COLUMN

Of Course Trump’s Hail Mary Is to Attack the Squad

When backed into a corner, the president taps his worst impulses

Photo: Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

Donald Trump is panicking. We can tell by his tweets, which grow somehow more unhinged (and randomly capitalized) by the day. We know he’s worried by his desperate attempts to make a Hunter Biden scandal happen, despite the absence of evidence or mainstream interest. But most of all, we can tell that the president is deeply unnerved by his recent attacks on the “squad” of Democratic congresswomen of color.

Because when Trump feels backed into a corner, he retreats immediately to misogynist and racist attacks.

Trump has long been attacking vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, claiming that the California senator is a radical leftist. (She is not.) The president has also suggested that Harris would assume the presidency from Biden and warned against having a “female socialist president.” But the slings at Sen. Harris aren’t sticking — especially the lie that she is some kind of secret revolutionary. That’s why Trump has turned his attention to “the squad”: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib.

At a Minnesota rally last week, for example, the president attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar, saying she “likes telling us what we should do, how we should run our country. She hates our country.” Trump also attacked the Minnesota congresswoman at a rally in Florida earlier this month where he claimed the congresswoman came into the country illegally: “[She] married her brother or something,” the president said, referring to a false and racist conspiracy theory.

Rep. Omar responded over Twitter, writing that Trump was “unraveling.” “What you are witnessing is the weakest expression of strength… It’s similar to the final acts of fallen dictators.”

Trump has also used his rallies as an opportunity to question Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s academic background. At a Pennsylvania event on Monday, Trump wondered aloud, “She did go to college, right?” He doubled down on the question the next day at a rally in Wisconsin, asking the audience, “Did she go to college? Tell me, did she? Because I don’t know.” (She did, graduating cum laude from Boston University in 2011.) Of course, it’s Trump himself who has been accused of paying someone to take his SATs to gain admission into college and is notoriously thin-skinned about his intelligence and educational background. It seems clear that at least some of this nonsense is about projection.

At the heart of Trump’s attacks is a familiar panic of losing the election. The president believes that attacking powerful women of color on the left will energize his base and stoke racist and sexist fears in moderate white voters. If anything, it’s a sign that Democrats have Trump on his heels; the rush of insults against some of the most successful and exciting female politicians in America just make his weaknesses all the more clear.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store