On 14 July, Donald Trump sent out a series of menacing tweets telling progressive Democratic congress members to “go back” to their home countries. His targets – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley – are all US citizens. Only Omar was not born in the US.
The tweets added yet another thread to the rich tapestry of Trump’s fascist credentials. And he has not only refused to retract or apologize for them, but has been adding further fuel to the flames. At his latest rally, for example, he defiantly doubled down, issuing a further set of attacks and insults toward the four congress members – and Omar in particular. But it was the reaction of the crowd that was perhaps most worrying.
“Send her back!”
On 17 July, Trump held a campaign rally for his 2020 reelection bid in North Carolina. His typically rambling and disjointed speech soon turned to the controversy over the tweets. He claimed that Omar had “smeared US service members,” “minimized the September 11th attacks,” “pleaded for compassion for Isis [Daesh] recruits,” and had a “history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds”.
His comments were nothing new. He has frequently invoked this kind of knuckle-dragging nationalism to rally his base. But as he continued, the crowd started to chant “send her back”. Trump did nothing to discourage the chants. Instead, he allowed extended pauses to let the crowd continue.
Speaking on 18 July about the chanting, Trump argued: “I was not happy with it. I disagree with it. But again, I didn’t say that. They did.”
“If you’re chanting this, you’re a racist.”
Unsurprisingly, Twitter users responded firmly to the controversy:
This is racist. If you’re chanting this, you’re a racist. If you’re a journalist asking white people if this is racist—you’re an idiot. https://t.co/ewOdrKlWmM
— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) July 18, 2019
REPORTER: Why didn't you ask your fans to stop chanting "send her back"?
TRUMP: "Number one, I think I did. I started speaking very quickly."
(This is brazen gaslighting & damage control. Trump basked in the chants & took his time resuming his speech.) pic.twitter.com/EMBkHQwQuv
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 18, 2019
This is fascism, it is waging war on minorities and the left, it is on the rise across the Western world, and it must be fought and defeated. pic.twitter.com/P4t6Ue0zYh
— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) July 18, 2019
JVP's stands with @Ilhan today and everyday! She continues to be attacked for her bold stances for human rights for all.
Add your voice #IStandWithIlhan and https://t.co/wQjaE1JCy6 pic.twitter.com/hT5rL4zMGj
— Jewish Voice for Peace (@jvplive) July 18, 2019
It was true then, it's true now. She is an American hero, slandered and attacked by a disgustingly racist President and his racist supporters.
— Sen. Mike Gravel (@MikeGravel) July 18, 2019
Omar herself, meanwhile, posted a strong but dignified response:
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
-Maya Angelou https://t.co/46jcXSXF0B
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) July 18, 2019
“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work." -Toni Morrison
I am not going to let them distract. Today I am going to do the work the people of Minnesota sent me to do and vote to #RaiseTheWage to $15 an hour. 💪🏽
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) July 18, 2019
“Was it a racist chant?”
“The fact that you’re still asking that question is really what’s wrong … we have said this president is racist … we have said he is fascist,” @IlhanMN pic.twitter.com/wu5uKIMk7m video h/t @rerutled #IStandWithIlhan
— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) July 18, 2019
Investigative journalist Asa Winstanley pointed out that establishment liberals have played a sinister role in creating a petri dish in which Trump’s fascism can congeal:
To chants of "Send her back," Trump lies that @IlhanMN is guilty of "vicious antisemitic screeds".
Every liberal and "leftist" in the US & UK who has indulged the fiction of the nonexistent "left wing antisemitism crisis": this fascist racism is on YOU https://t.co/VZyPzHYzpG
— Asa Winstanley (@AsaWinstanley) July 18, 2019
— Carlos Latuff (@LatuffCartoons) July 18, 2019
And activist David Hogg pointed out that Trump’s statements fit within a historical pattern of diversion tactics:
For hundreds of years rich people have used racism and xenophobia to convince poor people that rich people are not the problem.
— David Hogg (@davidhogg111) July 16, 2019
Another addition to a fascistic record
The incident adds to a long list of Trump’s fascistic tendencies. In October 2018, for example, he praised a fellow Republican for assaulting a journalist who had politely asked a run-of-the-mill policy question about healthcare. In June 2019, meanwhile, he indicated that he might try to “stay longer” in office longer than the eight years maximum allowed by the US constitution if his base were to “demand” it. And during a recent Fox News interview, his administration’s deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said that Trump recently told advisers: “Listen, I’m not going to be beholden to courts anymore.” In other words, he cares little for judicial independence.
If there was any lingering doubt that we are now seeing all the hallmarks of early 20th-century fascism reemerging, it’s been demolished this week. If ever there was a need for people like Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley to be in congress, it’s now.
Featured image via YouTube
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