In 2016 Speaker Paul Ryan called Donald Trump’s attacks on Judge Alonzo Curiel — Trump had called the American-born judge “Mexican” and claimed he was therefore too biased to preside over the Trump University litigation — the “textbook definition of a racist comment.” That critique also applies to Trump’s tweet thread yesterday, a thread that was obviously aimed at Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and other members of her so-called “Squad.”
Here were Trump’s words, in full:
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 help 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!
With the exception of Omar, the country “from whence they came” is the United States of America. All of these Congresswomen, including Omar, have a constitutional right to “tell the people of the United States” how our “government is to be run.” The very notion that nonwhite Americans should leave this country to go back to ancestral homelands to prove their worth is deeply repugnant.
Moreover, there is something especially gross about a man who was too timid even to face the draft during his own generation’s war now presuming to define how Americans seek to reform their government. He is the last person to be the arbiter of patriotism or national loyalty.
The near-total silence (at least so far) from GOP leaders is deeply dispiriting. Do they not understand the message the leader of their party is sending — especially to America’s nonwhite citizens? Do they not understand that racial malice as a political strategy isn’t just an ultimately losing proposition but also deeply divisive, picking at the scabs of America’s deepest political, cultural, and spiritual wounds?
But the problem extends far beyond Washington. There are many GOP leaders who, quite frankly, understand that they criticize even the president’s racist speech at their own peril. The grassroots have spoken. Loyalty to the president must be absolute, or one risks a primary challenge. Yet individual voters have responsibilities as well, and they must understand that extraordinary loyalty to a malicious man broadcasts their own disdain for their fellow citizens.
Let’s also deal with the idea that the one actual immigrant Trump targeted owes a special debt of gratitude to the country and therefore should temper her critiques of American politics and culture. I believe Ilhan Omar is a toxic presence in American politics. Her critiques are deeply misguided. But she should temper her critiques because they’re wrong, not because she’s an immigrant.
The blessings of liberty accrue to all Americans, including immigrants. And while all Americans should be deeply grateful for their freedoms and for American opportunity, it’s a simple fact that immigrant citizens have actually done something to earn their status. They’ve often migrated here at great personal cost, learned a new language, built a life in a new land, passed a test most Americans can’t pass, and then swore an oath that most Americans have never sworn.
By contrast, what must natural-born citizens do to earn their citizenship? Survive labor and delivery. That’s it. If anything, natural-born citizens should exercise the most gratitude. What did we do to earn our liberty?
American polarization is reaching a dangerous phase. On a bipartisan basis, criticism of presidents and our political opponents is escalating. I’m old enough to remember all the way back to 2015, when GOP hatred for Barack Obama even on occasion trumped Republican patriotism. Remember when Mike Huckabee actually urged American Christians not to join the military so long as Obama — or someone like him — remained president? Which country should he go back to so that he can somehow earn back our respect?
Trump is fully employing malice as a political strategy. It’s not clever. It’s not shrewd. It’s destructive and wrong. The fact that so few Republicans can muster enough courage to state this obvious truth speaks to a sad reality — the rot extends far beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.