Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Immediately following last week’s “go home’ presidential tweet, a chant erupted at a Trump rally in North Carolina that suggested, “Send her back,” referring of course to Rep. Ilhan Omar. Trump himself a day later sort of walked back the chant, supposedly under pressure from the Party establishment and his wife and daughter. Would that instead he had used the opportunity for a lesson in the First Amendment, which protects both the chanters and Omar’s vile anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, which are much more dangerous and consequential than a hyperbolic chant typical of such rallies events.
There’s no need to dwell on the hysterical response of the left. After three years of question-begging epithets like “racist,” such reactions have become political white noise for all but the cult faithful. It’s the Republican NeverTrumpers who need, once again, to be exposed for their virtue-signaling dudgeon that is music to the Dems’ ears. A catalogue of tweets put together by the Intelligencer provides some examples.
Most of the twitter responses typically come from a belief that transient words that do not lead to actions have some occult power to determine future behavior. Yet many commentators use hyperbolic epithets that, given the long history of much nastier political speech in America, drain the words of any specific meaning. If Ben Shapiro is going to call the chant “vile” and “disgusting,” then what does he call Omar’s anti-Semitic slurs? “Vile double-plus”? It’s the same indiscriminate use of words that has made “racism” into the go-to slur for the left, having been emptied of any precision and accuracy, and now nothing other than a bundle of nasty connotations suitable for any occasion.
Ditto for Guy Benson, who tweeted, “I am sickened by the hate-laced ‘send her back’ chants. Shame on every person who participated.” Again, what language will Guy use about Omar’s “sickening” and “hate-laced” rhetoric? Whose speech is more consequential: ordinary, anonymous citizens at a political pep rally, whose chant cannot and will not be carried out, or a Congresswoman who is currently setting the agenda for the Democrat Party, which if returned to power will implement policies putting Israel at risk and further legitimizing anti-Semitism? That would truly be shameful for this country.
NRO’s David French, who’s earned the moniker “pastor” for his holier-than-thou moralizing, agreed with Guy. “‘Send her back’ is unacceptable. It’s not a defense of Omar to say this is not how we treat American citizens.” Apart from the school-marmish “unacceptable”–– “completely and totally,” no less, which has the redundant ring of “double-secret probation”––the fact is yes, that is how people at a political rally for their party’s president treat an American citizen who is anti-Semitic and anti-American, and who is the public face of a party that has vilified the president and his supporters in terms that make “send her back” sound like a Shakespearian sonnet. Indeed, contrary to Joe Walsh’s claim the chant is “un-American,” our history shows us it’s as American as apple pie. American Candace Owens puts it well: “‘Send her back’ is crowd sentiment for ‘Anyone that hates America can leave. We are patriots who love this land, unapologetically.’”
Then there’s Matt Brooks, abusing language in the same way as Benson–– “vile” seems to be the go-to cliché–– with another old standby, that behaviors he doesn’t like “don’t reflect who we are as Americans” and “have no place in our society.” Really? Who elected Brooks the arbiter of genuine American identity? The U.S. from the start has been diversified by region, religion, occupation, ethnicity, and standards of decorum and styles of speaking. Historian Colin Woodard’s American Nation counts 11 “rival regional cultures,” as the subtitle reads. A Scotch-Irish like Twain’s Huck Finn is radically different from a Boston Brahmin like Henry Adams, as different as Andrew Jackson from John Quincy Adams. But they’re all genuine Americans. By the way, it was the cultured and classically educated Adams who colluded with Henry Clay to steal the presidency from Andrew Jackson, and then rudely snubbed his inauguration festivities. Trump and those chanters may not be Brooks’ Americans, but they’re still Americans.
And that goes as well for saying the chants “have no place in our society.” As protected free speech backed by the First Amendment, they absolutely have a place in “our” society, because they have a place in the Constitution, which is the foundational document for our political society.
And then there’s Jonah Goldberg, whose once “noble mind” has been “o’er thrown” by Trump hatred. “There is nothing in American patriotism that could create an argument for ‘send her back.’ There is plenty in nationalism that would demand it.” Whose “patriotism” would that be? That of affluent, credentialed, tony-zip code-living intellectuals? As I wrote last week, for millions of ordinary Americans the sentiment of “love it or leave it” expresses their love of their country, which they have gotten sick of hearing slandered and demonized, whether by citizens or immigrants––especially the latter, since they have chosen to come here because they want freedom and prosperity and opportunities, such as becoming a member of Congress, that don’t exist in their homelands. Goldberg, like other critics, would have a point if there were any possibility that Omar could be deported by Donald Trump. But fulminating over a chant that will not lead to action, and that we won’t be talking about in a week, is sheer bombast.
(And we shouldn’t pass over the historically inaccurate use of “nationalism” as a synonym for xenophobia or darker fascist proclivities. This distortion is an artifact of the globalist technocrats who realize national sovereignty, identity, and loyalty are impediments to their goal of centralizing and expanding regulatory power over our lives.)
Finally, Hugh Hewitt, in addition to repeating hyperbolic epithets like “nativist” and “terrible,” makes a flimsy tactical argument often used by those displeased with Trump’s “unpresidential” style: The chants are “also electoral suicide. There’re more than 400,000 naturalized residents in PA, w/ 200,000 more in Michigan,” states Trump won with thin margins. This is similar to Rep. Mark Walker’s criticism that the chant uses “phrasing that’s painful to our friends in the minority communities.” These sorts of criticisms based on electoral calculation 15 months before the election have no credibility. We’re supposed to believe that next November a potential voter in those states inclining to vote for Trump due to the economic benefits Trump’s policies gave the voter and his family, will change his mind because 15 months earlier some people at a rally somewherenchanted “send her back.” Whether he’s a blue-color worker in Pennsylvania, or a black construction worker in Michigan, I’m betting both are going to vote their pocketbook, not violations of the elite’s rules of how people at a political rally should behave.
This recent outburst of Republican virtue-signaling has all the elements of the disappointed Republican establishment we’ve been witnessing for three years: pandering to the progressives’ rules of speech, hysterically reacting to political speech they don’t like, using inflated language that leaves words empty of meaning, and displaying haughty disdain for those “other” Americans who don’t share their class-based mores and standards of decorum.
You know, the people who put Trump in the White House, making possible the booming economy, job creation, increased productivity, lower unemployment; the long-needed counterattack against truly fascist political correctness and assaults on Constitutional rights; and the restoration of the federal judiciary that has long been the progressives’ best ally in dismantling the Constitutional order that has for a century inhibited their socialist technocratic dreams.
But in the end, the NeverTrumpers have no argument that can counter the nightmare scenario of Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office continuing Barack Obama’s “fundamental transformation of America” while the economy languishes and the genocidal mullahs in Iran keep working on a bomb. That’s a big QED.