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What the chorus of ‘Send her back!’ tells us about Trump and his supporters

The crowd at President Trump's rally in Greenville, N.C., on July 17 chanted "Send her back!" as Trump spoke about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). (Video: The Washington Post)
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In rallying behind President Trump’s belief that a great America deports, the president’s base reminded its leader of something he already knew: There’s no daylight between them.

As The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker and Colby Itkowitz reported, attendees at Trump’s campaign rally Wednesday in Greenville, N.C., responded to Trump’s tweets attacking Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) with chants of “Send her back! Send her back!”

They wrote:

The event here made clear that Trump plans to use his criticism of the liberal lawmakers as a rallying cry during his 2020 campaign as he seeks to frame the election around the nationalistic message that has inflamed racial tensions across the country.

Omar is a naturalized citizen who moved to the United States as a child. She made several controversial statements early in her congressional career, and in a recent Washington Post Magazine article described why she has been so willing to criticize the United States. To Trump and his supporters, including ones in the media like Tucker Carlson, her willingness to criticize some things about the country rendered her unfit to be here. (Carlson called her “living proof” that U.S. immigration policy isn’t working.) Probably adding to their disdain for her is that a number of conspiracy theories have circulated about her, and Trump himself winked at one last night.

Trump’s tweets Sunday telling Omar and the three American-born members of Congress known as “the Squad” — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) — to “go back” to their countries if they don’t like America shocked many people in the political world, though it was pretty clear the president wouldn’t suffer repercussions from his most faithful supporters. As The Fix’s Aaron Blake pointed out yesterday, a new poll tested which Democrats were viewed least favorably by Republicans, and Omar and Ocasio-Cortez were at the top of that list.

In January 2016, Trump said at a campaign rally: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s, like, incredible.”

That’s not completely accurate. His support among some of the groups that helped send him to the White House isn’t what it used to be. Independent voters no longer back him at the rates they did in 2016. But Trump’s base — those voters who stand in line for hours to hear the president — is arguably more committed in their devotion than ever. And a Reuters/Ipsos poll out this week showed that the president’s net approval among members of his Republican Party rose by 5 percentage points.

Since the earliest days of the president’s campaign, surrogates have publicly defended Trump and his supporters, saying there is room for people of color, religious minorities and other marginalized groups in the president’s movement.

After Hillary Clinton said half of Trump supporters were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it,” vice presidential candidate Mike Pence pushed back, strongly defending the diversity of his supporters.

“The truth of the matter is that the men and women who support Donald Trump’s campaign are hard-working Americans,” he said in 2016. “Farmers. Coal miners. Teachers. Veterans. Members of our law enforcement community. Members of every class of this country who know that we can make America great again.”

And headed into the midterm elections, Mark Burns, a South Carolina pastor who unsuccessfully ran for Congress, pointed to black Trump supporters like himself as proof that the Make America Great Again movement was diverse.

"This is foolish to STILL be asking if The President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump is a Racist. Trump have so many LOYAL Black Americans that Love this country & President,” he tweeted in 2018.

Noah Rothman, associate editor of Commentary Magazine, wrote that the idea that Trump supporters are racist speaks to a deep flaw in liberal political worldview.

“The notion that the president’s voters or even his supporters are inherently racist is logically flawed, and the comfort with which so many prominent liberals have embraced it suggests there’s something deeply wrong with the modern liberal political ethos,” he wrote in 2018.

But Wednesday’s response to Trump’s tweet suggests that the inclusivity of Trumpism is not a settled issue. With more than a year left in this campaign, one can surmise how the president will respond to those with whom he disagrees politically. And his most loyal adherents have made it clear that when it comes to promoting his vision, they will go along as far as the president does.