The dark heart of Donald Trump is efficient. With a few tweets before golf, he threw gasoline on the internal fight between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her freshman renegades known as the Squad
. At the same time, he excited his base with the stark “go back where you came from” — the broken and crime-infested s-hole countries he presumed were their homes — rather than the American cities where three were born, with the fourth raised as a naturalized citizen in Minnesota.
He fit in a full 18, and when there was no criticism from Republicans in the interim, he did what any red-blooded racist would: He tweeted again to make it perfectly clear that not one of those new members of Congress was his type.
It’s all in a day’s work, or of sport and TV watching. No one thought he was just fun-tweeting on Sunday, but just to be sure, on Monday Trump took questions at an event to highlight American manufacturers on the hallowed ground of the South Lawn of the White House. He shunned a dog whistle for a bullhorn to go further than his racist assessment of who was to blame for Charlottesville. Back then he said there were fine people on both sides.
Going forward, he’s modified that to there are fine people on only one side.
This constitutes his 46 percent reelection strategy, by which he will hold on to those 77,000 votes from mostly white voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. It’s not the coded route of “young bucks,” Willie Horton, or welfare queens. It’s full-frontal attacks on people of color. He crowed, “So many agree with me” and the “voters will decide.”
He’s right. He’s kept evangelicals, who’ve made their bargain with the devil, and Republicans generally, both groups satisfied with their tax cuts, deregulation, and judges. Only a handful have whispered criticism, and most agree with Montana Sen. Steve Daines, who volunteered, “I stand by Trump.”
With his bold unashamed racism — now called out as such instead of “undertones” of it — Trump will reprise what looks now like his mildly racist 2016 contest, which earned him the epithet of being a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot from Sen. Lindsey Graham, and saw Sen. Ted Cruz observing that history would not treat the man who held Mussolini’s coat well. How times have changed. Graham is now a golf-playing pal, and Cruz a lap dog. They have a lot of company. What’s more, unlike 2016, this time around he has a huge war chest, more help expected from Putin, sophisticated data, and whatever stature the White House retains.
Race is a field Trump is comfortable playing on. He’s had a lot of practice baiting it. He made a fortune breaking fair-housing laws. He wanted the Central Park Five put to death and hasn’t relented even though the real killer was found. He cut his political teeth with his birther crusade, a focus group of sorts in which he ascertained there was at least a hard core 30 percent who wanted to believe Obama wasn’t born here. When he lost the House in 2018, Trump knew it would be hard to expand his reach to college-educated and African-American voters. He has the economy going for him but he hates that Obama’s fingerprints are on it. He muddies it by trash-talking the Fed into juicing it with rate cuts, trying to pack it with cronies.
Better to cast his lot with restoring whites to the glory stolen from them by the country's elites and the influx of The Other, embodied in the Squad and the brown people whose lives he’s making a living hell. The purported ICE raids were another two-fer. By revealing there would be sweeps over weekend — against ICE policy — he generated fear in immigrants sufficient to keep them in hiding on a beautiful July Sunday, and joy in his followers, whether or not it was successful. Trump is now promising to force, by executive order, legitimate asylum seekers to touch down in a country other than America, making it certain that those fleeing unspeakable danger and hardships will not come here.
Trump is neither stable nor a genius, but he is cagey. When he demeans minorities for criticizing America, he lures Democrats on to his turf. No one says “love it or leave it” to an angry male in Youngstown; only to minorities. This forces Democrats, who need to win swing states with disproportionately large non-college-educated white populations by fixing health care, education, and student debt, to use up their time defending minorities against Trump. This all serves to remind whites that Trump is on their side against the socialist Democrats running against him.
Defending the Squad has brought peace between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her young charges, but that’s to Trump’s advantage too. The Squad is the hot new thing, smart, mostly young, darlings of social media. Attention must be paid. But they won their seats crossing bridges they did not build, warmed by fires they didn’t bank, treading a path blazed by women standing up before they were born. It’s not that they shouldn’t be heard and sometimes heeded. But due to Trump, the feud was settled in public with the party moving further to the left than it wanted to be, which is why the fight started in the first place.
It’s Trump’s dark heart at its most effective. He tells lies and manipulates people better than Democrats tell the truth. The man on the South Lawn today knew what he had done and proudly took it out for another spin to be certain everyone had heard. What Democrats believe will kill Trump may only make him stronger.
Margaret Carlson is a columnist for the Daily Beast. She was formerly the first woman columnist at Time magazine, a columnist at Bloomberg View, a weekly panelist on CNN’s "Capital Gang" and managing editor at the New Republic. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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