The Donald Trump presidency poses a unique challenge for editorial boards dedicated to having impact on their city and region. That includes this one. But every so often, Trump’s rhetoric requires a direct rebuke because of the extent of the harm it causes — especially when that harm hits close to home. And in this case, “home” is the notion that America’s claim to greatness is in its founding document, with the self-evident truth that all men are created equal.
Wednesday night, during a campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina, Trump went on a rant against Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. He falsely accused Omar of making light of 9/11, showing empathy to ISIS fighters, and supporting al-Qaeda. The crowd started chanting “send her back.” Trump paused as the chants intensified, nodded, and continued his attack by calling Omar an anti-Semite.
It’s also worth noting that these chants closely echo the “lock her up” chants that helped define his campaign rallies.
On Thursday morning, Trump claimed that he did not support the chant. That’s disingenuous. It’s fair to say that Trump planted the seeds for the chant with his tweets from the weekend in which he attacked four progressive freshman Congresswomen of color — Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Omar. Trump wrote: “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Bad enough that his facts were wrong (all but Omar were born in the U.S.), Trump invoked a textbook racist attack.
Trump’s escalation in rhetoric is particularly concerning because it fits within the agenda of his administration. From the obsession over a citizenship census question to the detention of immigrants at the border, Trump is politicizing — if not demonizing — the very idea of who deserves to be called American.
When Trump says “America First” he means a very specific America, one that doesn’t include people who look like Rep. Ilhan Omar.
After Trump made a mockery of the U.S. intelligence services in Helsinki, almost exactly a year ago, this page called on Congress to censure Trump. Even though censure doesn’t carry any penalty or official consequence, it carries historical meaning. No president has been censured since President Andrew Jackson.
For his naked bigotry, Trump should carry the “scarlet c” of censure. Congress should censure Trump so that when children learn about this time in their history books, they will learn that there was a branch of government that took a stand to affirm that all Americans are created equal regardless to race or country of origin.
Agree or disagree with Omar’s policy positions, her inspiring story exemplifies the best idea of America: A refugee from war-torn Somalia climbed the ladder to the top echelon of American government. That’s the America that a president should celebrate.