Trump’s Refugee Rhetoric is Racism in Plain Sight

Just a day after the first presidential debate, Donald Trump doubled down on his racism.

Actually, tripled or quadrupled down is more like it. After failing to directly denounce white supremacists on Tuesday night, Trump took to a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday and warned his supporters that Joe Biden—along with Rep. Ilhan Omar—would turn their city and state into a “refugee camp.”

Trump’s refugee rhetoric is about as obvious as his racism gets. It’s a very direct dog whistle (through a bullhorn) to his mostly white, suburban-dwelling supporters concerned about black people and immigrants moving into their communities. It’s why he’s been whining about the destruction of suburbia at the hands of Black Lives Matter and Antifa for months.

Tying in Omar—who is subject to constant right wing harassment and disinformation, including a recent bullshit sting from Project Veritas about ballot harvesting—adds Islamophobia to the mix. Which Trump knows his supporters love. It’s the kind of racism that’s just barely veiled enough for his supporters and surrogates to deny it (albeit without any real plausibility). Once it’s explained in plain language, though, it sounds fairly straightforward.

It’s basically a stripped-down version of the same playbook Trump ran on four years ago. There’s no real reason to hide the racism when your supporters are into it and you’re confident you can win on (or despite) it. Trump telling the Proud Boys and other violent right wing extremists to “stand back and stand by” sent a collective shock through the political sphere. But it really shouldn’t have been all that shocking. This is exactly who the president is, what he’s running on, and who he’s appealing to. There are surely supporters who aren’t fully on board with Trump’s gutter racism, but by supporting him they’re effectively co-signing it. You can’t deny or decry an integral part of the man’s brand. Virulent bigotry is all Trump has left, and it’s the reality he’s given his voters. It’s much easier to square a circle when you won’t concede that the circle is round.