“So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights,” he tweeted Tuesday. “All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!”
As the impeachment inquiry in the House barrels forward, his embrace of victimhood grows more pronounced.
Nearly 4,000 lynchings occurred between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that works toward ending excessive punishment, including mass incarceration. Trump is not unfamiliar with facts about the violence committed against black Americans simply because of their ethnic background. He has publicly toured multiple museums dedicated to educating people on the history of black Americans.
“The Civil Rights Museum records the oppression inflicted on the African American community — the fight to end slavery, to end Jim Crow, to gain the right to vote — so that others might live in freedom,” he said in 2017 a day after touring the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. “Today we pay solemn tribute to our heroes of the past and dedicate ourselves to building a future of freedom, equality, justice, peace.”
And Trump’s tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture shortly before he took office began in the history galleries, which start with the global slave trade, easily the most horrific time for black people in this country.
He has even engaged in personal conversations with Republican allies about the history of racism in the United States. In September 2017, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), the only black Republican in the Senate, met with Trump to explain to the president why his comments about the violent protests by white nationalists in Charlottesville enraged so many black Americans.
But Trump’s continued use of language that many black Americans find offensive is not because of ignorance. It is because to Trump, no one has endured more injustice than him.
The Washington Post’s Toluse Olorunnipa wrote this month that as the impeachment inquiry moves forward, Trump’s siege mentality has become more pronounced, evidenced by a long back-and-forth with reporters:
Trump grew most animated as he listed his grievances and described all the forces he believed are arrayed against him and his presidency.He repeated words like “hoax,” “scam” and “fraud” as casually as another president might say NATO or “shared values.”“So the political storm, I’ve lived with it from the day I got elected,” he said. “I’m used to it. For me, it’s like putting on a suit in the morning.”He complained that after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s extensive probe into Russian election meddling and potential obstruction of justice by the White House, he got only “three days of peace” before the threat of impeachment cast a cloud over the second half of his term.“I’ve lived with this cloud now for almost three years,” he said.The president lamented that former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) “would never give anybody a subpoena,” hesitating when Trump’s defenders wanted to use congressional powers to investigate Democrats and the FBI. By contrast, he said, Pelosi was a subpoena-approving machine.Trump also embraced a sense of victimhood-by-proxy for his aides, some of whom were implicated in Mueller’s probe.“They came down to Washington to do a great job,” he said of his aides, claiming that the investigations had “destroyed” them. “They left Washington dark.”But Trump also presented himself as the battle-scarred victor who was uniquely capable of fighting back against his perceived enemies and on behalf of his supporters.In describing how he has survived the “greatest hoax” in history and a “fraudulent crime on the American people,” he cited conservative media figures.“People have said to me, how does he handle it?” Trump said. “Rush Limbaugh said, ‘I don’t know of any man in America that could handle it.’ Sean Hannity said the same thing.”
Trump has run into some resistance over the past few weeks for his policy decisions. But this doesn’t appear to be one that particularly troubles his fellow Republicans.
Scott, who co-sponsored a bill last year to make lynching a federal hate crime, affirmed Trump’s belief that impeachment is a political death while backing away from his use of the word “lynching.”
But Scott’s fellow senator from South Carolina, Lindsey O. Graham (R) — arguably Trump’s most consistent defender in Congress — backed up the president’s perspective and language despite representing a state where lynching was a common practice as recently as 1950.
And Sen. Ted Cruz (R.-Tex.), who represents a Southern state where the systemic killing of black people was not uncommon, said the connotation of the word lynching “is an objectively true description of what is happening in the House right now.”
To no surprise, many black Americans disagree with Trump and his defenders’ use of the word, and deem it the latest reminder that the president genuinely has no interest in moving his rhetoric and worldview in a direction that does not offend black Americans.
The Trump campaign has made clear that as it heads toward reelection, its primary goal will be to energize a base that backs the president in part for his rejection of political correctness, for his nostalgia for an America of years past and for his sympathy toward the cultural anxieties of white Americans uncomfortable with an increasingly diversifying country. To Trump and these supporters, it is they who are the real victims in this political moment, and it’s entirely likely that is what moved the president to appropriate a word that continues to evoke pain for many Americans deeply affected by the country’s racist history.