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Editorial: Trump's racist tweets designed to divide the nation

The Mercury News on

Published in Op Eds

President Trump's racist tweets and comments this week show how low he plans to go and how deeply he intends to divide the nation in order to try to win re-election in 2020.

"Go back to where you came from" is a bigoted taunt that we should not tolerate from our children, in our schools, in the workplace -- and certainly not from our president. But that's essentially what he said to four members of Congress.

That sort of ethnocentric cry, designed to stifle dissent and rally a political base, has helped fuel totalitarianism around the world. No other modern U.S. president has stooped so low.

We are a nation of immigrants from all corners of the world living in a democracy that embraces free speech and the right to dissent. We must protect that and speak up when those values are threatened.

The four members of Congress Trump has gone after are all U.S. citizens. Three of them were born in this country. They are as much citizens as Trump, himself the child of an immigrant mother and a first-generation father. And, worth noting, himself married twice to immigrant women who gained citizenship after he wed them.

Trump has targeted the four members of Congress, known as the squad, because they are outspoken women of color. He is using them as political props to rally his white base, tying their race and ethnicity to their out-of-the-mainstream ideas. And, just as importantly, trying to tie the entire Democratic Party to them.

It's a we-vs.-them mentality that is antithetical to our nation's values. It seeks to split the country with overt and covert racist appeals to voters. It's the worst sort of political dog whistle.

Here in California, in the Bay Area, where we embrace diversity, we find the tactics particularly offensive. But it's important to remember that Trump doesn't care about California, and much of the nation is not like the Golden State.

Trump doesn't need to win over a majority of the electorate. He didn't in 2016. He needs to win a majority of the Electoral College. In the end, it will come down to predominantly white swing states like Wisconsin (85.9% white), Michigan (78.7%) and Pennsylvania (77.7%).

 

States in which the views -- and, more importantly, the political tactics -- of the squad are out of touch with most voters. The key concerns of the four members of Congress -- racial inequality, economic disparities, impending environmental calamity -- are legitimate. Unfortunately, their tactics and denial of political realities are naive.

That said, as U.S. citizens, as elected members of Congress, their views should be respected and heard. And the president is entitled to loudly and publicly disagree with them. But he steps way over the line of decency by making the disagreement implicitly about race and heritage.

Sadly, it's not the first time. Trump launched his presidential campaign by warning of Mexican "rapists" coming across the border and subsequently disparaged immigrants from "s -- hole countries," called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States and questioned whether an American-born judge of Mexican heritage could be fair. He says he's not a racist, but his words suggest otherwise.

On one hand, we only wish we could ignore him, not give him more attention by responding to his childish behavior. But the stakes are too high, the danger of silence too great. We must peacefully speak up to voice our dissent, but we must be careful not to engage in violence that only reinforces Trump's message of division.

This is about the future of our country -- whether we want to unite and embrace our diversity, or enable the widening of racial fissures that might never be repaired.

(c)2019 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

Visit The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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