Of course Trump’s tweets were racist. But they’re a losing proposition in the long run

Donald Trump’s itchy Twitter fingers are getting him in trouble once again.

Donald Trump’s tweetstorm telling four Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to the “crime-infested and corrupt” countries they came from reflected the kind of racism he espoused during his campaign and throughout his presidency. He’s planning to double down on that racism to try to win reelection, and immediate polls showed that his standing rose with Republicans.

The trouble for him is that the racism expressed in these tweets are sinking him with the swing voters he desperately needs.

Trump sent a flurry of incendiary tweets clearly aimed at the four progressive congresswomen known as “the squad” — New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, all of whom have been strongly critical of Trump. Besides telling them to return to their countries (three were born in the United States, and Omar moved to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia when she was a child, and all are American citizens and members of the U.S. House of Representatives), he questioned their patriotism, lied about their past statements, and said they “hate” America. It was the kind of message Americans have come to expect from Trump, except it reached a level of overt racism that he usually doesn’t express out loud — or only expresses at his rallies.

There’s a big partisan divide on how people view Trump’s racist missives. A USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll showed that a clear majority of Americans object to Trump’s messaging: 68 percent think the tweets were offensive, and 59 percent called them “un-American.”

The tweets were widely condemned around the world as well. British MP David Lammy branded Trump’s comments as “1950s racism straight from the White House.” Reactions from Belgium, Germany, New Zealand, and the West Bank included phrases such as “sickening,” “ugly sentiments,” “clearly racist,” and “an insult to values America purports to uphold.”

In the USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll, 93 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents polled agreed that the tweets were offensive. Even 37 percent of Republicans gave them that label.

On the Republican side, though, the reactions tell a different story. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans polled said they agreed with Trump’s tweets, including a third that “strongly agreed” with Trump’s words.

Well, sure. That’s his base. Those are the people who will vote for Trump in November 2020 no matter how racist he sounds. But that base isn’t enough to win reelection.

As a USA TODAY story describing the polls put it:

The dispute could be costly for Trump among key voters in his bid for a second term. Three-fourths of the women polled call his tweets offensive. Independents, by more than 2-1, say the comments are “un-American.”

One interesting takeaway from the poll is that most Americans are fine with political criticism. From the USA TODAY/Ipsos poll:

There is a broad consensus among those surveyed that it is patriotic “to point out where America falls short and try to do better.”

There’s no doubt that Trump’s Twitter thumbs went into overdrive because he was trying to shift the focus from an outbreak of negative publicity. His bad news included losing the fight to get a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, the continuing horror stories of migrant children being locked in cages at the border, and the wealth of material showing him with multiple ties to Jeffery Epstein, the billionaire newly indicted on sex trafficking charges, including a video of Trump and Epstein (and a lot of young women) whooping it up at a Mar-a-Lago party.

In the weeks leading up to the Trump tweetstorm, a mostly media-driven battle had emerged between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the four women of the squad. The differences were blown up by media interviews, incendiary tweets, and messaging by both sides.

After Trump took to his phone, however, all Democratic sides united in response. The Democratic-led House passed a resolution condemning Trump’s tweets, with four GOP votes and one vote from Michigan’s Justin Amash, a Republican recently turned independent when he publicly backed Trump’s impeachment.

There’s no secret why those in the GOP are so frightened of crossing Trump: They’re afraid of losing the support of Trump voters. As former Republican Rep. Joe Walsh wrote in The Washington Post:

In a world where more Republicans still sincerely thought of our party as the Party of Lincoln, condemning the president’s words should have been a no-brainer, and, in theory, should have been the tipping point where Republicans started hopping off the Trump bandwagon.

But it won’t be. …

Most of them care only about getting reelected. The same rudderless politicians who’ve let Trump give plum jobs to unqualified cronies and run up the deficit are too scared of his base to do anything other than comply.

Keep your base, Trump and his fellow Republicans. You could be in for a rude awakening when you wake up on Nov. 4, 2020, only to find that the majority of people in this country are so sick of Trump’s racism and your unwillingness to stand up to him about it that they voted for Democrats.

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