The Democratic Presidential Candidates Fell Right Into Trump's Trap. Good.
I have no intention of posting Donald Trump’s sh*tty, dangerous attack on Ilhan Omar over the weekend, except to note that Trump (and SNL funboy Dan Crenshaw) took the words of Ilhan Omar about 9/11 out of context and used them to prove the exact point she was making, about how Muslims in this country are treated as second-class citizens. In this case, Trump took a quote from Congresswoman Omar out of context in order to inflame sentiment against Omar and other Muslims purely for political gain. As The Times puts it:
[Trump’s] Minnesota appearance comes after his tweet of a video interspersed with Ms. Omar speaking and the burning World Trade Center towers. Ms. Omar’s critics have claimed a portion of the remarks, in which she highlighted Islamophobia faced by Muslims after Sept. 11, were dismissive of the terrorist attacks.
Mr. Trump is banking on painting the entire Democratic Party as extreme. And Ms. Omar has become a point of contention for some members of her own party, after remarks she made about the Israel lobby were condemned as anti-Semitic by some long-serving Democrats, as well as by Republicans and Mr. Trump.
But Mr. Trump’s electoral success in 2016 was based partly on culture wars and fears among an older, white voting base that the country it knew was slipping away. Like his hard line on immigration, his plays on fears of Muslims — including inaccurately conflating them with terrorists — proved polarizing among the wider electorate, but helped him keep a tight grip on his most enthusiastic voters.
Trump’s cynical, despicable gambit — one which put Congresswoman Omar’s life and the lives of the entire Muslim community in danger — has also been effective. The idea was to “tether” the Democrats to Omar and increase intraparty infighting. It worked! Most of the Democratic candidates came out in support of Omar (successfully “tethering”) but there is a lot of infighting among Democrats about how long it took for some candidates to speak out, and the manner in which they did so. F**king Trump. Even as we recognize the cynical game he is playing, we can’t help but to judge the candidates over their responses. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Mayor Pete came out swinging early, soon after Trump delivered his tweet:
The President is inciting violence against a sitting Congresswoman—and an entire group of Americans based on their religion. It's disgusting. It's shameful. And any elected leader who refuses to condemn it shares responsibility for it.— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) April 13, 2019
Ilhan Omar is a leader with strength and courage. She won't back down to Trump's racism and hate, and neither will we. The disgusting and dangerous attacks against her must end.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) April 13, 2019
Mayor Pete came in with a Twitter thread that was kind of perfect:
After 9/11 we all said we were changed. That we were stronger and more united. That’s what “never forget” was about. Now, a president uses that dark day to incite his base against a member of Congress, as if for sport. As if we learned nothing that day about the workings of hate.— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) April 13, 2019
That day, some people did this: killed thousands of Americans in order to try to make us smaller, more divided and less free. To weaken us by distancing us from our own values through fear and anger. This is the function of terrorism.— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) April 13, 2019
I served overseas, at risk to my life, in the struggle against such terrorism. But it can only be fully defeated if we have leaders at home who defuse its capacity to sow hate—hate against Islam or against any number of “others.”— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) April 13, 2019
The president today made America smaller. It is not enough to condemn him; we must model something better.— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) April 13, 2019
The threats against the life of @IlhanMN make clear what is at stake if we fail to to do this, and to beat back hate in all all its forms.— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) April 13, 2019
Initially, Beto delivered a remark later echoed by several other candidates (Harris and Gillibrand, in particular), attacking Trump’s divisiveness without mentioning Congresswoman Omar by name.
We are stronger than this president’s hatred and Islamophobia. Do not let him drive us apart or make us afraid.— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) April 13, 2019
Beto, who often “evolves” or “changes” based on feedback he gets on social media, was more forceful at a campaign stop the next day.
Beto said in SC today that Trump posting a video of Omar's 9/11 remarks with video of the attacks "is an incitement to violence."— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) April 13, 2019
He also said this is coming from someone who has called asylum seekers "animals." pic.twitter.com/3qt6od9GBF
Amy Klobuchar, well, she criticized the President while also taking this moment to also create some distance between herself and Congresswoman Omar, and while it is OK to disagree with Omar’s words, NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO BRING THAT UP. Now is the time to stand behind Congresswoman Omar — who is facing legitimate threats on her life now — unconditionally.
Someone has already been charged with a serious threat on Congresswoman Omar’s life. The video the President chose to send out today will only incite more hate. You can disagree with her words—as I have done before—but this video is wrong. Enough.— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) April 13, 2019
Kamala Harris attacked the President without explicitly tying herself to Omar.
We deserve better than a president who stokes hate and division in an attempt to divide us. pic.twitter.com/TyTcqZoCGG— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) April 15, 2019
As for Gillibrand?
As a Senator who represents 9/11 victims, I can't accept any minimizing of that pain. But Trump's dangerous rhetoric against @IlhanMN is disgusting. It’s a false choice to suggest we can’t fight terrorism and reject Islamophobic hate at once—a president should do both.— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) April 13, 2019
OMAR DIDN’T MINIMIZE ANYTHING. Ahem.
Cory Booker came out strong, too, on Face the Nation.
“That is so objectionable. That is so offensive. And — and — and this is what I mean about moral vandalism in our country that’s going on from the highest offices stoking hatred, stoking fears, pitting people against each other. … What she is experiencing right now, she does not deserve — from what she said in her speech — she does not deserve the kind of vicious, hate-filled attacks that she’s experiencing … We all as Americans should say that’s outrageous and unacceptable and what Donald Trump is doing, he’s making life dangerous not just for her but for other Muslim Americans.”
You all realize, of course, that by showing you the different responses from the candidates, and judging them based on how much support each candidate actually showed Congresswoman Omar, that I am falling straight into the trap that Trump has set for us Democrats. Oh, I know it. We’re all playing right into his hands. But while this is very much a game for Donald Trump, it’s not a game for Ilhan Omar, whose security will have to be beefed up, who will face more death threats, and whose life has legitimately been put in danger. Trump did that. He is putting a Congresswoman’s life at risk to play a game, to set a trap, and he does not give a f**k. Voters should at least see Trump for what he is: A man who doesn’t care about 9/11. He never has, and his actions — and lies — on that day and since are all the evidence anyone might need of that. He’s just using a national tragedy to improve his own reelection chances.
I think it’s important, however, to see this for what it is: A calculated political ploy by the President of the United States, but also a real threat to the life of Congresswoman Omar and her family. How the Democrats respond is important. Do they play the game, as Klobuchar, Harris, and Gillibrand have, or do they say “f*ck the game” and stand up for what’s right, as Sanders, Warren, Booker, and Mayor Pete have? And do we, as voters, want a candidate who plays the game the best, or a candidate who ignores the game speaks her mind, regardless.
I’m with Public Enemy on this one: Damn the game if it don’t mean nothing … f*ck the game if it ain’t saying nothing.
Header Image Source: Getty Images