Over the weekend Donald Trump once again descended into his usual weekend hole of spittle-flecked grievance, this time in an extended two-day attack on Rep. Elijah Cummings’ home district in Baltimore. Rep. Cummings’ offense was being a “brutal bully” in confronting officials about the conditions in government detention centers at the southern border; Trump’s true ire, however, may be in Cummings’ House Oversight and Reform Committee authorizing new subpoenas for White House documents, his press appearance with other top Democrats soon after special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before the House, and his televised response last week that there is “no doubt” that Trump is a racist.
But Trump devoted most of his bile not to Rep. Cummings directly, but to his majority-black Baltimore district, calling it the “Worst in the USA” and “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous and filthy place.” “No human being would want to live there,” he spitted. After those comments led to the expected public fury, Trump devoted much of the rest of the weekend to retweeting pictures of trash in Baltimore and a train of Fox News talking heads saying words about him.
A key point here is that this is from a standard playbook, for Trump. It is not new. He has attacked other (nonwhite) leaders by focusing on their communities repeatedly; it is a crude and, for trump, generic implication that his opponent is Actually the corrupt or lazy one, a cookie-cutter response he fires off reflexively, with no regard for whether any of it is true. As Rep. Cummings himself pointed out, Cummings goes “home to my district daily.” (Trump did not check.) And Rep. Cummings is hardly alone in representing a struggling district, in America: About 20% of House Republicans represent districts with higher poverty rates than Cummings’ Baltimore one. None of those Republicans have been similarly singled out for attack. (Trump properties’ own problems with rodents make his choice of attacks similarly curious.)
For Trump, the reflexive claim is that [non-white leader] may not criticize him because [insert city name here] is the “worst” in America, and so forth. He picks the target based on who he is angry at. It is a taunt with no more care or polish than those leveled and counter-leveled by schoolchildren.
Cummings’ 7th district actually ranks in the upper half of median household income nationwide, and the enclosed city of Columbia has been called the “safest” city in America, both pointed out by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace as the White House made their now-regular post-tweet cleanup appearances. Again: Trump did not check.
It should also be noted that the word “infested”, for Trump, has a very particular use. His tweets appear to use the word almost exclusively against non-white targets, from Reps. Cummings, Omar, and Lewis to President Barack Obama and especially, Mexican immigrants.
It is the reflexivity of Trump’s responses to criticism from non-white quarters that makes the responses racist. He sees a non-white face, and he responds in a predictable, and odious, way. You can predict his response based on the color of his attacker’s face.
The outcry for this latest outburst has been vocal, yet again, though (on the Republican side) similarly predictable. The Baltimore Sun responded with an appropriately blistering op-ed that concluded “Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one.” Democrats were quick to rally around Rep. Cummings, who has been one of the most effective lawmakers challenging Trump administration overreach. And aside from Trump’s devoted toadies, there has been little hesitation in recognizing Trump’s racist intents.
As for the toadies, it was from the same script as usual. Trump’s fits of intentional public racism have been heating up as he weighs his reelection chances and, worried, doubles down on gaining the devotion of the worst elements of his base. This has meant that the Toady responses have themselves become rote and predictable.
In the case of top Republican political figures like Sen. Medicare Fraud, “I didn’t do the tweets” was the of the day, followed by further attacks on Rep. Cummings.
In the case of Fox News as organization, diversionary tactics doused under a heavy syrup of dishonesty was the method of Dear Leader defense. And, of course, attacking Rep. Cummings.
And in the case of “acting” White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, a former House member himself, the operating procedure was of the usual: Pretend Dear Leader did not mean what he so clearly meant, to the point where even the Fox News host was not having it, and: Attack Rep. Cummings.
If I had poverty in my district like they have in Baltimore, “I’d get fired,” Mulvaney insisted.
None of these details should distract from the more important point: The details, for Trump, were entirely beside the point. He condemned a black lawmaker for the state of his district, in the manner he has attacked previous non-white lawmakers; if you are not white, Trump presumes you represent a “shithole.” He bleats out these attacks on non-white critics regularly, and celebrates his audience’s responses.
For an American president to repeatedly attack an American city—and approvingly promote foreigners doing the same—continues to be bizarre. But Trump is not an American president. He is an imposter. And as he continues his extended attacks on other non-white lawmakers who have attracted his ever-ready rage for the crime of criticizing America, we can only offer up that this blowhard really ought to go back to where he came from.
Wallace: Infested. It sounds like vermin. It sounds subhuman, and these are all six members of Congress who are people of color.
Mulvaney: I think you're spending way too much time reading between the lines.
Wallace: I'm not reading between the lines. I'm reading the lines. pic.twitter.com/VvcouT98wt
— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) July 28, 2019