President Donald Trump’s unfiltered Twitter commentary is routinely so disturbing that it has almost lost the ability to shock — but he managed it in a big way over the weekend, telling four congresswomen of color to go back to the “places from which they came.” That three of them are American-born and all four are U.S. citizens isn’t even the point; the president of the United States is again publicly airing rhetoric that wouldn’t sound out of place at a Ku Klux Klan rally.
And yet most elected Republicans persist in their silence. They shame themselves and their party with every passing minute that they refuse to speak up against this unacceptable soiling of the presidency.
Trump on Sunday took to Twitter to lambaste “ ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe.” Trump doubled down on his racist attacks in remarks to reporters Monday.
Trump didn’t name names in his Twitter rant, but he didn’t have to. Four outspoken young House Democrats — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. — have been in the news lately for their ideological spat with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which Trump referenced later in the same series of tweets.
Ocasio, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was born in the Bronx. Pressley, who is African American, was born in Cincinnati. Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, was born in Detroit. Omar was born in Somalia and immigrated to the U.S. as a child. Unlike Trump, each won elective office by receiving more constituents’ votes than any opponent.
Yet Trump, apparently taking into account nothing but their skin color and non-Anglo-Saxon names, chided these American citizens and duly elected members of Congress for “viciously telling the people of the United States … 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,” he suggested.
Of course, Trump has a long history of racism, from the redlining he engaged in as a real estate developer and his rush to condemn the innocent Central Park Five to his promotion of the putrid lie that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. But the old “go back where you came from” trope has a special place in the history of America’s racist epithets, pushing the corrosive fiction that our very Americanness is determined by skin color.
Of the St. Louis region’s top Republicans, only Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., had offered any response at all by midday Monday — and that one a mild suggestion that Trump keep his focus on policy issues, with no mention of the brazen racism of his remarks. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., at this writing hadn’t even managed that much, declining to answer repeated media inquiries.
Ex-Republican Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., correctly condemned Trump’s remarks as “racist and disgusting.” That supposed leaders in the GOP have failed to voice that appropriate outrage doesn’t necessarily prove that they, too, are racist. But it proves, beyond all debate, their cowardice.