After President Donald Trump's Sunday tweet calling for four democratically elected women of color to "go back" to their country of origin (for three of them, that country is the United States), Trump declined to consider criticism that his words could be perceived as racist and divisive. "I don't have a racist bone in my body," Trump objected. He is not alone in defending his linguistic naivete.
Recent polls show that a majority of Republicans believe that it is not racist to tell minorities to go back to where they came from. Furthermore, Trump's approval rating has grown since pivoting to rhetoric that a vast majority of Democrats consider racist. At a campaign rally on Wednesday, Trump singled out U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar for attack. The nearly all-white crowd at East Carolina University chanted: "Send her back!" She is a native of Somalia.
Political analyst Otis Sanford says the heightened racial animus, stoked by the President, will likely overshadow many other issues as the 2020 campaign progresses.
As some Republicans join the President's white nationalist choir, other leaders show signs of moving in a more enlightened direction. Sanford says Gov. Bill Lee could be reconsidering Tennessee's various homages to slave owner Nathan Bedford Forrest, including a memorial bust that appears in the state capitol. While many Republicans in the general assembly believe it is a celebration of their history, Lee, who has been criticized for wearing Confederate uniforms while in college, now says he is open to further discussion on the matter.