On Wednesday night in North Carolina, Donald Trump agitated rally-goers with inflammatory rhetoric about Representative Ilhan Omar, a naturalized American born in Somalia, until his supporters began chanting “send her back”––as if a legal immigrant who became a U.S. citizen can or should be denied equal treatment under the law and extra-constitutionally deported by the president.
Burning a copy of the U.S. Constitution would show no more contempt for it than the crowd’s bigoted, nativist reverie about tyrannically deposing an elected member of Congress. No opinion expressed by the congresswoman, no matter how wrongheaded, could excuse the un-American mob.
The crowd’s authoritarian outburst and the purposefully divisive, irresponsible presidential rhetoric that prompted it portends an ugly Trump campaign for reelection. Like “lock her up,” the chant that Trump rally-goers directed at Hillary Clinton in 2016, “send her back” is poised to travel the country with the president.
Already, the civic poison of the chant has been televised and celebrated on social media by Trump supporters. Naturalized immigrants must have heard it and felt anxious. Racists must have heard it and felt glad. Children must have heard it, too, and felt uncomfortable, knowing in their gut that the chant is wrong. Some kids are surely being malignly influenced by its repudiation of the American creed.
Republicans know that more of the same is coming. Wednesday’s rally put them on notice: Trump intends to run a reelection campaign that stokes the ugliest impulses of his base, no matter how much damage it does to the civic fabric of America and no matter how much hatred it stirs up against immigrant populations. The overwhelming majority of the GOP and its electorate are sticking by Trump anyway, even though they could be working for a contested primary election.
That is shameful.
How many times between now and Election Day 2020 will Trump whip up a crowd of his supporters into a new frenzy of bigoted, unconstitutional nativism? Four more years of this would be devastating for America.