On Sunday, July 14, in a series of tweets, US President Donald Trump told four “Progressive Democrat Congresswomen” — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Presley and Rashida Tlaib — “to go back and fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Trump’s tweets not only blatantly showcase his xenophobic and misogynistic outlook on life, but have successfully deepened the rift in the already polarized nation that America is today. In just a matter of days, “Send Her Back!” became a thunderous chant during a Trump campaign rally in North Carolina, in reference to Omar.
Trump lamely tried to distance himself from the racist chant, stating: “I felt a little badly about it. But I will say this, I did — and I started speaking very quickly.” In fact, the president waited a full 13 seconds before he started speaking, visibly basking in the power of his words as the crowd chanted.
Ilhan Omar, a junior representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, epitomizes everything Trump hates: a Muslim immigrant woman who is also a person of color. Attacking Omar and the three other American-born congresswomen — nicknamed “The Squad” — and gloating at the rallying cry of “Send Her Back!” may stoke the ego of America’s narcissistic president. But what it really shows is his deep-rooted fear of losing the 2020 election. In 2016, Trump successfully ran an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Obama campaign against Hillary Clinton with the rally chant “Lock Her Up!” to win the presidency.
Presiding over a corrupt and tumultuous first term in office, now into its third year, Trump knows that it will not be his policies that ensure his reelection. He knows that he has to rely on a recipe that mixes fearmongering, bullying and nationalism to reenergize his voter base for a successful second bid. Even with an approval rating consistently below 50% in Gallup polls, Trump’s confidence in his ability to pander to his voter base comes through loud and clear in a June interview with Time magazine, during which the president quipped when asked about reaching out to swing voters: “I think my base is so strong, I’m not sure I have to do that.”
A Deal with the Devil
Not surprisingly, Democrats have been up in arms against Trump and his provocative tweets against the four newly elected congresswomen. The House moved quickly to condemn Trump’s attack against them. House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi called his tweets “racist” and, in an unprecedented scenario, this characterization remained in the formal rebuke of the president. Yet only four Republicans joined the Democrats in chastising Trump.
The Republican leadership still stands staunchly by Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell believes “the president is onto something” and wants everyone to “tone the rhetoric down across the country,” while accusing the Democrats of wanting “to take America into a socialist country.” Senator Lindsay Graham, of South Carolina, one of Trump’s strongest allies, refused to condemn his tweets as racist; instead, he went one step further and described the four congresswomen as “a bunch of communists.”
A marginally stronger condemnation by a Republican amounting to nothing more than a gentle slap on the wrist came from Utah Senator Mitt Romney when he said the president’s behavior was “destructive, was demeaning, was dis-unifying and frankly was very wrong.” In a similar vein, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, himself a son of a Cuban immigrant, said that “The president shouldn’t have written that. I think it damages him but it damages the country and none of us should be participating in identity politics.”
However, there is not a single elected Republican leader who had the courage to acknowledge the xenophobic, racist and misogynistic nature of Trump’s behavior, let alone confront him, either today or in the past. While the Democrats continue to be outraged every time Trump goes on the offensive, they can do little to rein him in. Afraid of facing the president’s wrath and fearing their own political survival by alienating his voter base, Republican leaders have chosen to stay silent and shift the blame onto progressive Democrats. While career politicians in both parties play into the hands of the political reality show orchestrated by Trump, America slowly but surely sinks deeper into an ethical and moral vacuum.
Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by a margin of 2.9 million ballots. But the fact remains that there were 62 million American voters who wanted him in the White House. That Trump’s crass language laced with racism, xenophobia and misogyny was acceptable to more than 46% of the voting population ought to make everyone wonder about the country’s true moral fiber. Emboldened by an impotent GOP and an ineffective opposition from the Democrats, it has been left to a handful of people in Congress to challenge Trump’s autocratic ways.
The four congresswomen has been unafraid to dare Trump and stand up for what they believe in. Omar, a Somali refugee who came into the United States in 1995, has battled the odds to win her seat in the House Representatives last year. She confronted Trump in a recent social media battle, tweeting that “It is time for us to stop allowing this president to make a mockery out of our constitution, it is time for us to impeach this president.”
Omar did made the mistake by using anti-Semitic tropes earlier this year when she tweeted that “It’s all about Benjamins baby,” alluding to the reason behind the pro-Israeli stance among US politicians. The whole political establishment, comprising of both Democrats and Republicans, came down heavily against her critical view on Israel. Apparently, expressing an anti-Israeli opinion amounts to hating United States of America, as Senator Graham summed it up succinctly when he suggested that apart from being “communists,” the four congresswomen “hate Israel, they hate our own country.”
Anyone who has had a chance to see the junior representative from New York, Ocasio-Cortez, questioning the acting chief of Department of Homeland Security would understand why she makes the Republican establishment squirm in discomfort. The first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts, Pressley is unafraid to call Trump “an occupant” of the White House for the way he dishonors the country’s highest office every day. “We are allowing a crooked CEO to run this country,” says Tlaib, the representative from Michigan who is a daughter of Palestinian immigrants.
The double standard prevailing in American politics is appalling. The Republican establishment is willing and ready to give Trump a pass every time he makes a racist statement, be it against The Squad or standing up for white supremacists following the far-right Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017 in which a peaceful protester, Heather Heyer, was killed. Trump has denigrated Hispanics, calling them criminals and rapists early on in his presidential campaign, and stoked Islamophobia time and time again over the last few years without facing any repercussions.
Yet when Rashida Tlaib stands up for the rights of Palestinians, or Ilhan Omar challenges the influence of Israeli money in American politics, they are quickly branded anti-Semitic and haters of America. Just because they are critical of its policies and are open about their criticism of it, it doesn’t mean Omar, Tlaib, Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez hate America. Far from being haters, they are the true patriots for trying to make the nation better. Bullying them for it in the name of patriotism is sheer cowardice — and Trump is the biggest coward of all.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.