Like a hailstorm that won’t let up, the outrageous statements and blatant lies by President Donald J. Trump have been wearing down much of the nation over the past two and a half years.
Utterances that would have ended presidencies in a time not so long ago (like 2016) now fall one upon another relentlessly, like the rattle of hail on a roof.
For many Americans, they have become background noise, a political version of the weather, always there but seldom commented on.
Now and then, however, the president manages to surpass himself, putting forward a statement so startling, so offensive, so over the line, that it rises above the turgid pool of his routinely abysmal discourse.
He did so this past weekend, using one of his favorite means of communication, his Twitter feed, to mount a racist attack on four members of Congress.
“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly… and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.
“Why don’t they go back and fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how… it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
Well—where to begin?
For starters, three of the four members of Congress targeted by the president’s tweet originally came from the United States.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York was born in the Bronx (not far from where the president himself was born), Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts was born in Cincinnati, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib was born in Detroit.
Only one, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, was born outside the United States, in Somalia.
But in the president’s eyes, all four share something in common: they are not white.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is of Puerto Rican descent, Ms. Pressley is African-American, Ms. Tlaib’s parents were Palestinian, and Ms. Omar is Somali.
Over the duration of President Trump’s administration, other members of Congress have found fault with him, with his policies, and with the government of the United States.
But the president seems to have reserved special venom for these four members in particular.
He doesn’t say, “These members of Congress are wrong,” or even, taking the political rhetoric up a notch, say, “They don’t know what they’re talking about” or “They’re clueless on this one.”
No, he effectively challenges their very legitimacy to mount any criticism at all. And he twists the knife with the centuries-old taunt mouthed by native-born whites against anyone else: Go back where you came from.
While the president has proven to be sort of a political idiot savant so far in his term, it’s tough to see what he gets out of this one. His base of supporters no doubt already was regarding Rep. Ocasio-Cortez as an arch-villainess and the rest of the so-called Squad (Rep. Pressley, Rep. Tlaib and Rep. Omar) as equally bad.
If anything, he has handed the Democrats a gift. The Squad had been faulting Speaker Pelosi for compromising with the president on a border funding deal.
Things were heating up inside the fractious Democratic camp, and then he sends out his tweets.
Bang! Instant Democratic unity.
Some observers likely give the president too much credit as a political tactician.
A down-to-earth explanation of what likely happened: the president saw something on television involving the congresswomen, likely criticism of his border policies, which got under his hypersensitive, misogynistic skin.
Where do they get the nerve? They’re women. And they’re not even white.
The really ironic thing is that a lot of Americans, not just the president’s devoted base, are uneasy with the state of immigration in general and with the most permissive stances being advanced in particular. They don’t want open borders; they are not comfortable with millions of people staying and living in the nation illegally.
They’d like to see a system in place where the government is firmly in control, where a basic process is in place, where the southern border isn’t a never-ending humanitarian horror show.
But rather than working out what most of America is hungering for—a fair deal on immigration—President Trump doubles down on the rhetoric and hurls his racist epithets.
What’s worse, most Republican members of Congress continue to stand with him. On Tuesday, when the House voted 240-187 to condemn the president’s statements, all but four Republicans voted against the resolution.
The Trump Show continues. The nation grows apart.