Lawmakers and presidential candidates know to expect a particular set of reactions after criticizing Donald Trump. He might call them a loser, or give them their own unique nickname—the provenance of which might depend on how often he thinks they lie, whether they look sleepy, or how pencil-like he finds their neck. He might go so far as to endorse their primary challengers, or even the critics themselves, if he thinks his stamp of approval might hurt them.
Only for women, though, do Trump and his supporters deploy their most sinister lines of attack. In 2016, it was not enough to call Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary” or criticize her vision for the country. Rather, it was necessary to call for her physical removal from public life, and her sentencing to a place where she wouldn’t be heard from again. “Lock her up!” is as identifiable with Trumpism as “Build the wall!,” and the chant continues at rallies to this day, even as Clinton, true to Trump’s wishes, has faded into the background.
There was a troubling sense of déjà vu, then, when the crowd at Trump’s rally in Greenville, North Carolina, on Wednesday trained their eyes on Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, chanting “Send her back!” in a play on Trump’s own words from a few days before. It was an evolution, an even darker version of the invective against Clinton—where the president’s supporters once called for a female opponent’s imprisonment, now they are longing for another to be literally banished from the country. The episode prompts urgent questions not only about what Omar can expect as Trump’s 2020 campaign ramps up, but also about what Trump’s eventual challenger, if it’s a woman, can anticipate as well.