Ilhan Omar (Getty/Stephen Maturen/)

Courage and cowardice: Trump should be impeached just for his vicious attacks on Ilhan Omar

Trump will never back away from this campaign of racist hatred. Why should he? His supporters eagerly embrace them


Chauncey DeVega
April 17, 2019 12:00PM (UTC)

Rep. Ilhan Omar is very brave. Her harasser, the president of the United States, is a coward and a bully.

Last Friday, Trump shared a video on Twitter that viciously lied about Omar. To say that it was "deceptively edited," while technically accurate, is a weak euphemism. This right-wing propaganda video suggested that Omar was indifferent toward, or even supported, the terrorists who attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001. The end goal of this video is to encourage violence against Omar, a duly elected member of Congress. For this and numerous other reasons, Donald Trump should be impeached, convicted and removed from the presidency.

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In reality, the full version of the video shows Omar discussing how terrorist acts can be used as a pretext by the government to undermine the civil rights of all Muslims. Moreover, Omar is a co-sponsor of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund legislation.

This repugnant video is also but another of many examples in which Donald Trump has engaged in "scripted violence" or stochastic terrorism. This was not an idle threat, a gaffe, "political sniping" or just "rough talk" in a "highly polarized environment." It is very serious business: Donald Trump's followers have a tendency to obey his commands. This has been shown in the many examples of right-wing political violence during his presidential campaign and more than two years of his presidency. Consider the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, the mosque attacks in New Zealand and the explosive devices sent by the so-called MAGA bomber -- all crimes committed by Trump's followers and inspired by his words and deeds.

Ilhan Omar has not been cowed by Donald Trump's threats or those of his followers. On Sunday she issued this official statement:

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Violent crimes and other acts of hate by right-wing extremists and white nationalists are on the rise in this country and around the world. We can no longer ignore that they are being encouraged by the occupant of the highest office in the land. ...

Violent rhetoric and all forms of hate speech have no place in our society, much less from our country’s Commander in Chief. We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop.

How did Donald Trump respond to critics who point out that sharing an anti-Muslim video with his millions of online followers has endangered Ilhan Omar's life?

On Monday, a reporter in Minnesota asked Trump if he had any "second thoughts about that tweet and the way it was produced and put together.” Our president replied, "No, not at all.” This is more proof of his apparent sociopathy and utter indifference to the harm he causes other people.

Trump then continued his racist slurs:

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Look, she’s been very disrespectful to this country. She’s been very disrespectful, frankly, to Israel. She is somebody that doesn’t really understand life, real life. What it’s all about. ... It’s unfortunate. She’s got a way about her that’s very, very bad, I think, for our country. I think she’s extremely unpatriotic and extremely disrespectful to our country.

This is part of a long pattern of racism and bigotry against Omar and other Muslims by Donald Trump. That pattern includes "birtherism" (which always involved the implication that Barack Obama might be a Muslim) an effort to ban Muslims from entering America, threats to create a national Muslim registry and obvious lies that Muslims in the New York area celebrated as nearly 3,000 people were murdered on 9/11. On Monday, before he traveled to Minnesota, Trump told his public this:

Before Nancy, who has lost all control of Congress and is getting nothing done, decides to defend her leader, Rep. Omar, she should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful U.S. HATE statements Omar has made. She is out of control, except for her control of Nancy!

Beyond questions of basic human decency, why would Trump walk back, apologize or otherwise neutralize the negative attention he is receiving for encouraging violence against Ilhan Omar? After all, Republicans and other conservatives largely agree with him.

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For Trump's MAGA-hat hordes and other members of the white right, Omar represents (at least) five of their "enemies". She is Muslim. She is black. She is a woman. She is young. She is a refugee and  an immigrant from a nonwhite country. For Trump and his inner circle, along with their supporters among the general public, the Republican Party and the right-wing media, Omar is a pollutant in their version of America. She and others like her are to be vomited out of our country's "melting pot."

Recent research from PRRI reinforces this fact: Republicans want America to remain a white-dominated country in which their authoritarian version of "Christianity" rules supreme. Predictably, this same research also demonstrates that Republicans, a group that is overwhelmingly white, believe that ethnic and racial diversity makes America weaker.

Writing at the Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein summarizes this dynamic:

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[T]he Republican acquiescence to Trump also reflects the larger reality that the party is now relying on an electoral base preponderantly tilted toward the white voters most hostile to immigration and most uneasy about demographic change overall — what I’ve called “the coalition of restoration.” Those attitudes, with only a few exceptions, are dominant not only among the white Republicans without a college degree who comprise Trump’s base, but also among the college-educated Republicans who have expressed more qualms about other aspects of Trump’s behavior.

Where Ilhan Omar has exemplified courage in the face of direct threats against her life, Donald Trump is a coward who encourages and incites racists, bigots and hate-mongers to do his vile and violent bidding (while of course maintaining just enough deniability to claim innocence). Trump is a symbol and inspiration of "white power" racial hatred. He may not literally order such acts of violence, but he helps to write and execute the script of white identity politics that enables them.

Whatever Attorney General Bill Barr's redacted version of the Mueller report may reveal this week, one thing is abundantly clear: There is a crisis in moral leadership among America's leaders. This crisis is most acute among Donald Trump, Republicans and other conservatives.

Trump and his enablers' thrive on greed, racism, violence, bigotry, misogyny, anti-intellectualism and other reactionary behavior and values. These things are by no means limited to public policy. Unlike what some commentators and observers claim to believe, politics and public policy are never separate from personal values. This is especially true in a moment of national and global crisis, when America's democracy and the rule of law are under siege by a right-wing authoritarian movement whose headquarters is in the White House.

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Trickle-down economics are a myth and a lie. Trickle-down immorality, from Donald Trump and other right-wing opinion leaders, on the other hand, is all too real.

I do not believe one can be a good person and continue to support Donald Trump. His failings of morality, character and values are now fully his supporters' failings as well. Ultimately, Trump and his supporters are knotted together in a malignant symbiosis, an affliction from which this country will not soon recover.


Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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