So “Send her back!” is the new “Lock her up!” And U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar — not U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar — is the Minnesota politician the nation is focused on this week.
President Donald Trump took his re-election campaign on the road again Wednesday night, and in case you missed it, he kept up his attack on Omar. It likely won’t be the last time his faithful followers respond with chants of “Send her back!”
Trump’s newest appeal to voters is obvious. He unveiled it Sunday, with tweets attacking four congresswomen of color: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Omar. Trump tweeted that the four came from countries that were “a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, the most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world.” And then he told them to “go back there … you can’t leave fast enough.” Only Omar, who came to the U.S. as a child, was not born in this country.
Trump carried that message to a Wednesday campaign rally in North Carolina. Many Minnesotans who watched the chilling “Send her back!” show were no doubt reminded of one of the defining moments of the late Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.
“Struggling to contain an emotional fire his own campaign kindled, Republican presidential nominee John McCain spent much of a town hall meeting in Lakeville on Friday trying to cool his supporters’ growing hostility toward Democrat Barack Obama,” former Star Tribune staff writer Bob von Sternberg reported after the event.
When a woman attending the town hall called Obama “an Arab,” McCain shook his head, grabbed back the microphone and said, “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.”
Contrast McCain’s approach with the disturbing tactics of the current White House occupant, who appears content to make “Send her back!” a 2020 campaign theme.
The Star Tribune Editorial Board chose not to endorse Omar in her successful 2018 bid for Congress and has criticized the first-term congresswoman for several missteps while in office. But the xenophobia that Trump is contributing to by suggesting that an American citizen elected to Congress “go back” to her home country is both disturbing and dangerous.
The next 16 months will tell us a lot about America’s soul.
Opinion editor’s note: This editorial is excerpted from Thursday’s edition of the daily Star Tribune Opinion e-mail newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, which highlights the best of editorial and commentary and notes from editorial page editor Scott Gillespie, go to bit.ly/OpinionNewsletter.