Trump’s Weekend Racism Binge

Ken AshfordRace, Republicans, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

This morning, Trump unleashed a volley of racist tweets targeting Rep. Elijah Cummings, after spending the weekend attacking the Maryland Democrat for presiding over a crime-ridden and “rodent infested” district. This comes after Trump spent days attacking “the Squad” of four nonwhite female lawmakers.

The Baltimore Sun gave a full-throated response:

It’s not hard to see what’s going on here. The congressman has been a thorn in this president’s side, and Mr. Trump sees attacking African American members of Congress as good politics, as it both warms the cockles of the white supremacists who love him and causes so many of the thoughtful people who don’t to scream. President Trump bad-mouthed Baltimore in order to make a point that the border camps are “clean, efficient & well run,” which, of course, they are not — unless you are fine with all the overcrowding, squalor, cages and deprivation to be found in what the Department of Homeland Security’s own inspector-general recently called “a ticking time bomb.”

In pointing to the 7th, the president wasn’t hoping his supporters would recognize landmarks like Johns Hopkins Hospital, perhaps the nation’s leading medical center. He wasn’t conjuring images of the U.S. Social Security Administration, where they write the checks that so many retired and disabled Americans depend upon. It wasn’t about the beauty of the Inner Harbor or the proud history of Fort McHenry. And it surely wasn’t about the economic standing of a district where the median income is actually above the national average. No, he was returning to an old standby of attacking an African American lawmaker from a majority black district on the most emotional and bigoted of arguments. It was only surprising that there wasn’t room for a few classic phrases like “you people” or “welfare queens” or “crime-ridden ghettos” or a suggestion that the congressman “go back” to where he came from.

This is a president who will happily debase himself at the slightest provocation. And given Mr. Cummings’ criticisms of U.S. border policy, the various investigations he has launched as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, his willingness to call Mr. Trump a racist for his recent attacks on the freshmen congresswomen, and the fact that “Fox & Friends” had recently aired a segment critical of the city, slamming Baltimore must have been irresistible in a Pavlovian way. Fox News rang the bell, the president salivated and his thumbs moved across his cell phone into action.

As heartening as it has been to witness public figures rise to Charm City’s defense on Saturday, from native daughter House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, we would above all remind Mr. Trump that the 7th District, Baltimore included, is part of the United States that he is supposedly governing. The White House has far more power to effect change in this city, for good or ill, than any single member of Congress including Mr. Cummings. If there are problems here, rodents included, they are as much his responsibility as anyone’s, perhaps more because he holds the most powerful office in the land.

Finally, while we would not sink to name-calling in the Trumpian manner — or ruefully point out that he failed to spell the congressman’s name correctly (it’s Cummings, not Cumming) — we would tell the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, the mocker of war heroes, the gleeful grabber of women’s private parts, the serial bankrupter of businesses, the useful idiot of Vladimir Putin and the guy who insisted there are “good people” among murderous neo-Nazis that he’s still not fooling most Americans into believing he’s even slightly competent in his current post. Or that he possesses a scintilla of integrity. Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one.

Another great response:

Let’s flashback to Trump’s tweets regarding Baltimore when he was running for President:

Greg Sargant is correct that this not only reflects racism on the President, but on his party which remains silent: And it shows weakness.

It’s awfully telling that Trump is linking his attacks on Cummings to his attacks on the Squad. Trump’s propagandists pretend these attacks are only about an underlying substantive difference: Both the Squad and Cummings have criticized Trump’s cruelty toward migrants, leading White House advisers to claim Trump is “fighting back” against unfair criticism.

And so, the innocent interpretation of Trump’s latest is that he’s just asserting all this is good politics because this contrast on immigration plays in his favor.

But the content of the attacks is the giveaway here. Trump told the four nonwhite female lawmakers to “go back” to their “crime infested” countries — reprising his claim that we shouldn’t want immigrants from “s—hole countries” — and he depicted Cummings’s district as a crime-infested place where “no human being would want to live.”

Yet three of those nonwhite congresswomen were born in the United States, and Cummings’s district is in the upper half in terms of median income and includes very safe Columbia, Md. This is part of a pattern — Trump also attacked Rep. John Lewis’s Georgia district as “crime infested.”

As Fox News’s Chris Wallace noted of this pattern: “Infested. It sounds like vermin. It sounds subhuman. And these are all six members of Congress who are people of color.” In short, Trump has basically moved back and forth between “s—hole countries” and “s—hole districts.”

And so, when Republicans and pundits — and Trump himself — say his attacks on nonwhite lawmakers constitute good politics, we all know they’re really saying Trump’s racist attacks will galvanize white voters, in particular the blue-collar whites in Trump’s base.

Putting aside the dim view of those voters this embodies, here’s a follow-up question: Why does Trump need to do this to win reelection, given his own constant suggestion that America is winning everywhere and the Trump economy is the greatest in U.S. history?

Some new reporting in The Post offers a clue: Republican officials privately say this is a winner, because Trump is “harnessing the anger of those who continue to feel left behind despite the strong economy,” and channeling it by casting Democrats as socialists.

But note the implicit suggestion here that, despite the stupendous Trump economy, non-college-educated white voters are not energized to the degree Trump needs for his reelection campaign. Why?

Well, once in office, Trump abandoned the populist economic nationalism he campaigned on, embracing orthodox GOP plutocracy in the form of a massive corporate tax cut and a failed effort to roll back popular health-care protections that benefited untold numbers in Trump country.

Meanwhile, his ineffectual trade wars are causing his own constituencies real pain, requiring a taxpayer-funded bailout. There won’t be any big infrastructure package, and Trump and Republicans oppose the minimum-wage hike that House Democrats just passed.

Trump loyalist Newt Gingrich recently confirmed what those Republican officials say privately, by basically conceding that Trump is far more interested in trying to win reelection by depicting Democrats as radical than he is in working on the populist pro-worker agenda he campaigned on. The former is the substitute for the latter.

Former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon has also spoken to this point. He told journalist Joshua Green that Trump’s campaign populism had two components — the immigration restrictionism and the pro-worker economics — and that, by selling out on the latter, Trump risks leaving himself vulnerable.

Whatever the role of Trump’s “economic” populism in his victory, what’s left behind here is the crucial fact that Trump’s economic agenda isn’t energizing his base in the manner he needs. We know this due to the admission of Republicans themselves, and it’s illustrated by Trump’s own fallback on racism as a galvanizer.


As it is, Trump’s racism probably won’t end up being a net positive. It will likely keep driving away the suburban and educated whites he needs, and could alienate blue-collar white women as well.

But beyond this, the fact that Trump sees the need to resort to this strategy in the first place deserves more critical attention, and less reflexive savvy. Trump certainly has a reasonable shot at winning reelection, but his latest antics project the opposite of confidence and strength.

It’s reminiscent of the old parody motivational poster that reads, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” Or, in Trump’s case: “The tweeting will continue until the chyrons improve.” In the past, this has worked well for Trump. His ability to change the subject has managed to prevent sustained attention on some of the biggest scandals of his political career. But there are limitations to this tactic, as the oxymoronic poster suggests, and they may be emerging right now.

The spark of Trump’s fury at Cummings matters is relevant. Setting aside the bile about Baltimore, what Trump is angry about is the subpoenas. No president likes being subpoenaed, but they are a well-established tool of Congress. The more Trump stonewalls congressional investigations, the more likely it is that Congress acts. Members of the House may flinch at hauling Trump up for impeachment on obstruction of justice related to the Mueller report or other causes, seeing political peril for themselves, but once Trump starts infringing on their prerogatives as a body, members start getting fired up.

When the president throws this kind of over-the-top tantrum about the Oversight Committee’s tactics, he’s falling into just this trap. His attack on Cummings is designed to change the focus, but he’s actually zooming it in.

UPDATE. More Greg Sargant, explaining that Trumnp’s racism is losing white non-college-educated women.

The other day, Ron Brownstein served up a comprehensive, detailed analysis that suggested President Trump’s base may be fracturing. In particular, Brownstein looked at an array of data that suggests blue collar white women may be turning on Trump.
Fresh numbers from a new Quinnipiac poll, provided to this blog, underscore this possibility in a very striking way.

Brownstein’s thesis, boiled down, is that Trump’s racist attacks on “the Squad” of four nonwhite Congresswomen, which have now been followed by more racist attacks on another nonwhite lawmaker, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), could backfire against Trump, if his goal is to use such attacks to galvanize his non-college educated white base.

That’s because, Brownstein argued, such attacks might prove alienating to non-college-educated white women. Brownstein marshaled extensive polling data that shows Trump’s approval cooling among that demographic, relative to how Trump has previously performed among them.

And Brownstein reported on Democratic focus groups — conducted by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg among non-college white voters who picked Trump in 2016 — that showed women in that demographic are alienated by this sort of display from Trump.

The data provided to me by Quinnipiac does appear to suggest the possibility that this demographic is getting driven away from Trump.

The poll finds that among overall registered voters, 54 percent say they will “definitely not” vote for Trump in 2010, versus 32 percent who definitely will, and another 12 percent who will consider voting for him. Among non-college whites, 45 percent said they will definitely vote for him, versus 41 percent who say they will definitely not vote for him.

That last number seemed like a large percentage of non-college whites who definitely won’t vote for Trump. So I asked Quinnipiac for a further breakdown, and here it is:

That’s striking: A bare plurality of non-college white women say they will definitely not vote for Trump. (It’s also worth noting the extreme depth of alienation from Trump among college white women: More than 6 in 10 say they definitely won’t vote for him.)


Now, to be fair, this is only one poll. But this dovetails with the extensive amount of data and focus grouping Brownstein reported on, so it’s plausible that this is a real thing.