It was a great weekend to make an ass of yourself defending the president's racist tweets on television. To be clear, "go back to your country" is a top racist slogan. Racists absolutely love it. It's a go-to. The federal government's commission on discrimination in the workplace considers it a quintessential example of racial prejudice. It is not subject to debate among anyone with a grip on reality whether the president's call for four sitting U.S. congresswomen of color to go back to where they came from was racist.
Yet a Washington Post article this weekend detailed the stunning moral cowardice of Donald Trump's Republican allies, who said little publicly but worked behind the scenes to get him to change to his inside voice and merely smear the congresswomen as radical socialists who hate America—you know, the kind of crap that most conservatives feel comfortable pushing. (This episode seemingly did not cause anyone to reconsider aiding and abetting a racist authoritarian president.) This almost succeeded, until the president rolled into a rally in North Carolina on Wednesday evening and his fans showed they understood his message loud and clear. The crowd erupted in chants of "SEND HER BACK" with regard to Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, with the subtext that she should be stripped of her citizenship and deported for exercising her First Amendment rights to criticize the government. Free speech is for Real Americans, you see.
Trump flipped out at the Post article, but there's little reason to believe his claim that it's Fake News just like there was little reason to take him seriously when he briefly said he didn't like the "SEND HER BACK" chants. This is because he predictably reversed himself almost immediately, praising the crowd's patriotism—and, of course, its size—and also he paused speaking for nearly 13 seconds to allow the chant to fill the arena, and also later in the speech he repeated the if you don't like it, you can get out rhetoric. None of this stopped his vice president, Follower of Jesus Mike Pence, from issuing the most tepid guarantee in recent memory.
Profiles in Courage from Mike Pence on racist chants at the president's rally: "If it happens again, he, he might, he might -- he -- make an effort to speak out about it." pic.twitter.com/QHasw20wUD— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 21, 2019
Christ, man. You do know you're on television? You realize this footage will be available 10 years from now, assuming the republic survives this current onslaught, and that people will be able to watch you defending this frontal assault on the American Idea? This is like watching people defend the conditions in the migrant camps at the border. Do you really think, in a decade, you will be so vociferously backing a system that historians who specialize in the area say qualifies as a network of concentration camps? For the sake of our national soul, let's hope not. Anyway, if you think Donald Trump is going to stop his crowds from chanting something derisive about his enemies, you really shouldn't be allowed outside without supervision.
The vice president was not the only administration-adjacent official making the rounds in defense of vintage racism, however. His was also just the first reminder that when a Trumpist says "the president has been very clear on this," it's Gaslight O'Clock. Mercedes Schlapp just left a White House gig to work on Trump's re-election campaign, but she spent Sunday twisting herself into a pretzel defending the indefensible.
The mental gymnastics in this clip are amazing. @mercedesschlapp insists that Trump disavowed racist chants at his rally, *while also* defending his retweet of Islamophobic bigot Katie Hopkins, who commended the racist chants & said they could be his "new  campaign slogan." pic.twitter.com/NEyVraHbLz— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 21, 2019
He retweeted someone who said the chant should be his campaign slogan. (Also, that person happens to be Katie Hopkins, a reality-TV-star-turned-right-wing-grifter—sound familiar?—who called for a "final solution" for Muslims after the Manchester bombing and has compared migrants to cockroaches.) Trump's retweet was perfect because it shared Hopkins' message that the chant should continue while declaring his token opposition to the chant while also praising the crowd that did the chant. Meanwhile, he did not need to "lead" the crowd—he'd already given them the roadmap with his racist tweets, whose language the crowd adopted. This tweet really encapsulates Trump's strategy, however: communicate common cause with the full-on white nationalists via wink and nod, while conning credulous observers with a surface-level disavowal.
It wouldn't be a Trump Racism Incident, however, without an appearance from Stephen Miller, the Santa Monica Wormtongue. The senior adviser to the president, who's credited with pushing the administration's cruelest policies at the border and elsewhere, jumped on Fox News to reiterate the standard conservative line on racism.
FOX NEWS: *plays Stephen Miller a montage of the most racist stuff Trump has said over the years - birtherism, Muslim ban, etc*— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 21, 2019
Why shouldn't people see that as racist?
MILLER: The term 'racist' has become a label that's deployed to suppress speech the left doesn't want to hear pic.twitter.com/mmbEqvrzDv
You may have noticed the argument that the left uses accusations of racism to quell conservative speech is not actually an argument that Trump's specific speech shown in the montage isn't racist. That is because there is no defense for saying Very Fine People march alongside Nazis, or painting brown immigrants as rapists and criminals. Best to change the subject. And Miller's answer for why birtherism wasn't racist was even more pathetic.
Stephen Miller defends birtherism (!!!): "They raised questions about John McCain's circumstances of birth ... I fundamentally disagree with the view that if you criticize somebody & they happen to be a different color skin, that makes it a racial criticism." pic.twitter.com/Ozp1OC50A1— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 21, 2019
It is astounding we have allowed these nihilist, megalomaniacal ghouls into the highest positions in our government, where they have waged war on the idea of reality itself because it will not accommodate their virulent self-serving nonsense. Watch this smirking goblin when Wallace nails him and his boss on a piece of their propaganda:
Astounding, shameless gaslighting - after Stephen Miller echoes Trump & smears @AOC for calling America "garbage," Chris Wallace recites her exact quote, in which she didn't at all call America "garbage."— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 21, 2019
Miller's response? "It's literally impossible to read the quote that way" pic.twitter.com/ZeUVpPJkMu
If we make it out the other side of all this and this guy has a future in civil society, we have all failed. It's hard to be confident.
But Trump's congressional allies wanted in on the party, too. Here's Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin—whom my colleague Charles P. Pierce likes to remind us said Obamacare threatens "our one last shred of freedom"—making a fool of himself on the teevee.
Sen. Ron Johnson: "The whole "America love it or leave it' is not a new sentiment. Back in the '60s, that wasn't considered racist. I just find it very unfortunate that so many parts of our public debate right now are getting immediately stuck inside a racial framework." pic.twitter.com/NxkqZd2VYd— The Hill (@thehill) July 22, 2019
Oh, it wasn't considered racist in the '60s? By whom? This language has always meant one thing, as the Reverend William Barber made clear on Twitter:
When Trump says, If you don’t like, it leave it,” people I know say it reminds them of a sign like this from 1971 in NC county near where I live. pic.twitter.com/uTaQP0ckmp— Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II (@RevDrBarber) July 17, 2019
Again, in a just world, these people's careers would be finished if and when this president is stopped from further debasing the office and the republic. You get the feeling, though, that they'll stick around like a bad stench. We've already got Senator Josh Hawley—who, The New Yorker reminds us, went to Stanford and Yale and was an "instructor at an English private school"—railing against the cosmopolitan elites. It's almost like having a passport isn't his problem with them. The populist bullshitters will not leave the scene quickly or quietly, and neither will the blatant racism they're willing to excuse away. It's all good, man—they said it in 1967!
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