On Tuesday night, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to condemn President Donald Trump’s recent tweets attacking “The Squad” of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). The president did indeed go too far in attacking these far-left Democrats, but his tweets were not racist.
H.Res. 489 passed 240-187, with every Democrat voting for it along with one Independent, Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), and four Republicans: Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), and Susan Brooks (R-Ind.).
The resolution begins with a long list of quotes about the value immigrants bring to America and the nature of the U.S. as a beacon for the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It insists that “American patriotism is defined not by race or ethnicity but by devotion to the Constitutional ideals of equality, liberty, inclusion, and democracy and by service to our communities and struggle for the common good.”
After the long sermonizing, the resolution states that Trump’s “racist comments have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”
The resolution “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should ‘go back’ to other countries, by referring to immigrants and asylum seekers as ‘invaders,’ and by saying that Members of Congress who are immigrants (or those of our colleagues who are wrongly assumed to be immigrants) do not belong in Congress or in the United States of America.”
The virtue signaling of this resolution aside, Trump’s tweets were indeed disgusting. Playing off of the longstanding feud between “the Squad” and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Trump suggested the speaker would be willing to foot the bill for the “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe” to “go back” to the countries they came from.
….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
The problem? Only one of the four—Omar—came from abroad. Tlaib was born in America to Palestinian immigrants, Ocasio-Cortez was born in America to Puerto Ricans— not immigrants —and Pressley isn’t an immigrant or the daughter or granddaughter of immigrants.
Ayanna Pressley isn't an immigrant, or the daughter of immigrants, or the granddaughter of immigrants. She's just black. https://t.co/6T4h1oJz5A
— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) July 14, 2019
Trump was flat-out wrong, but it seems he got the impression that “the Squad” was foreign because Omar has received a great deal of coverage. Somalia is indeed a wreck.
After the backlash over his tweets, Trump doubled down. He accused the Democrats of spewing “vile, hateful, and disgusting things,” which is true to some extent. Comparing ICE detention centers to Nazi concentration camps is beyond the pale, and the man who threw Molotov cocktails at an ICE detention center referenced this rhetoric in his manifesto.
Of course, the horrible rhetoric coming from “the Squad” does not justify Trump’s ridiculous “go back” attack, but that attack was not itself racist.
As Fox News’ Brit Hume argued, “Trump’s ‘go back’ comments were nativist, xenophobic, counterfactul and politically stupid. But they simply do not meet the standard definition of racist, a word so recklessly flung around these days that its actual meaning is being lost.”
Trump’s “go back” comments were nativist, xenophobic, counterfactul and politically stupid. But they simply do not meet the standard definition of racist, a word so recklessly flung around these days that its actual meaning is being lost.
— Brit Hume (@brithume) July 15, 2019
He cited Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, which defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race,” a political program based on racism, or “racial prejudice or discrimination.”
Merriam-Webster dictionary responded.
Many of our entries have helpful usage notes if you scroll farther than the first definition. pic.twitter.com/a91ezmH9rW
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) July 15, 2019
As PJ Media’s Jim Treacher put it, “In other words… words mean nothing. Or rather, a word means whatever the cool kids want it to mean. …Racism is whatever you want it to be, explained the dictionary. Please just don’t yell at us. We don’t like that guy either!”
Trump wasn’t discriminating on the basis of race — he was discriminating on the basis of political stances. “The Squad” represents the far-left of the Democratic Party in Congress. Trump’s suggestion that because their policies are horrible, these women are less than American was disgusting. But he was not singling them out on the basis of their skin color — any more than Pelosi was singling them out on the basis of their skin color.
Democrats—and some Republicans, apparently—are so set on condemning Trump as a racist, they lack the ability to appropriately condemn his remarks for what they were. That’s the true story of this resolution.
Trump’s remarks were ugly and indefensible. They unfairly stigmatized “the Squad” as anti-American immigrants bent on bringing the problems of “other countries” to America. This attack does unfairly stigmatize immigrants as less than American. Legal immigrants who uphold American ideals need to be welcomed with open arms, those from troubled countries like Somalia emphatically included. The problem with Trump’s comments wasn’t racism, and by attacking the comments for the wrong reason, Democrats in Congress are playing into Trump’s hands.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.