President Trump is always in search of a new hook to keep his fans engaged, especially one that is likely to offend, gain attention or both.
Wednesday night, he got one when the crowd at his rally in North Carolina broke into chants of “send her back” as he began cataloging grievances against Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Trump paused and looked on for several seconds to show his approval.
The shouts carried obvious echoes of Trump’s favorite 2016 chant, “Lock her up,” which broke its own norms by calling for the incarceration of his political opponent, Hillary Clinton. That chant became a hallmark of Trump rallies even long after he had defeated Clinton.
Omar is one of four women of color in the so-called “squad” of progressive members of Congress whom Trump attacked earlier this week, suggesting that they should “go back” to “the crime infested places from which they came.” The others are Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
All four are American. Three were born in the United States; Omar was born in Somalia.
The racist tweet prompted the House to pass a resolution of condemnation on Tuesday, mostly along party lines. Four Republicans and an independent joined the chamber’s Democrats in condemning Trump’s words. The president has only reiterated his attacks, and his comments at Wednesday’s rally confirmed expectations that he plans to use the clash with the women to drive a hard racial wedge as he campaigns for reelection in 2020.
Trump is likely to use the highly partisan crowd’s chant as validation for his claim that “many people agree with me.”
Trump criticized each of the women by name and gave lengthy descriptions of what he said were anti-Semitic and anti-American sentiments. He also mocked Ocasio-Cortez for using two names, a common practice among Latinas, insisting he would only refer to her as “Cortez.”
“They said, ‘That’s not her name, Sir,” Trump told the crowd. “I said, ‘No, no I don’t have time to go with three different names.’ We’ll call her ‘Cortez.’”
Liberals are “always telling us how to run” the country, he said. “If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it.”