It’s now been more than 24 hours since President Trump told a group of congresswomen of color to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” GOP lawmakers are still silent.
As Republicans and their staffs continue to sort out the calculus of whether it’s politically expedient to issue some sort of statement distancing themselves from the president’s racism, Trump has doubled and tripled down on his attacks. “So sad to see the Democrats sticking up for people who speak so badly of our Country,” he wrote Sunday night, presumably, again, in reference to how Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) have criticized the conditions of border facilities housing migrants. “Such disgraceful behavior,” he added.
On Monday morning, he tweeted that the congresswomen should “apologize” for their “foul language” and their “horrible & disgusting actions.” A few minutes later, he called them racist.
If Democrats want to unite around the foul language & racist hatred spewed from the mouths and actions of these very unpopular & unrepresentative Congresswomen, it will be interesting to see how it plays out. I can tell you that they have made Israel feel abandoned by the U.S.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 15, 2019
On Sunday, Maggie Haberman of The New York Times suggested that Trump’s decision to keep running with the attacks was due in part to his party’s refusal to condemn them. “Subtext is no one in his party challenged him today so now he’s trying to make it a straight up/down referendum on this,” she wrote. Trump probably would have kept attacking the congresswomen anyway, but the GOP’s silence certainly isn’t helping. It also shows just how wholly the president’s white nationalism has subsumed the Republican Party. Trump’s values are their values, and Trump values an America that is white. This is no longer an issue of subtext.
It wasn’t that long ago that most Republicans would at least feign disgust whenever Trump would show his true colors.
During the 2016 campaign, when U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel presided over a fraud case involving Trump University, the president wrote that Curiel being “Mexican” presented a conflict of interest given Trump’s drive to construct a wall along the Southern border (Curiel was born in Indiana). Several Republicans bashed the president’s allegation. Then-House Speaker Paul Ryan, lately a target of Trump’s Twitter attacks, called it “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”
Once Trump was elected, GOP objections to the president’s xenophobia were seldom so sharply worded. Instead, Republican lawmakers found the president’s comments “troubling,” their disappointment usually coming in the form of a boilerplate statement issued via tweet. The routine got old as it became clear they weren’t actually going to do anything about it. These ostensibly appalled Republicans still voted along with the president’s agenda and supported him when it mattered. If they didn’t, they subjected themselves to an attack from the president, presumably costing them the support of his base.
Coming up on two and a half years into Trump’s presidency, Republicans have shed all pretense of caring that the leader of the free world is a virulent racist. Those who once made paltry efforts to keep Trump’s white nationalism at arm’s length have now embraced it as the public-facing identity of the GOP. The only substantial criticism of Trump’s racist tirade on Sunday came from Rep. Justin Amash, who announced earlier this month that he was leaving the party.
To tell these American citizens (most of whom were born here) to “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came” is racist and disgusting. https://t.co/sIAqg8bTIb
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) July 14, 2019
The only other conservative lawmaker to chime in has been Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who was only able to manage that it was “wrong” for the president to tell American-born congresswomen who have brown skin to go back to their countries “from which they came.” It was a pathetically hedged criticism — the first word of the next sentence of Roy’s tweet was “but” — but at least it was a criticism.
POTUS was wrong to say any American citizen, whether in Congress or not, has any ‘home’ besides the U.S. But I just as strongly believe non-citizens who abuse our immigration laws should be sent home immediately, & Reps who refuse to defend America should be sent home 11/2020.
— Chip Roy (@chiproytx) July 15, 2019
Everyone else has stayed silent. They know that, politically, they stand to lose more than they stand to gain by bucking the president. They blame Democrats, but no longer dare to criticize Trump for his word and actions, no matter how vile. The most craven and shameless among them have even taken to parroting the president’s language regarding people of color. Speaking of the conditions of the facilities in which migrants are being detained at the border, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Sunday that he doesn’t “care if they have to stay in these facilities for 400 days.” A day later, he called the congresswomen attacked by Trump “anti-America” in part of an extended screed the president quoted fawningly (adding a “Need I say more?”) in yet another string of tweets.
Just like Ryan, Graham was a harsh critic of Trump during the 2016 campaign, calling him “completely unhinged,” among other similar attacks. Graham might now be the president’s most loyal sycophant in the Senate, a chamber filled with former Trump opponents who as of Monday morning are too scared to criticize one of the most garishly un-American sentiments a president has ever expressed. That is to say, the ones who don’t agree with it.
As Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Monday morning, their silence is tantamount to an endorsement.
Until Republican officials denounce yesterday’s explicitly racist statements (which should be easy!), we sadly have no choice but to assume they condone it.
It is extremely disturbing that the *entire* GOP caucus is silent. Is this their agenda? https://t.co/NXIUiPAPls
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 15, 2019
If this isn’t the Republicans’ agenda, some of them might want to go ahead and make that clear publicly.
UPDATE: Varying degrees of criticism from Republican lawmakers have been trickling in on Monday. Only two, Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Mike Turner (R-Ohio) have called the president’s attacks racist.
During an interview with CNN on Monday morning, Hurd, who in the past has criticized the president’s approach to immigration, called Trump’s tweets “racist and xenophobic.”
“It’s behavior that’s unbecoming of the president of the United States,” Hurd added. “We should be talking about uniting people, not dividing us, and ultimately politically it’s hurtful.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was a little more cautious, first condemning the congresswomen before offering that Trump’s tweets were “way over the line” and that “he should take that down.”
Susan Collins weighs in: “the President’s tweet that some Members of Congress should go back to the ‘places from which they came’ was way over the line, and he should take that down.” pic.twitter.com/NKRaZPx3iB
— Emily Cochrane (@ESCochrane) July 15, 2019
Turner later joined Hurd in calling Trump’s tweets racist. “I am confident that every Member of Congress is a committed American,” he wrote. “@realDonaldTrump’s tweets from this weekend were racist and he should apologize. We must work as a country to rise above hate, not enable it.”
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) joined Collins in disparaging the attacks. “Three of the four were born in America and the citizenship of all four is as valid as mine,” he wrote in a statement.
A former Trump opponent, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), also weighed in, albeit weakly. “I certainly feel a number of these new members of Congress have views that are not consistent with my experience and not consistent with building a strong America,” he said. “At the same time, I recognize that the president has a unique and noble calling to unite all Americans regardless of our creeds or race or place of our national origin, and I think in that case the president fell far short.”
Romney declined to say whether Trump’s tweets were racist.
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) July 15, 2019
So too did Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), an African American, who only managed that the language was “racially offensive” while making sure to call out the congresswomen in Trump’s crosshairs. “Instead of sharing how the Democratic Party’s far-left, pro-socialist policies are wrong for the future of our nation, the president interjected with unacceptable personal attacks and racially offensive language,” he said.