On Tuesday night, in the early moments of a campaign rally in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, President Donald Trump made one of his characteristic asides – this one focused on California senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris.
“Remember Kamala, she started at 15,” Trump said of Harris’ 2020 bid for the presidential nomination’s performance. “She was supposed to win, problem was she went from 15 to 14 to 12 to 10 to 7 to 4, it’s like a freefall. You know what? People don’t like her. Nobody likes her. She could never be the first woman president. She could never be. That would be an insult to our country.”
He offered no explanation for his contention that electing Harris as the first woman president would be an “insult” – instead pivoting immediately back to Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who, according to Trump, wants to “confiscate your guns.” (This is false.)
Trump’s lack of explanation left it up to the North Carolina crowd (who booed in support after the President uttered these lines) and the rest of us to figure out what, exactly, he meant. Which is, of course, exactly how Trump likes it.
See, because the most obvious read on what Trump said goes like this: Harris is the first woman of color to be on a national party ticket. She would also be the first woman of color – as well as the first woman – to be elected president if Biden wins, chooses not to run for a second term in 2024 and Harris wins. So what you have here is the President of the United States suggesting that electing a Black and South Asian woman would be an “insult.”
Which would be the latest in a very, very, very long list of racial dog whistles – and just plain old whistles – by Trump aimed at weaponizing racial resentment for his own political purposes. Here’s a brief summary:
* Trump suggested that white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, was the result of bad actors on both sides.
* He initially refused to condemn former KKK official David Duke, who endorsed his presidential campaign. (Trump later said he didn’t hear the question properly.)
* He was the most prominent and high-profile advocate of a debunked conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
* He attacked both NBA star LeBron James’ and CNN anchor Don Lemon’s intelligence.
* During the 2018 campaign, Trump regularly called California Rep. Maxine Waters a “low IQ individual.”
* In a meeting in the Oval Office on immigration, Trump reportedly referred to African immigrants as coming from “s***-hole countries.”
* In 2019, he described the House’s effort to impeach him as a “lynching.”
And that’s just since Trump began running for president in 2015! It doesn’t include a housing discrimination lawsuit filed by the federal government against him and his father in the 1970s or his inflammatory comments, which he has never rescinded or walked back, about the “Central Park 5.”
The point here is that Trump’s comment about Harris, which may otherwise seem innocuous, doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It lands amid ALL of his past comments about race and his ongoing efforts to use the at-times violent protests happening in major cities around the country to scare white voters (especially white suburban women) to vote for him.
“If the Radical Left takes power, they will apply their disastrous policies to every city, town, and suburb in America,” Trump said in his speech at the 2020 Republican convention. “Just imagine if the so-called peaceful demonstrators in the streets were in charge of every lever of power in the U.S. Government.”
And, in a tweet sent Tuesday, Trump was even more explicit: “Suburban voters are pouring into the Republican Party because of the violence in Democrat run cities and states. If Biden gets in, this violence is ‘coming to the Suburbs’, and FAST. You could say goodbye to your American Dream!”
When you consider all of that, it’s hard to conclude that Trump was doing anything other than race-baiting when he suggested that electing Harris would be an “insult.”
What are the other possibilities? That electing someone who has served in the US Senate and before that was the attorney general of the most populous state in the country would somehow be insulting? (Harris has significantly more experience in elected office than Trump did when he ran in the 2016 campaign.) That electing someone who lost a primary bid for president in the past would be insulting? (Ask Ronald Reagan about that one.) That electing someone who had the most liberal voting record in 2019, according to one voting tracker, would be insulting? (I mean, Trump might not agree with Harris’ views on policy, but it’s hard to see how electing a president who carries liberal views would be insulting to the country.)
Seriously, what else could Trump be talking about here if he is not making a not-so-subtle reference to Harris’ race? I genuinely can’t think of any.
Trump, because he is Trump, didn’t come right out and say that electing a Black and South Asian woman president would be insulting. Which will allow him and his enablers to suggest that the media and Democrats just see everything through the racial lens and are too quick to scream “racism” at every turn.
But ask yourself this: Why would Trump, without offering any evidence or explanation for the claim, say that Kamala Harris as president would be “an insult to our country”? What else could he possibly mean other than that she doesn’t look like him – and most of the people in the crowd in North Carolina on Tuesday night?