U.S. politics has gotten so bananas, I just love laughing at it sometimes. Often I can’t help myself. It’s partly my inner troll, and partly human nature, where you just can’t look away from a disaster.
There were a couple of things last week that missed the mark, though, and put a damper on my good-humored nihilism.
President Trump needed to be the adult in the room, for once, and he really failed at it.
The first dose of buzzkill: A group of tweets, where Trump told progressive congresswomen to go back to their home countries if they don’t like America.
Dumb, considering they are all U.S. citizens and only one was actually not born in America, and Trump rightly got raked over the coals by the media for xenophobic remarks. Then, later in the week as the spat between Trump and the four-woman group of progressives snowballed on, at a campaign rally for the President the crowd started chanting “send her back,” in reference to Representative Ilhan Omar.
Trump had already backpedaled a bit, changing his “go back home” stance to a more commonly used “if you don’t like America, leave,” so it seems clear he knew he’d crossed some sort of line. And as the crowd chanted “send her back,” it was a the perfect time for Trump to be the adult in the room. To redirect his crowd in a more constructive direction. Give them a productive line of thought to follow, and remind them that you don’t deport U.S. citizens and elected officials, regardless of how much you disagree with them.
Instead, Trump let the chant slide.
Later on he came back and said he was disappointed with the chant, but there’s a big difference between standing up to something wrong in the moment and looking back on an event with distaste or regret. He needed to step in immediately and he didn’t.
Here’s my problem: With things as nuts as they are, my benchmarks for acceptable behavior are pretty low. Basically, I like people to act with a certain amount of principle. I hate hypocrisy, identity politics and racism.
It’s why I criticize the far left so much, because they employ all three liberally from a very large national stage (no matter how much they deny it). I care about issues, and while I’m not opposed to being politically aggressive, it needs to come from a pure place, from solid footing.
Chanting “send her back” smacks of identity politics. It feels so similar to the playbook being used by radicals on the far right and left that it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I’m not finger-wagging at anyone that heard the chant and thought nothing of it, and I’m not even harping on the chanters themselves. I’m saying the President has the responsibility to keep things headed in the right direction when people make mistakes, and the buck really does stop with him. The danger of devolving into this rhetoric on both sides at the mainstream level is apparent. It has a radicalizing effect on people; it warps the mind and pushes folks to the extremes. I’m perfectly fine with the President (or anyone) trolling their political opponents, being aggressive and making attacks.
All I ask is that those attacks contain some substance, and don’t sink down in to a nasty mire that has the ability to swallow us whole.