Editor’s Note: Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in Washington and author of the book, “The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
President Donald Trump may have finally met his match: The Squad.
The famously foul-mouthed President on Sunday launched yet another Twitter tirade, saying that the four congresswomen, known as The Squad – US Reps. Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib – should “go back” to the countries they came from. All four are US citizens, and three were born in the United States (Omar is a refugee from Somalia who spent part of her life in a Kenyan refugee camp).
But the women haven’t backed down. Nor have they responded with platitudes or undeserved tact. Instead, they’ve called the President what he is (“racist”) and his language what it is (“white nationalist”). Unlike the many politicians and public figures previously attacked by Trump, these four women can fight him on his own turf: Ocasio-Cortez, in particular, is social media savvy and understands the particular patois of Twitter. They also have youth on their side; next to them, Trump seems like the grumpy, racist grandpa that he is.
And, more importantly, they have the moral high ground. It takes some real mental jiujitsu to twist Trump’s comments into anything other than straight-up racism. How else do you explain someone telling four American citizens to “go back” to foreign countries? What the President really means is that nonwhite Americans have a less legitimate claim on this nation than white ones. Two of the President’s three wives, after all, have been immigrants themselves, and he doesn’t seem to suggest that they should “go back.”
The “go back” assault is fundamentally racist and cruel. It’s more the language you expect to hear being hurled during the commission of a hate crime, not by the President of the United States. It is a way to harass not just immigrants but any nonwhite person in America. And it belies the fundamental truth about this nation – that the vast majority of us are immigrants or descended from them. Those who have a native claim to this land are not white, and yet racist leaders like Trump make clear that they believe white America is “real” America.
Trump has disgraced this nation. But he has also, perversely, done Democrats a small favor here. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, her staff and her supporters were increasingly engaging in public squabbling with The Squad and their staffers. It’s a debate that reveals legitimate differences in both style and substance, but it’s also comparatively unimportant. The President’s attack should refocus things – and remind all parties that the biggest threat to American democracy currently sits in the White House.
Pelosi, in particular, should take note. In a normal administration, a comment as blatantly racist as Trump’s tweet would be a massive scandal, perhaps worthy of removing an unfit president from office. And while Pelosi may not be prepared to begin impeachment, she is supporting a House resolution to condemn the President’s racist remarks.
The House Speaker is also calling for Republicans to join her in this resolution. And, in a decent nation, that President’s own party would be a unified front in denouncing Trump’s tweets. Instead, the GOP response has been tepid, with only a handful of critiques here and there – and none yet from the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
The President has taken a blowtorch to any veil of decency that ever laid over conservative politics. He has done damage to America’s reputation abroad and our humanity at home that will not be undone after he leaves office. This is, after all, a man who has insisted on putting babies and children in what amount to fetid jails, who likely obstructed justice and who uses his massive platform and immense power to hurl racist slurs at congresswomen of color. Just a month ago, he was even accused of sexual assault (an allegation he denies).
He should not be in the Oval Office. Democrats who care about the future of the country must focus on holding him accountable – not because investigations or impeachment will win or lose an election but because it is the right and necessary thing to do. So far, The Squad has proven they are willing to do just that.