We’ve all seen Donald Trump do this kind of thing before. He’s embarrassed because he’s lost an important political battle, or he’s worried that his worst scandals are getting too much attention, so he manufactures a superficial controversy that he thinks will wipe out the existing news cycle and then quickly die down on its own. The trouble is that this time, Trump lost control and took it way too far for his own good.
Last week Donald Trump lost the census battle in humiliating fashion, even as his Jeffrey Epstein scandal got so ugly it cost him a cabinet member, and his immigrant concentration camp scandal got so bad, he had to dispatch Mike Pence to (unsuccessfully) try to make it go away. So Trump did what he does whenever he’s in a hole: he tweeted something horrible, so everyone would shift their attention.
Donald Trump’s trick has always been to make his racism overt enough that his racist base loves him for it, but just ever so slightly veiled such that the political dummies in the middle are left confused as to what is and is not racist. It’s why Trump always speaks in terms of vicious racial stereotypes, but never actually says something like the n-word. But this time, he actually told four non-white people to “go back” to where they came from. That’s overt enough that just about everyone understands its maliciously racist intent.
Of course that was only half of Trump’s problem. He could have moved on after his initial racist tweet, and perhaps the media and the public would have ultimately moved on as well. But instead he doubled down on it on Monday, then tripled down on it, then ended up tweeting “YOU CAN LEAVE” in all caps, then held a press conference where he snapped and began yelling “Quiet!” at a reporter who was trying to ask him about it.
If this was a calculated strategy at the outset, it sure isn’t one now. Donald Trump has jumped the racism shark, even by his extremely racist standards. It’s put House Democrats in position to pass a resolution later today formally condemning him for his racism, and it’s put the average non-political American in position to understand that this guy really is as much of a racist as his critics have always claimed. Trump just blew it – and he just keeps digging himself a deeper hole.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report