Trump launches 2020 campaign with racist and anti-communist attacks
An angry man wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat shouts at demonstrators walking in the Chattanooga Women's March on Jan. 21, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. President Trump is determined to make racism, fear, and resentment the hallmark of his 2020 campaign as well. | Doug Strickland / Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP

With his vicious attack on Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib, the current “occupant” of the White House officially launched his re-election campaign this week.

Trump drew what he hopes will be the battle line for the 2020 elections. Voters will have to pick a side: white Christian supremacy or a country overrun by outsiders, people of color, immigrants, Islamic terrorists, and, in the words of Sen. Lindsey Graham, “a bunch of communists.”

With the entire GOP in tow, Trump promises to make sure, with plenty of lies and disinformation, that this election tops the 2016 campaign in its disgusting appeal to bigotry, hate, and fear.

Trump is right, but only partially. The 2020 elections will be about deciding the future of the nation, but not as he frames it. The question instead is whether the U.S. will be a white supremacist, Christian nationalist, authoritarian state or a multi-racial, inclusive democracy, with full equality, welcoming to all.

This question, in one form or another, has been contested since the nation’s founding and fundamentally shaped our history.

Stirring up fear and racial resentments is something Trump knows all too well. Coincidently, I’ve been watching Ava DuVernay’s powerful but painful series, When They See Us, about the five African-American youth unjustly convicted of raping a white woman in 1989 in New York’s Central Park. Trump figures prominently, inciting racial fears and demanding the death penalty for the youth.

Campaigning on racial resentments is the stock and trade of the modern Republican Party going back at least as far as Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” of the 1960s and ’70s.

And Trump and the GOP will do it again for obvious reasons: Aside from being deeply racist, they are bankrupt of solutions to the unprecedented problems and crises the country and world face. And the majority of people oppose the proposals they do have.

The only way Trump sees winning re-election is to mobilize white supporters based on lies, fear, and racial resentments and to suppress the votes of people of color while branding the Democratic Party as radically extreme.

The 2020 elections, in this way of thinking, are a contest between those who are disloyal, “hate America,” and want to undermine it—i.e., people of color, Islamic terrorists, socialists, and communists—and those who are loyally patriotic, treasure freedom, and love this country. In this telling, it is he, Trump, who is the most patriotic of all, the greatest defender of freedom, democracy, and white identity against radical socialism.

GOP Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Liz Cheney also camouflage the racist appeals by posing it as a contest between freedom and socialism or big government totalitarianism. The four “socialists” are trying to steal power from the American people and give it to the government. They hate Israel and are deeply anti-Semitic. They are against putting America first and ungrateful for the freedoms they enjoy. They refuse to support our troops defending our freedom and want open borders to allow in criminals, rapists, and the lot. They want to eliminate all private health care and destroy Medicare.

Not ironically, it is, of course, Trump who is actually lawless, undermining the Constitution, ignoring the separation of powers, obstructing justice, imprisoning thousands of asylum seekers indefinitely in cages, including children, separating families, dismantling government protections, attacking the press as an “enemy of the people” while spreading lies and disinformation, and colluding with foreign powers to undermine national sovereignty.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party is silent on Trump’s lawlessness and racism, is passing right to work and voter suppression laws, stripping women of reproductive rights, and denying health care to millions by attempting to destroy the ACA and Medicare.

Trump’s approach is taken directly from the so-called “alt-right” or fascist playbook. Scare people, particularly white people, by conjuring up dire threats posed by enemies domestic and foreign. And the most dangerous enemies of all? Brash women of color, one a Muslim refugee, all branded as extreme socialists.

It is a continuation of his 2016 election playbook. Then, the threats were Mexican criminals and rapists pouring across the border and Islamic terrorists.

By telling the four Congressmembers to “go back to their countries,” and calling them communists, Trump is caricaturing them as foreign enemies, outsiders, here to undermine the U.S. political system.

Then-candidate Donald Trump at a rally in 2016. | Chris Carlson / AP

This is the old McCarthyite tactic. During the Cold War, communists were characterized as foreign agents of Moscow, as people who hated the U.S. and were hell-bent on undermining it from within. Communists were not loyal to the U.S. flag; they had to be imprisoned, deported, or sent “back to Russia.”

The Cold War anti-communism served its intended purpose: scare the American people and squash all forms of dissent. It served to divide the labor movement and squash any opposition to the business class or to military build-up. It’s a stain on our democracy that persists to this day.

In Trump’s telling, Rep. Omar is the worst and most disloyal of all because she is an Islamic refugee from Africa. Using Islamophobia, Trump falsely links Omar with al-Qaeda, foreign terrorism, and anti-Semitism. These false charges divert from Trump’s genuine connections to domestic white supremacist and fascist terrorists.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez responded effectively. Loyalty is demanded, she said, because Trump has lost the argument over policy.

It is no accident that Trump also told Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, and Tlaib to “go back to the countries you came from,” even though they were born in the U.S.

Besides being an old racist slur, it is an embedded goal of this administration to slow down, halt, and reverse the changing racial demographics of the nation and ensure white supremacist rule forever.

Trump aims to achieve this by blocking immigrants and asylum seekers from entering the country and conducting mass deportations of those already here. Last fall, he even floated the idea of issuing an executive order to repeal birthright citizenship, despite the fact it is enshrined in the 14th Amendment. That addition to the Constitution was passed after the Civil War precisely because some sought to deny liberated slaves, including those born here, the right of citizenship and equal protection.

These are dangerous times that require maximum unity of all people of goodwill and the greatest voter mobilization yet to affirm the kind of inclusive, diverse, and just country the American people want.


John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, where he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs. He currently lives in Chicago.