Donald Trump saw “The Squad” getting all of the attention and wanted to involve himself somehow. Or maybe he saw too much attention being paid to his former friend Jeffrey Epstein’s child sex abuse case, or to the deplorable conditions in detention centers by the border, and he wanted a distraction. Whatever the motivation, it was a good political strategy to enter the fray with the “Dems in Disarray.” Unfortunately, he did it in a racist way.
The Squad are to Nancy Pelosi what the Tea Party was to John Boehner. New, brash elected officials more beholden to the passionate extremes of their party than doing the business of actual legislating. What makes the Squad tricky is that they’re all minority women – Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Three of them were born in the US; Omar came over when she was 10. All of them have varying degrees of far-left socialist views. They’re vocal, and they’re a pain in establishment Democrats’ necks.
But I try to picture what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot, something fewer and fewer people do in politics. Picture a white Democratic president in 2013 telling Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to “go back where they came from.” You don’t think Republicans, even the ones who found those guys too stubborn and too conservative, would have rallied behind them and condemned that POTUS as racist?
So now we have Trump being obviously racist, overtly race-baiting, tapdancingly xenophobic because he knows it’ll work with his base. It shows how little how he thinks of his base, but what we’ve seen since shows he’s right. His approval numbers of Republicans didn’t drop a point, and now his crowds have changed “Lock her up!” about Hillary Clinton to the more malevolent “Send her back!” about Ilhan Omar.
So on one hand, Trump supporters will continue to try to justify it by saying it has nothing to do with race. Suuuuuure. I get how Republicans feel like “the race card” has been played way too much. There’s a knee-jerk reaction to that word. But it applies here. There should be a higher standard than “as long as Trump doesn’t use the n-word, he’s not racist.”
On the other hand, it forces the Democratic Party to embrace the Squad instead of marginalizing them. They condemn Trump’s xenophobia while letting Omar’s anti-Semitism slide. How’s that going to play among white working-class voters in the general? Probably not much. It’ll be Trump vs. Biden on the ballot, not Trump vs. Omar.