President Donald Trump has taken his divide-and-conquer style of politics to a new and deeply disturbing level this past week. Trump’s tweets telling Rep. Ilhan Omar and three other congresswomen of color to go back to where they came from were unequivocally vile and racist. In fact, “Go back to where you came from” is cited as a top example of bigotry by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the government agency responsible for enforcing laws against workplace discrimination.
Right after Trump sent those racist tweets, which he followed up with the false and grotesque claim that Omar supports terrorist organizations, the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party lost no time in condemning the tirade as deeply bigoted. Those attacks went against everything we value as DFLers, Minnesotans, and Americans. When we called on Minnesota Republicans to do the same, each and every one of them refused.
Refusal to stand up only emboldens Trump
Furthermore, when the U.S. House of Representatives voted on whether to officially condemn Trump’s racist remarks, every single Republican representative from Minnesota — Tom Emmer, Pete Stauber, and Jim Hagedorn — voted against it. They unconvincingly tried to couch their moral failure in high-minded language, calling the measure unimportant, a distraction, and political posturing. This craven refusal to stand up to Trump’s racism only emboldened the president to keep his xenophobic attacks going.
Then came the chants.
Chants were no joke
At a rally in North Carolina later in the week, when Trump launched into another factually challenged attack on Omar, the crowd responded, chillingly chanting: “Send her back!” The crowd of Trump supporters, following the president’s lead, were openly calling for the forced deportation of an American citizen and member of Congress with whom they disagreed. Those chants weren’t a joke and they didn’t spring from nowhere. They were a deeply racist, profoundly undemocratic, and genuinely disturbing expression of hatred that directly echoes Donald Trump’s own words.
Those calls to “Send [Omar] back” are also the direct result of the Republican Party’s refusal to speak out forcefully against Trump’s racist conduct. Republicans have had ample opportunity to clearly and unequivocally declare that xenophobia has no home in their party, but they refused. Political and moral cowardice brought Republican elected officials to a place where they would rather lend tacit support to the president’s overt racism than risk his ire. Trump, empowered by his party’s silence, continued his bigoted broadsides, culminating in a cacophony of racist chants reminiscent of the white nationalist march on Charlottesville.
This horrifying episode in American politics demonstrates the importance of quickly and directly condemning racism. It seems obvious to the point of banality to say that our president’s words have a serious impact on the American public, but apparently that’s something Republicans need to hear. When Minnesota GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan and our Republican congressional delegation completely ignored Donald Trump’s racist salvos, those sentiments were allowed to spread and grow stronger across our country.
In our politics, it’s important to recognize when we’ve hit bedrock and there’s simply nowhere deeper to go on an issue. The plain truth is that President Donald Trump is a bigot and an agitator; he’s stoking racial tensions for partisan political gain and Republican elected officials are willing and even happy to play along. With that in mind, each and every voter across America must ask themselves, “Is this what I want for the country I love?”
Ken Martin is chair of the DFL Party.
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