The sight of Donald Trump surrounded by thousands of his supporters chanting “send her back” this week was chilling.
Referring to Ilhan Omar, the Minnesota Congresswoman, Trump made no attempts to silence his baying crowd.
Just days before, the President had posted racists tweets about Omar, as well as the other congresswomen of colour which so provoke his insecurity – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. The President said they should “go back” to the countries of their heritage if they hate America so much.
How alarmed must Trump be at the squad’s social justice agenda and legitimate questioning of issues such as detention camps at the Mexico-US border that he feels the need to resort to such gutter tactics as he keeps one eye on next year’s US general election?
Also chilling is the acquiescence of the Republican Party to these bigoted provocations. Only four of its members in Congress broke ranks to agree to with a resolution to officially condemn Trump’s racist attack. Are so many Republicans willing to collude with this overt racism?
That outright, undisguised hatred has now reached the White House is certainly alarming, but, Trump’s tirades may well be backfiring and we must be careful to remember how much progress there has been.
Speaking after the rally in North Carolina, Trump claimed that he was “not happy” with the chants and disagreed with them. That the President felt he had to offer some sort of reproach is something.
Though it has many echoes of the nascent American nativism and the fascism of the 1930s, North Carolina is not Nuremburg. He even had to use to a spurious pretext of ‘anti-semitism’ to attack Ilhan Omar. The 21st Century version of racism has to hide its colours under a fig leaf.
More importantly, everyone around the world now knows more about these four women who, like Trump’s predecessor President Barack Obama, represent a much more positive and more inspiring view of America. Unlike those complicit Republicans in Congress, both the American public and a global audience are seeing a group of women who are behaving with dignity and courage, unlike their President.
When returning to her constituency after the attacks against her, Ilhan Omar was cheered to chants of “welcome home”. Many people see what is happening for what it is.
Our advice to Trump – not that he ever takes any except from Fox News – would be not to frame his election campaign around such base matters because people are not stupid and can spot an attempt to deflect from great matters of state by demonising his fellow citizens.
This episode, although despicable, has given us cause for hope because we believe that, now Trump has lost his last veneer of civilized behaviour, he has given even the faint-hearted parts of the US electorate the strength to vote him out of office.