The president of the United States is racist.
Notwithstanding the justified outrage over the president’s latest romp in the white supremacist sandbox, this fact should come as no surprise — the president is racist.
When the president tells four congresswomen, all U.S. citizens, they should “go back” to the “places from which they came,” we should be outraged. And, anyone not trying to hide and protect their own racism will recognize this rhetoric for what it is: A racist courting racists. We — regardless of party — should demand change, and work toward it. But, we don’t have any right to be surprised.
Trump ramped up to his campaign by persistently championing the birther movement and its racist, tinfoil hat claims our nation’s first black president isn’t actually American. His campaign was fueled by fear and hatred, targeting women, Muslims and Hispanics. His presidency has been driven by xenophobic fears of people from “shithole countries.” He directs treatment of asylum-seekers that clearly violates the most basic human rights standards and the core teachings of every major world religion (but which uber-Christian Mike Pence says “every American would be proud of.”)
So, when the president unleashes the rhetoric of white supremacy, we can’t claim to be surprised. Nor can we claim these comments are isolated or happenstance mutterings. Racism, hatred and fear always have been central to Donald Trump’s political strategy. His hateful ideology is not random. It is part of the same deliberate strategy he used to get elected in the first place.
The four freshman congresswomen who were the targets of his hate-tinged Tweets rightly pointed out Monday the president’s racist antics are a deliberate distraction. And there’s plenty from which the president would like to distract, including a looming debt ceiling deadline, with an annual deficit ballooning past $1 trillion and a national debt of $22 trillion — up more than $2 trillion since the president took office on a promise of cutting our debt; continued atrocities committed by our jackboots on the border; and the president’s cozy relationship with alleged child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.
And, the targets of his attacks were not random. By targeting four women of color at the furthest left-end of the Progressive movement, the president simultaneously appeals to the racist, misogynist and nativist fears of his base, while baiting moderates into thinking anyone who opposes him is some kind of Stalinist threat to every white, Christian, freedom-loving ‘Merican.
The president is a vile bigot and coward. But, his actions are not random. They are calculating, and in an evil way, ingenious, and we need to stop pretending his bigotry is something new, or even something unique to him. Trump is an obvious symbol of white patriarchal prejudice at its worst. But, he wouldn’t be working so hard to pull the puppet strings on centuries of racially-charged hatred and fear if those weren’t still powerfully motivating forces in this country.
I am not claiming all the president’s supporters are hardcore racists with white robes hanging in the hall closet. But, at this point, it is impossible to support this president without being complicit to racism and the ideology of white supremacy.
Many of us, from moderate Republicans to the furthest-left Democrats, have long assumed Americans, with some exceptions on the fringe, would avoid association with such obvious evil. We were wrong.
The president understood this on the campaign trail when he said he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and not “lose any voters.” When he sent those Tweets on Sunday, he fundamentally understood there is literally nothing he can do that is too horrible for his base. In fact, it seems, the more horrible, the better.
Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans gained a five-point bump after his inexcusably racist rants on Sunday. Wanting more, the president goaded his adoring sheep flock into the blatantly racist and incendiary chant of “send her back! send her back!” on Wednesday, referring to Rep. Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia. To deflect blame for his own hate-filled extremism, Trump again painted the freshman congresswomen as “hate-filled extremists” — a classic deflection tactic of narcissists and race-baiting bigots the world over. And his flock ate it up.
The president’s core base will never abandon him. And we need to stop flailing around trying to convince them white supremacy is wrong. They are too far down Trump’s rabbit hole to see any light.
But, the rest of us — and, I’m talking to you, too, my Republican friends of conscience — need to decide who we will be as a nation. This transcends party. There is the president and his base. And then there are people of principle and integrity, of both parties, who want to see this nation continue on the path toward equality, and full realization of the principles set down in our Constitution. We need people of integrity and courage — conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats and everyone in between — to retake this country. For all you who’ve been quietly clutching your pearls on the sidelines, this would be a damn good time to get involved.
We need healthy discourse and principled disagreement between sane, not-racist adults of both parties.
But we can’t get there, to a government of any discernible honor, integrity and sanity, until we remove, and remove all the stains and stench of, a president who would rather embrace the cheap tactics of white supremacy than commit to the hard work of what it actually means to be an American, and a decent human being.
Neal writes for the Enid News & Eagle, a CNHI News Service publication.