GREENVILLE, N.C. — President Donald Trump road-tested his attacks on four Democratic congresswomen Wednesday, casting them as avatars of anti-American radicalism and reiterating his call for them to leave the country, in a preview of a slash-and-burn reelection strategy that depicts Trump as a bulwark against a “dangerous, militant hard left.”
“These left-wing ideologues see our nation as a force for evil,” Trump told a packed arena here.
To roaring applause, the president railed against what he called “hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down.”
“They don’t love our country,” he said. “I think, in some cases, they hate our country. You know what? If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it.”
In recent days, similar comments by Trump have been met with repugnance across the country. But the capacity crowd in an arena at East Carolina University seemed to savor them. After Trump reeled off several controversial comments made by one of the four congresswomen, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, including ones that he depicted as sympathetic to al-Qaida, the crowd started up a rousing chant of “Send her back! Send her back!”
It was the latest sign that the president’s plan for winning a second term in office involves playing to racial and nationalist themes that shock the consciences of many Americans but seem to delight his most ardent supporters.
Trump doubled down on his previous calls for the four congresswomen — Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — to “go back” to their countries of origin, even though all but one were born in the United States and all four are citizens. It left no doubt that he was undaunted by condemnations of his remarks as racist, including a Tuesday vote by the House.
After Trump’s rally ended, Omar retweeted a comment by Jon Favreau, a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama, saying that the crowd’s chant of “Send her back!” was “one of the most chilling and horrifying things I’ve ever seen in politics.”
Above that statement, she quoted poet Maya Angelou, writing in part: “You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.