President Donald Trump has given new meaning to the “White House.” From his perch at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he hurls racist epithets via tweet while commanding armed agents to terrorize immigrants at the border and in communities from coast to coast.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi summed it up well, commenting last week about Trump’s attempts to insert a citizenship question into the U.S. Census even after he was rebuffed by the Supreme Court. She accused Trump of trying to “Make America White Again.”
It is well known that Trump is a voracious consumer of Fox News. On Sunday morning, just 20 minutes after “Fox & Friends” ran a piece attacking Congressmembers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, Trump tweeted:
“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe … loudly and 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.”
Go back to where you came from? Three of the women he attacked were born in the United States: Ocasio-Cortez, born in the Bronx, is the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress; Pressley, born in Cincinnati, is the first African-American congresswoman to represent Massachusetts. Tlaib, born in Detroit, is Palestinian-American. She and Ilhan Omar are the first Muslim women ever elected to Congress.
Omar is also the first congresswoman to wear a hijab. Born in Somalia, she came to the U.S. as a political refugee when she was a child. As one viral video pointed out, Omar has been a U.S. citizen longer than Trump’s third wife, first lady Melania Trump, a native of Slovenia.
Trump’s racist tweets united a fractured Democratic Party, quickly mobilizing support for the four freshmen congresswomen, now referred to collectively as “The Squad.”
By Tuesday, a resolution, House Res. 489, “Condemning President Trump’s racist comments directed at Members of Congress,” was being debated on the House floor. Republicans temporarily derailed the debate by invoking an obscure line contained in the congressional rules that states, “References to racial or other discrimination on the part of the President are not in order.” The original rule book banning use of the word “racist” was written by Thomas Jefferson, himself a slave owner, but any irony in that was apparently lost on the Republicans. The resolution ultimately passed, with four Republicans voting with the Democratic majority. While it was the first formal House rebuke of a sitting president in over 100 years, a more serious motion to censure Trump was blocked by Pelosi.
Trump doubled down on his verbal assaults on the four congresswomen, accusing them of being socialists or communists. Trump’s use of McCarthy-era attacks should surprise no one, as his early mentor was Roy Cohn, who served as Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s lead attorney when destroying thousands of lives through red-baiting during the 1950s.
Trump went to North Carolina on Wednesday to hold a campaign rally. Once again, he went after his favorite targets: women and people of color, telegraphing what will likely be a strategy of using racist rhetoric to inflame his white base. In the midst of his long tirade directed against Ilhan Omar, the crowd began chanting, “Send her back! Send her back!”
In his book “The Black History of the White House,” American University professor Clarence Lusane chronicles the history of the presidential mansion, from the slaves forced to build it to the first African American presidential family, the Obamas.
Lusane writes: “For many African Americans, the ‘white’ of the White House has meant more than just the building’s color; it has symbolized the hue and source of dehumanizing cruelty, domination and exclusion that has defined the long narrative of whites’ relations to people of color in the United States.”
On Monday, the four congresswomen who so clearly threaten Trump held a news conference, denouncing his racism toward them and people of color overall, pointing to his policies on migrant detention, family separation and the threatened ICE raids. Refusing to mention Trump by name, Ayanna Pressley made clear whose country this is:
“Despite the occupant of the White House’s attempts to marginalize us and to silence us, know that we are more than four people. We ran on a mandate to advocate for and to represent those ignored, left out and left behind. Our squad is big. Our squad includes any person committed to building a more equitable and just world. That is the work that we want to get back to. Given the size of this squad and this great nation, we cannot, we will not, be silenced.”