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AFP
July 18, 2019

Donald Trump embraces political base as racial controversy rages

World

AFP
July 18, 2019

President Donald Trump moved to galvanise his core support on the campaign trail on Wednesday after sparking outrage with attacks on ethnic minority Democrats he has accused of hating America and urged to "go back" to their countries of origin.

Trump tweeted that he would discuss "people who love, and hate, our Country" at an evening rally in Greenville, North Carolina -- his first since announcing his 2020 re-election bid. The president’s appearance comes a day after he was censured by the House of Representatives for "racist" tweets targeting four first-term progressive lawmakers and use of hostile language targeting immigrants.

While Trump’s characteristically divisive rhetoric has enraged liberals, just four Republicans voted with the 235 Democrats to condemn him for "racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of colour."

Democratic leaders denounced Trump’s remarks, and rallied around the lawmakers -- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley. All are American citizens and Omar, who is of Somali origin, is the only one of the four born outside the US.

Trump’s attacks, which began at the weekend, and the Democratic response have laid bare deep partisan rifts in Washington. The uproar has also distracted lawmakers from other crucial issues such as the treatment of undocumented migrants at the border, and looming deadlines to raise the debt ceiling and reach a 2020 budget deal.

And it has led one Democratic congressman, Al Green of Texas, to force a House vote on Wednesday on whether to advance impeachment proceedings against Trump. It was unclear whether the articles of impeachment would advance to the Judiciary Committee or be tabled, essentially killing the measure. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has expressed opposition to advancing impeachment proceedings.

Before Tuesday’s House vote Pelosi antagonised Republicans when she called on all lawmakers to "join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets." Trump has a long history of pandering to white grievance, and the resolution criticised him for "saying that Members of Congress who are immigrants... do not belong in Congress or in the United States of America."

As the 2020 election season kicks into gear, Trump has signaled that he will reprise a divisive strategy he credits with helping him capture the White House in 2016.

Trump gave credence to the notion that his attacks on the Democratic quartet are part of a strategy to sully the opposition as a whole with their "socialist" tag, as he cited his improving poll numbers.

"Thank you to the vicious young Socialist Congresswomen," he tweeted. "America will never buy your act!" Trump’s provocations seem to have borne fruit, with his approval rating among Republicans rising five points to 72 percent, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Monday and Tuesday. But Trump’s latest outbursts may backfire. A new poll released on Wednesday shows that 59 percent of Americans believe his tweets were "un-American."

According to the USAToday/Ipsos poll, two-thirds agree that telling minority Americans to "go back to where they came from" is racist. While Republicans have been keen to paint Ocasio-Cortez and other freshman progressives as the "socialist" new face of an increasingly liberal Democratic Party, some GOP members sought to soften Trump’s message.

"Our opposition to our socialist colleagues has absolutely nothing to do with their gender, with their religion or with their race," congresswoman Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, said Tuesday. "It has to do with the content of their policies."

Trump, on the other hand, has stuck by his provocative comments. "Our Country is Free, Beautiful and Very Successful. If you hate our Country, or if you are not happy here, you can leave!" the president tweeted Tuesday.

Trump, who before becoming president pushed the racist "birther" conspiracy that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, added that his tweets "were NOT Racist. I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!" On Wednesday the four targeted lawmakers defended themselves against the president’s broadside. "He does not embody the principles, the responsibility, the grace, the integrity of a true president," congresswoman Ayanna Pressley told CBS News.

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