Fallout from Trump's attacks on 'the Squad'

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The 360 is a feature designed to show you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories.

Speed read

What's happening: On Sunday, President Trump posted tweets saying that four Democratic congresswomen, all people of color, should "go back" to the "places from which they came." The comments were condemned as racist by the women who were targeted, other Democrats, members of the media and even some Republicans.

The four congresswomen — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar — held a press conference Monday in response to the tweets. Pressley said Trump's comments were a "distraction" from his policy actions, which Omar called "the agenda of white nationalists.” On Tuesday, the House voted to formally condemn Trump’s tweets.

Trump defended himself, saying, "Those Tweets were NOT Racist." Other members of the administration have made similar arguments.

Why there's debate: Trump's comments echo an often-used racist trope — telling people of color to "go back where they came from." Some argue that the tweets are the most blatantly offensive remarks in what they view as a growing history of Trump's racist rhetoric and actions. Some say this incident should be considered a turning point for Republicans, arguing that silence is an endorsement of Trump's xenophobia.

There is also debate about the political ramifications of the president’s comments. Some say Democrats are playing into his hands by allowing the public conversation to be centered on race, given Trump's successful mining of racial grievance during the 2016 election. Others, however, believe the tweets will further alienate voters outside Trump's base who may be uncomfortable with his increasingly overt racial signaling.

The use of the word "racist" to describe the tweets has fueled debate among the media. Some say the word is the only way to accurately describe Trump’s posts. Others, in conservative media, argue that the tweets aren't racist and that the left is far too eager to play the race card.


Trump's comments must be considered alongside his long public history

"This long history is important. It would be one thing if Trump simply misspoke one or two times. But when you take all of Trump’s actions and comments together, a clear pattern emerges — one that suggests that bigotry is not just political opportunism on Trump’s part but a real element of Trump’s personality, character, and career." — German Lopez, Vox

Trump is aggressively trying to make "the Squad" the face of the Democratic Party

"[Trump] wants the Democratic Party stuck to its progressive fringe so that he can portray his opponents as too extreme to lead the country — and he moved quickly to flip the script." — Jonathan Allen, NBC News

Media organizations betray their commitment to accuracy by not calling the tweets racist

"It makes good sense for media organizations to be careful and noninflammatory in their news coverage. That kind of caution continues to be a virtue. But a crucial part of being careful is being accurate, clear and direct. When confronted with racism and lying, we can’t run and hide in the name of neutrality and impartiality. To do that is a dereliction of duty." — Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post

The tweets weren't racist

"Trump’s ‘go back’ comments were nativist, xenophobic, counterfactual 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, Fox News

Trump's comments destroy the euphemisms of what his political beliefs are really about

"This should be a moment of truth for anyone who describes Trump as a 'populist' or asserts that his support is based on 'economic anxiety.' He’s not a populist, he’s a white supremacist. His support rests not on economic anxiety, but on racism." — Paul Krugman, New York Times

Trump has been effective at stoking racial politics but overplayed his hand in this case

"The president usually has a finely tuned ear for what he can get away with. He edges over the line in ways that enable him to dominate the news on his terms, but leaves him with some rhetorical wiggle room. That wasn’t the case here." — Howard Kurtz, Fox News

The tweets are inarguable proof of Trump's racism

"There can be no more discussion or debate about whether or not Trump is a racist. He is. There can be no more rhetorical juggling about not knowing what’s in his heart. We see what flows out of it." — Charles M. Blow, New York Times

Republicans are endorsing Trump's views by not speaking out against them

"The result is that the Republican Party is firmly Donald Trump’s party now. … It’s the party where it’s OK to say racist things so long as the next jobs report is encouraging. If you don’t believe it, listen to the meekness today from Republicans, including those who represent our state. Instead of standing up for who we should be, they’re bowing to the worst of who we are." — Editorial, Raleigh News & Observer

The tweets force the media to reconsider what is opinion and what is fact

"Maybe institutional style guides have not been adequately updated amid the unceasing torrent of news. The most likely explanation is, perhaps, the simplest: a residual, old-school squeamishness in newsrooms around charged words that — before Trump broke all the rules, at least — smacked of opinion or activism." — Jon Allsop, Columbia Journalism Review

This is all part of an explicit political strategy

"At this point, litigating his personal racism, and those of his supporters, feels both inconsequential and redundant, especially when Trump himself has made one fact very clear: He thinks he can win on racist rhetoric in 2020, and he thinks this because he has actually done it." — Anne Branigin, The Root

The racial rhetoric that worked for Trump in 2016 will not work in 2020

"Trump's dog-whistle, formerly perceived mainly by extremists, is now a trumpet we can all hear.

Sure, his racism, his cruelty against migrants and his family separation policy will still play well with a segment of the electorate. But today, Americans see Trump for what he is. They see his campaign and what he is trying to do." — Frida Ghitis, CNN

Trump gave fractured Democrats a common enemy

"There is an old maxim, sometimes attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte: Never interfere with the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself. Sunday morning, President Trump chose to interfere, just as Democrats were in the process of destroying themselves." — Jim Geraghty, National Review

Trump's comments are affecting the personal lives of his supporters

"Yes, Trump’s attack inflicted pain. It plunged a dagger into an already bleeding heart of a nation of immigrants where people of color aren’t welcomed. It plunged a dagger into friendships, acquaintances, neighbors. Can we look into a Trump supporter’s eye and not say anything over his or her silence, even if that person is otherwise friendly?" — Elvia Diaz, Arizona Republic

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