Donald Trump (Photo: AP)
Donald Trump (Photo: AP)

Opinion | Four Democrats likely to hand Trump another win on a platter

The extreme demands of ‘the Squad’ are helping Trump use racism and fear to his advantage

Over the last month, a political drama has been raging in the US. Centre stage are four first-time Democratic Party Congresswomen of colour, who call themselves “The Squad", and President Donald Trump. The other major—unwilling—actor is House of Representatives (Congress) Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking elected woman politician in US history (she is second in the line of succession to the presidency, after the vice president).

The Squad comprises Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. AOC is of Puerto Rican origin, Tlaib Palestinian, Pressley and Omar are African-Americans. AOC, 29, is the youngest Congresswoman ever, and Tlaib and Omar are the first Muslims. The Squad represents an ultra-radical leftist brand of politics that wants, among other things, completely open borders (unrestricted migration into the US); the abolition of the department of homeland security; and cancellation of all student debt. AOC also wants a full decarbonization of the US within 10 years, which will entail a 100% shift from fossil fuels, retrofitting every existing American building with green energy, and a drastic cut-down in air travel. The Squad insists that the current Democratic leadership in Washington, DC, is too status quoist.

Matters came to a head recently when the House passed a bill expanding funding for US immigration authorities by $4.6 billion. The Squad voted against the bill, the only Democrats to do so. Pelosi told The New York Times (NYT) dismissively: “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got." AOC, in response, tweeted: “That public ‘whatever’ is called public sentiment. And wielding the power to shift it is how we actually achieve meaningful change in this country." Her chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, went further, tweeting that the Squad were better leaders than Pelosi.

With the Democrats warring in public, a gleeful Trump jumped in and tweeted, asking the Squad to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came" (even though all Squad members are US-born, other than Omar, whose parents migrated from Somalia when she was a child). This led to widespread allegations of racism, which Trump denied. On Wednesday, however, at a rally in North Carolina, he continued his tirade, and the crowd chanted “send her back!" referring to Omar.

With the run-up to the 2020 presidential elections on, the Squad has put the Democratic Party in a fix, and Trump is loving it. Last year, he had an unexpected setback when, in the House of Representatives elections, the Democratic Party won a majority after eight years, winning the popular vote by more than 8.6%, the largest margin ever for a minority party. A significant percentage of women, graduates and independents switched and voted for Democrats, clearly angry with Trump. So did many moderate Republicans.

But the Squad’s demand for open borders scares a lot of white Americans across political ideologies, and even migrant American citizens (like many of my India-born friends). The truth is that while US unemployment is at a record low, for non-college-educated Americans, good jobs that pay the bills are in short supply, and unfettered migration is a nightmare for them. The Squad gets high media coverage because of its extreme demands, and Trump is slyly trying to make it the face of the Democratic Party (which these women are not), and frightening the hell out of the electorate to make sure he wins a second term.

A friend of mine, an India-born US citizen, tells me, “What the world does not realize is that Trump is changing the US socially and culturally. He has made racism, sexism and lying the new normal. We see it in our everyday life. People think: ‘If the president does it, we can do it, too.’ If he gets another term, he won’t have to worry about re-election, and he’ll do anything he wants. And he’ll leave a poisonous legacy that’ll last for many years."

The Che Guevara avatars in the Squad do not care about that—in their wild quest for revolution, they may be handing Trump four more years in the White House on a platter. They are basking in the media sunshine and hoping to make a bid for the presidency in another eight years—Omar, not being US-born, can’t run.

The Democratic Party is in a fix. It needs to control the Squad to make sure they do not alienate voters, yet handle this wild bunch with kid gloves, since they enjoy some support among the young, and ethnic minority and Muslim communities, especially low-income groups. A key reason Trump won in 2016 was that many Democrat voters stayed home on polling day. If the Democratic leadership cannot rein in the Squad, a lot more may do so in 2020.

Last week, NYT columnist Thomas Friedman called Trump a “racist, divisive, climate-change-denying, woman-abusing jerk". But his piece was titled “Trump’s Going To Get Re-elected, Isn’t He?"

Sandipan Deb is former editor of ‘Financial Express’, and founder-editor of Open and Swarajya magazines