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The Democratic Presidential Candidates Fell Right Into Trump's Trap. Good.

By Dustin Rowles | Pajiba Love | April 15, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | Pajiba Love | April 15, 2019 |


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:

Mayor Pete came in with a Twitter thread that was kind of perfect:

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.

Beto, who often “evolves” or “changes” based on feedback he gets on social media, was more forceful at a campaign stop the next day.

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.

Kamala Harris attacked the President without explicitly tying herself to Omar.

As for Gillibrand?


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.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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