Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denounced U.S. President Donald Trump’s call for four U.S. visible minority Congresswomen to “go back to where they came from”.
At a press conference he was asked whether he considered Mr. Trump’s statements, made via Twitter, racist.
Trump said four visible minority U.S. Democratic congresswoman should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” and “then come back and show us how it is done.”
“I think Canadians, and indeed people around the world, know exactly what I think of those comments,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters.
“That is not how we do things in Canada. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” he said.
He said Canada’s ethnically diverse population is a strength for this country and a source of pride. “We will continue to defend that.”
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh echoed Trudeau’s statements and tweeted “This is a sad & ugly display of racism by a President that shows no interest in, or ability to unite people. I stand with these Congresswomen and everyone who is targeted by this endless dog whistling by Trump.”
And on Wednesday, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer in Saskatoon, where he was speaking to the Chamber of Commerce, said “I don’t think there’s any place in our society for intolerance or … those kinds of divisive comments.”
The implications of race and the immigration issue for the fall federal election, will be discussed later in the article.
Trump ramps up anti-immigrant initiatives
Trump’s Twitter harangue goading Democratic congresswomen of color to “go back” to the country they came from, even though all but one of them were actually born in the United States, shocked many.
But it should have surprised few. When it comes to race, while others who occupied the White House at times skirted close to or even over the line on race issues, none of them in modern times fanned the flames as overtly and even as eagerly as Mr. Trump.
His attack on the four Democratic congresswomen known as the “squad” came on the same day his administration was threatening mass roundups of immigrants living in the country illegally. And it came just days after he hosted some of the most incendiary right-wing voices on the internet at the White House and vowed to find another way to count citizens separately from non-citizens despite a Supreme Court ruling that blocked him from adding a question to the once-a-decade census.
President Trump on Monday escalated his attacks on the four Democratic congresswomen of colour, saying that they hated the United States and were free to leave, and then broadened his criticism to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accusing her of making racist comments.
“They’re free to leave if they want. If they want to leave, that’s fine. If they want to stay, that’s fine,” Mr. Trump said on Monday, referring to Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts. “So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful nation on Earth, how our government is to be run.”
Racial attacks likely mean reprise of winning 2016 Republican campaign
With three days of attacks on the four liberal, visibility minority, freshman congresswomen, President Trump and the Republicans have sent the clearest signal yet that their approach to the 2020 election will be a racially divisive reprise of the strategy that helped Mr. Trump capture the White House in 2016.
His efforts to stoke similar cultural and racial resentments during the 2018 midterm elections with fears of marauding immigrant caravans seemed to have backfired as his party lost control of the House to the Democrats in 2016. But he appears to be undeterred heading into his own re-election campaign, betting that he can cast the entire Democratic Party as radical and un-American.
“He’s framing the election as a clash of civilizations,” said Charlie Sykes, a conservative writer who is critical of Mr. Trump. The argument Mr. Trump is making is both strategic and cynical, he said. “They’re coming for you. They hate you. They despise America. They are not you.”
“And if you look at the Electoral College map,” Mr. Sykes added, “the places that message will play are the places Donald Trump will need to win the election.”
While the Democrats were voting Tuesday to condemn the president’s attacks against the four women as racist, Trump campaign officials, by contrast, were trying to cast Monday as the day that the progressive “Squad” became the de facto leaders of the Democratic Party.
The four female freshman members of Congress, hold no formal leadership positions in their party, and none have been on the national political stage for much longer than a year.
Yet Republicans, led by Mr. Trump and buttressed by his allies in the conservative media, have spent months seizing on and distorting their more extreme statements.
Some aides to Mr. Trump’s campaign conceded that the president’s tweets about the four women on Sunday were not helpful.
But they said that Trump’s instincts on white resentment were what guided his campaign in 2016, when his attacks on immigrants resonated with alienated white voters in key states. They believe there is political value in having “the Squad” as the new face of the Democratic Party when Mr. Trump is tracing a path to re-election that runs through Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, where the four women would seem somewhat radical to the white, working class voters the Democrats need to take those states. .
Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign manager, has been telling people that it is very hard to persuade voters to change their vote in the current hyper-partisan political landscape.
Mr. Trump’s re-election strategy, instead, is to solidify his base and increase turnout. A major component of that is to portray his opponents as not merely disliking him and his policies, but also disliking America itself.
On Tuesday, only four Republicans and one independent broke with Trump and voted with the Democrats to condemn the president’s language in the House vote Tuesday, a stark reminder of just how far the party has come from the period when its leaders believed their political future depended on being a big tent, welcoming to Latino and African-American voters.
Instead, a range of Republican Party leaders were pushing messages of patriotism. Some attempted to sidestep the racial implications, while others seemed less concerned about the potential blowback.
And there is some evidence that the Trump strategy will work. In research published in a journal in February, Carlos Algara and Isaac Hale found that among white voters, high levels of racial resentment — measured by asking people whether they agree with statements such as “I am angry that racism exists” — were a better indicator of how someone would vote than party affiliation or ideological beliefs.
“The president and the Republican National Committee know that if you prime racial resentment attitudes among white Democrats, you’re more likely to win their votes,” he said. “It’s a very effective strategy.”
Trump campaign officials have expressed confidence in the state of the race. Mr. Trump’s favourability rating is about 46 percent.
They also found that there was still a sizable number of white Democrats who harbor relatively high levels of racial resentment, and that is helping Republicans across the board.
Will immigration play a role in the Canadian federal election?
Will we see race and immigration feature prominently in the upcoming federal election scheduled for October 21?
As discussed in a previous Canada Fact Check post, pollster Frank Graves and commentator Michael Valpy see the emergence of two distinct blocks of voters in Canada. One block consists of “people rooted in a specific place or community, socially conservative, often less educated, mainly male, mainly but by no means exclusively older and white”. The other block consists of “those who come from “anywhere” — footloose, often urban, socially liberal and university educated.”
In their eyes, the polarization between these two distinct kinds of voters “have created two irreconcilable Americas, two irreconcilable Britains and two irreconcilable Canadas.”
Graves and Valpy see Canada’s political parties orienting themselves around these two blocks of voters with the first block (roughly 35% of the electorate) solidly behind the Conservative Party of Andrew Scheer and the more urban, socially liberal voters splitting between the NDP, Liberals, Greens and the Bloc.
Again, will race and immigration play a central role in Canada’s fall election? The hard truth is that such an outcome can’t be ruled out if it seems to be the ticket to victory by Conservative Party strategists. It may be a softer, more subtle version of the Trump strategy but with the centre-left vote spread between four parties, their mainly white, 35% of the electorate, may be all the Conservatives need for a win.