We’ve known for some time that racism is the only card Donald Trump has left to play. His failures as president are manifold and, as Election Day inches closer, he’s leaned hard into his base-inflaming bigotry. Whether it’s Black and brown people destroying suburbs or NBA players being dumb, Trump has plenty of odious racism to go around.
So when Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden’s running mate, it was only a matter of time until Trump legitimized conspiracy theories about her American citizenship and eligibility for the vice presidency.
It wound up taking only two days.
President Trump—who exploited birtherism during his political rise in the 2010s—is now again encouraging the racist, baseless theory regarding the first Black female running mate on a major party ticket. https://t.co/6kGHlk2EmO
— Michael Del Moro (@MikeDelMoro) August 14, 2020
At a White House briefing, Trump said that he heard Harris “doesn’t meet the requirements” of citizenship to become vice president. It echoed the sentiments from an egregious op-ed column by John Eastman, which falsely suggested that Harris would be ineligible because her parents emigrated from other countries. Harris herself was born in Oakland, Calif.
The conspiracy directly echoes birtherism claims against former President Barack Obama. Trump elevated that false and flagrantly racist theory for years, using it to raise his political profile. Since that worked so well, there’s no reason for Trump to think doing the same to Harris won’t work too.
Trump has reached the point in his presidency where almost nothing he says matters in real terms. No one besides his supporters trust anything that comes out of his mouth—his false claims are now being rigorously flagged and fact-checked by social media platforms and media organizations alike. Even his campaign to destroy the Post Office to disrupt mail-in voting has been called out for what it is—a blatant attempt to use government authority to retain power. There’s nothing behind his words or actions but the trappings and insecurities of the hollowed out shell of a person he truly is. When you’re that empty and hateful, racism’s quite appealing.
Falsely questioning Harris’ citizenship likely won’t work on reasonable people. In fact, it’s so openly racist that it could backfire, as some in the media have argued. But for those invested in Trump and all that comes with him, it’s further confirmation that he’s committed to his cause, no matter what kind of bigoted bullshit he has to spew to stay in power.