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The Evil Genius of Trump’s Bigotry

July 15, 2019
The Evil Genius of Trump’s Bigotry
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

1. Trump’s Tweets

I know everyone is saying how no one is willing to defend Trump’s tweets, but that’s not exactly true. Here’s Ann Althouse mounting an affirmative defense.

It is . . . something:

1. Who is he talking about? He doesn’t name names, so it’s an invitation for others to do the defining. I see many people talking about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and expressing outrage that Trump would speak of her as an immigrant when she was born in the United States. But he didn’t name her. His words exclude her. She’s really got a hold on people’s mind!

2. What, exactly, is supposed to be racist here? Clearly, these tweets cause some readers to feel that racism is being expressed, but it’s hard to find it in these words. I see “RACIST” but that’s in the context of ostensibly sticking up for Nancy Pelosi. Some Democrats are calling her racist, and that shows how unfairly quick they are to see racism. Defending Pelosi, he implicitly defends himself.

3. Is it xenophobia? He’s not saying get out and stay out. He’s saying don’t criticize the United States if you immigrated from a worse country. Go back to that place, fix it, and “The come back and show us… how it is done.” He’s welcoming the immigrant back, after these steps are taken. Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect someone to return to a place they left and become involved in changing that place, but it’s a figure of speech. He seems to be saying that those who were not born here, who chose to move here, have a special obligation to express love for America, that they should tone down their criticism of America.

Maybe it’s tongue-in-cheek. I don’t read Althouse enough to know anymore.

But some other conservatives are upset—not because they seem to think that what Trump tweeted was base or bigoted. No, but because what he said was tactically stupid and helpful to the Democrats. For instance, here is John Hinderaker. And here is “Bonchie” at Red State:

This is so self-destructive that it makes me want to beat my head against a wall.Of the “Congresswomen” he could possibly be addressing here (which are undoubtedly Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley), three of them were born in America. They don’t have countries to go back to. One isn’t even a first generation American. She’s just…black.

Sure, I could parse this out and torture it, asserting that Trump is really only talking about Ilhan Omar despite the entire thing being in the plural tense and the aforementioned four all being in the news for the very thing he’s complaining about. I’m not going to do that though because I’d be lying to myself. This wasn’t thought out or planned. It wasn’t nuanced. It was Trump jumping on Twitter, not thinking about what he was saying, and pushing the publish button on the tweet.

All Trump had to do was stop and reflect for a moment. He’s got people all around him who could have pointed out “hey, this is going to cause a lot of blow back on you and your supporters at the worst possible time.” Another set of eyes and a simple tweak to the wording could have fixed it, but he refuses to take those precautions. Even now, he could issue a follow up clarification that would at least help provide some semblance cover for his supporters. He hasn’t done so.

If I could ask the President one question, it’d be this. Why make it so difficult for those who are trying to get you re-elected?

How thoughtless of the president, making the people who want him reelected look silly.

And yet, I disagree with Hinderaker and Bonchie. I do not think that Trump’s tweet hurt him, at all. In fact, I suspect they will help him quite a bit.


  • Nancy Pelosi was in the middle of a fight with the farthest fringe of the Democratic caucus, and she was succeeding in her attempt to marginalize them.
  • Trump has used the power of his negative partisanship to make it impossible for Pelosi (or any other Democrat) to push back against these fringes. Because now, to do so is tantamount to endorsing Trump’s bigotry.
  • Every candidate wants to pick his opponent. Trump’s attack elevates the Democrats who represent the least serious challenge to him in 2020.
  • By elevating AOC, Omar, et al, Trump effectively makes them the face of the Democratic party.
  • The biggest threat to Trump is a relatively moderate Democratic nominee who is capable of performing a Sister Souljah maneuver. For instance: Joe Biden is the nominee and he denounces the Green New Deal as mindless socialism, or some such. This attack basically forecloses that option.
  • And what percentage of Trump’s base support do you suppose this will cost him? If we round up, maybe 0.00 percent?

In a very real sense the bigoted, un-American nature of Trump’s Tweets makes them more effective, not less.

Had Trump criticized them on substance, then other Democrats could have also criticized these women on the substance, after an interval.

By making the attack in this manner, he more or less ensured that every Democrat would be forced to defend AOC, Omar, et al. And that future criticisms of them—from any side—could be dismissed as just more bigotry.

In other words, I’m with Charlie Sykes: This was a political masterstroke.

Unless, that is, you care about American political discourse.

3. Djokovic

Tennis is, like wrestling, a sport of faces and heels; main eventers and mid-carders. But in tennis, the heels don’t get the championships very often. In my lifetime, only three heels have won slams: Ivan Lendl, Leyton Hewitt, and Novak Djokovic, who is in the process of cementing himself as the Ric Flair of tennis. Or maybe the Triple H of tennis. Here’s the Ringer:

If you’re reading this outside a very limited geographical area in Eastern Europe, there’s a good chance you were rooting for Federer today. There’s also a good chance you don’t like Djokovic much. Federer worship has become—sometimes tediously—a default position for both casual fans and the tennis cognoscenti, and Djokovic has never been widely loved within the game. To his own fans, his relative unpopularity has to do with American and western European chauvinism and the reluctance of privileged fans from traditional tennis countries to see a Serb gate-crash the glass tower of Nadal and Federer. To everyone else, it has to do with Djokovic being kind of smug and needy and stressful to watch, and the way he seems like he’s a little too desperate for you to like him, and the way he rips his shirt off when he’s furious, and the way he smirks and bellows and hams it up for the crowd in ways the crowd didn’t ask for and doesn’t especially want. . . .

Federer (who is, again, the near-universal choice for greatest player of all time) won 36 games in a major final … and lost. Federer won at least six games in all five sets … and lost. Federer didn’t face a single break point in the first three sets … and lost. (He also lost two of those sets.) Federer won more games than Djokovic, 36-32. He won more points than Djokovic, 218-204. He served better than Djokovic by every measure: more aces (25-10), fewer double faults (6-9), higher first-serve percentage (63-62), higher percentage of points won on both his first serve (79-74) and second serve (51-47). He won more net points (51-24) and won them at a higher rate (78 percent-63 percent). He won more break points (7-3) and converted them at a higher rate (54 percent-38 percent). Djokovic is the best returner in the history of tennis, but in the final, Federer won more receiving points (79-64) and at a higher rate (36 percent-32 percent). He committed more unforced errors than Djokovic—his forehand was wobbly early in the match, and his recently rock-solid backhand became a little erratic during hour five—but more than made up his 10-point deficit there by hitting 40more winners than Djokovic, 94-54.

In just about every category imaginable, Federer was the better player, and he lost.

Read the whole thing. It reminds me of Flair/Triple H pinning Sting/The Rock with help from the Four Horsemen/D-X.

As an added bonus, some thoughts on other tennis-wrestler analogies:

Michael Chang = 123 Kid/X-Pac
Pete Sampras = Ultimate Warrior
Andre Agassi = Sean Michaels
Roger Federer = Hulk Hogan
Rafa Nadal = The Rock
Marat Safin = Brock Lesnar

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is editor of The Bulwark.