In 2016, it was “lock her up.”
In 2019, it’s “send her back.”
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President Donald Trump doubled down on the go-back-to-where-you-came-from trope during a Wednesday rally in Greenville, N.C., laying into the four progressive House members who have styled themselves as the foil to the Republican president.
During his first rally since officially relaunching his re-election campaign, Trump spent more of his initial energy focusing on the four new Democratic members — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — than his assorted 2020 presidential opponents. The rally was a campaign distillation of the racist tweets he had sent Sunday where he insisted the four members “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
“They are always telling us how to run it, how to do this,” Trump said Wednesday of the Democratic freshmen. “You know what? If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it.”
Save for the occasional heckler, the crowd at East Carolina University seemed to enjoy his new campaign themes, chanting “send her back” and responding to other encouragement to make itself heard. It echoed the way crowds on the 2016 campaign trail delighted in chanting “lock her up” when Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was mentioned, except none of the four congresswomen is running against him.
Most of Trump’s complaints about the members were recycled attacks that have already garnered criticism for taking the members’ words out of context. Trump accused Pressley of trying to monopolize the narratives of people of color and claimed Omar minimized the 9/11 attacks while sympathizing for Americans trying to join ISIS.
Trump mocked Ocasio-Cortez’s name, saying “I don’t have time to go with three different names. We will call her Cortez. It takes too much time.” He also called her proposed Green New Deal a failure.
But the reaction to the old attacks was reshaped following Trump’s Sunday tweets. When Trump mentioned Omar, the crowd exploded in chants of “Send her back!” One attendee shouted out: “Let’s get rid of her!” Omar was born in Somalia and came to the United States as a child.
While Trump also went after his 2020 Democratic opponents, reviving the taunts “Sleepy Joe” and “Pocahontas” for rivals Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the four freshman Democrats — who have been branded as “the Squad” — were the primary initial targets.
In an event originally scheduled as counter-programming for Robert Mueller’s testimony (rescheduled for next week), Trump also offered a rare positive word for members of the opposite party, thanking House Democrats for voting to table a measure Wednesday to explore immediately impeaching Trump. It’s an issue that has divided the Democratic caucus as senior members advocated for waiting before going forward on impeachment.
“I just heard that the United States House of Representatives has overwhelmingly voted to kill the most ridiculous project I’ve ever been involved in, the resolution — how stupid is that — on impeachment,” Trump said. Earlier in the day, 137 Democrats and 194 Republicans voted to delay the measure indefinitely.
“I want to thank those Democrats, because many of them voted for us,” he said at the top of the rally.
The president distinguished those Democrats from the Squad, whom he characterized as un-American.
Trump later added of the House Democrats who didn’t vote for immediate impeachment: “They are fine. And they — you know, you lose to them, it’s different. It’s OK. It’s called normal political back-and-forth. But I want to tell you something. The Democrats are becoming so violent, so vicious, moving so far left, it’s out of control.”
Trump later called Democrats the party of “intolerance and division,” whereas “the Republican Party is the party for all Americans and American values.”