On Saturday, Donald Trump led a rally of supporters to raise their right hands and take a pledge that they would vote for him. "Let's do a pledge. Who likes me in this room?" Trump asked the crowd at a rally in Orlando, Florida, which was frequently interrupted by protesters. "I've never done this before. Can I have a pledge? A swearing? Raise your right hand." The Republican presidential front-runner then proceeded to get the audience to repeat after him. "I do solemnly swear that I, no matter how I feel, no matter what the conditions, if there are hurricanes or whatever, will vote on or before the 12th for Donald J. Trump for president."
Up until now, stories about Donald Trump and hands have generally focused on Marco Rubio questioning the Republican frontrunner's anatomy. Over the weekend, however, a very different kind of story about Trump and hands came to our attention.
As the Slate article on this added, Trump told the Florida audience, "Thank you. Now I know. Don't forget you all raised your hands. You swore. Bad things happen if you don't live up to what you just did."
Had it been any other candidate, it might not have been quite so unnerving to see the video of a far-right audience raising their right hands in the direction of their demagogic leader, but given the circumstances, it was a little unsettling.
I saw some suggestions over the weekend that there's no recent precedent for U.S. candidates asking an audience to take such a "pledge." Longtime readers may recall, however, that in 2004, at an event in Florida -- yes, Florida again -- a Republican asked an audience to stand, raise their right hands, and recite a Pledge of Allegiance to George W. Bush. As part of the oath, attendees were told to say: "Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."
To be sure, that was creepy, too, but the video from Saturday's Trump rally was a bit more frightening.