Joseph Sabino Mistick: If you came from someplace else, how will you vote in 2020?
For many Americans, the decision on how to vote in the 2020 presidential election will now be simpler. Hearing an American president tell any American to “go back where you came from” will be enough to decide the election for millions of voters who have been told that too often in their lives.
It is a cheap and easy insult for Donald Trump, because all of us have come from someplace else. This is the only nation on earth based on ideas, not blood or tribe or inheritance. An accent or an odd-sounding name or peculiar dress or different skin tone or hair, even the smell of your food, has always been enough.
Many Americans heard it growing up, as families moved into slightly better neighborhoods or tried for better jobs, chasing the American dream. And it has acted as a tidy shortcut for racists and bigots, anyone so insecure that he has to tear down others in order to elevate himself.
Trump should know better. His mother and his wife and her family were all born elsewhere. Just a few generations back, like all Americans but for Native Americans, the whole Trump crew was someplace else. If he thinks it’s such a great idea, maybe the Trumps should go back to where they came from, too.
Trump might have been throwing a little red meat to his most avid followers, pumping them up for his re-election campaign. When he was asked if he was concerned that white nationalists were rallying around his words, he said, “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me.”
And he is right. Of the steady 40% that has seemed unwilling to abandon him, even if he “shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue,” a certain bloc of supporters loves that talk. The crowd that marched in Charlottesville, Va., while chanting, “The Jews will not replace us,” is enthralled by his words.
Or maybe Trump was engaging in a little political arson, starting a fire to draw attention away from other things. Robert Mueller is about to testify before Congress. The war on families and children that he is waging at our border is starting to stick to him. And he hasn’t much luck with Iran or North Korea, let alone Russia and China.
But if he was trying to drive a wedge between regular Democrats and “the squad,” the four members of Congress he targeted for his “go back where you came from” epithet, it backfired.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is right. They have only four votes, and their ideas are not shared by the vast majority of Democratic lawmakers, but these four women of color are still part of the Democratic Party family and the great American family. And no one should talk to them like that.
Even Republican Ari Fleischer agrees, saying that when Trump punches this hard, “His punch goes too far and he ends up striking himself.”
So here is the simplest explanation. This is who he is. And now it is out there, unadorned, a crystal clear choice in 2020 for all of those Americans whose families have come from someplace else.
Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer. Reach him at [email protected].