller's investigation but it's they, the Democrats, they, the faceless elites, the smarty pants, the establishment are cheating you the real Americans, you West Virginians, you Trump voters out of what you want, what you voted for.
Robinson cautioned, "That's just a very dangerous thing to say in a democracy."
I believe Trump is using these rallies to send a message to his base, those voters for whom he is a god of sorts, and that message is simple: If, as a result of this investigation, "they" impeach him, they should respond with violence. It's a dog whistle that's been present in every one of these rallies, but as his approval ratings drop and the investigation heats up, those calls are louder and more pointed.
I hope I'm wrong about that.