As his political challenges have intensified, Mr. Trump is stepping up his focus on race and “heritage,” in references to totems like statues of Confederate generals. He has vowed to defend a statue of Jackson, the president who owned slaves and signed a law that led to the forcible removal of thousands of Native Americans from their lands.
On Monday night, Mr. Trump retweeted users who posted video featuring black people physically assaulting white people, including one that was a year old. Days earlier, Twitter affixed a “manipulated media” tag to a video Mr. Trump tweeted that portrayed a fabricated CNN segment in which Trump supporters were maligned as racist.
At his rally in Tulsa, which drew far fewer supporters than anticipated, Mr. Trump made no mention of the massacre of black residents in the city’s Greenwood section in 1921, or of the Juneteenth holiday a day earlier that celebrated the end of slavery. Instead, he again bemoaned the tearing down of statues.
In an interview on Fox News on Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump said that people who ignore history will repeat it, and then said: “You don’t want to take away our heritage and our history and the beauty.”
As protesters try to tear down statues of a range of historical figures and spray paint buildings, including the St. John’s Church adjacent to the White House, some Democrats are beginning to cringe.
But Mr. Trump has been unwilling to spotlight the destruction of statues dedicated only to broadly popular figures, such as George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant. His inclination on race is always to reach for the most incendiary rhetoric, lest his supporters miss the point.
In some ways, his conduct recalls the period leading up to the 2016 Republican nomination, when he twice called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States and openly wielded race in a way that appealed to large segments of the G.O.P., but also alienated many people in the party.