It’s almost impressive, the array of bigotries that US President Donald Trump usually manages to exhibit within a 280-character limit. On Monday, however, it took three tweets for Trump to ask elected legislators, four women of colour, to “go back to the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”. First, the facts: Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib were born in the US. Ilhan Omar was born in Somalia and is an American citizen. Second, for the kind of politics Trump seeks to engage in, the facts don’t matter.
The four legislators, “the squad”, are part of a new breed of Democrats that is unabashedly pro-diversity, and stands for a welfare state that guarantees healthcare and education. Within the Democratic Party, they have been taking on the embedded, centrist leadership. Trump has sought to reduce this internal dialogue, even battle, between Centre and Left, old and young to White and non-White, American and un-American. His aim: To pander to the insecurities of a class of voters that feels left behind by the march of globalisation and the decline of the industrial economy. But Trump’s attack has not put “the squad” on the defensive. All four Congresswomen have taken on Trump, asserting their right to protest and be heard in the country they belong to.
The liberal consensus, shattered by the election of populist right-wing leaders across the globe, often relied on “capturing the middle ground”, afraid of alienating either the Left or Right. It is this fear, perhaps, that allows calls of “go back to where you came from” — whether in Pakistan, Syria, Burma, Bangladesh, or even in India — to go unanswered. But it appears the new breed of politician in America has an appropriate response. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “But you know what’s the rub of it all, Mr President? On top of not accepting an America that elected us, you cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.”