Over the last month, Jews and Japanese have taken the lead in pushing back against the treatment of refugees in detention camps. But there has been a debate over the use of the term concentration camps to describe the camps that have come under increased scrutiny and criticism.
But against the backdrop of protests over concentration camps, the last thing Trump and his GOP allies wanted was a campaign rally that seemed to resemble the Nuremberg rallies of a bygone era. The chants by the crowd of “send her back” had to be alarming for many.
The NY Times reported that nervous Republicans urged the president to repudiate the chants, as they feared that the really could backfire and harm their party.
That move was in sharp contrast to the social media scene for much of Thursday, where conservatives were defending the president and downplaying the incident.
In typical fashion, the president disavowed the behavior of the crowd, and claimed he tried to contain it – clearly a claim that was contradicted by the video of the event.
The problem that the president had is a feedback loop – he whips the crowd into a frenzy and then feeds off their energy. He claimed he tried to stop it, by starting to speak “very quickly” after the chant. The video shows otherwise – with the crowd roaring “send her back,” the president paused, looked around the audience for at least ten seconds, and did nothing to halt the chorus.
“I didn’t say that,” he said. “They did.”
There was a good article two days ago that pointed out that Mr. Trump’s attack on four women in the Democratic party – all unpopular with his base, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes and Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a freshman Democrat who is Muslim – is part of a calculated strategy to identify the Democratic Party with the far left and unpopular women.
But it is at the same time a risky move.
As the New York Times points out, while the Republicans want to brand “Democrats as radicals in favor of open borders,” they see those two along with Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashiba Tlaib of Michigan “as particularly good embodiments of that radicalism” while at the same time “there is some concern that suggesting they leave the country makes the argument too personal and could backfire.”
The view from many of his allies is that while his core supporters “might have enjoyed the moment,” President Trump “was playing with political fire.”
The Times writes, “Mr. Trump’s inner circle immediately appreciated the gravity of the rally scene and quickly urged him to repudiate the chant.”
The polling bears this out. A recent poll showed that 59 percent of Americans believe the president’s tweet for them to “go back to where they came from” was “un-American.” But Democrats and Republicans are deeply split, with 88 percent of Democrats expressing that view compared to 25 percent of Republicans. Independents were in the middle, with 54 percent.
Two-thirds believe that the language is racist.
But there is a danger here. Seventy percent of respondents in the same poll believe that “people who usually call others ‘racist’ usually do so in bad faith.”
Polling has shown that racial fears are part of the driving force by the right and support for President Trump. Americans have picked up on this, even before President Trump’s tweets, the AP reported: “Americans considered race relations in the United States to be generally bad — and said that Trump has been making them worse.”
Earlier this year, a CBS News poll found that 6 in 10 Americans said race relations are bad – that compares with 66 percent of Americans who said they were good in April 2009 after President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Trump is not the sole blame here because, by 2014, those views began to sour after a series of high-profile shootings of black men by police officers. But 56 percent of Americans believe President Trump has made race relations worse.
Moreover, a poll last year found that more than half of Americans, including large majorities of blacks and Hispanics, think President Trump is a racist.
President Trump sees his path back to the White House, narrow as it would appear to be, as hinging on his ability to marginalize the left wing of the Democratic party while mobilizing his base. The danger that he faces in that strategy is if he’s not careful, either he or his supporters could step over the line between insinuation and outright racism.
—David M. Greenwald reporting