Spotlight: Trump’s spat with minority lawmakers continues ahead of 2020 elections

U.S. President Donald Trump continues to spar with a group of minority lawmakers in the lead-up to the 2020 elections. While Trump extols how his administration has helped minorities, Democrats accuse the president of racism.

Trump has in recent weeks been embroiled in a tit-for-tat war of words with a group of minority lawmakers, which has grabbed headlines.

Elijah Cummings, an African American Congressman, has questioned sanitation and other humanitarian conditions in U.S. border facilities that house migrants caught illegally entering the United States, highlighting a hot-button political issue between the two parties.

In response, Trump lambasted Cummings on the conditions in the city of Baltimore — just an hour from the nation’s capital — part of which lies in Cummings’ district. Trump tweeted over the weekend that the city was a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous and filthy place.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s spat with “the Squad” — four freshmen Congresswomen of color — continues, amid Democrats’ and media accusations that Trump is racist, criticizing women of color. Trump has blasted Democratic Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, telling them to “go back” to their home countries, even though Omar is the only one of the four born abroad.

Some experts believe Trump wants to constantly dominate the media spotlight by engaging in these fights. Initially, “the Squad” had a beef with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, not the president. But Trump inserted himself into the squabble in a bid to keep the media’s focus on him.

Other analysts said his criticism of Cummings and “the Squad” is a nod to white voters. Still others argued that Trump aims to grab more of the African American vote by highlighting the deep problems in Cummings’ district and charging that Democrats are not helping African Americans.

“These four members of Congress are high-profile Democrats who are both vocal Trump critics and are more liberal than the average member of the Democratic caucus. So to an extent, Trump is trying to make these four members the face of the House Democrats, which could be detrimental to other Democrats from more moderate districts,” said Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College.

“Throughout his campaign and administration, Trump has repeatedly lionized white, working class men in his rhetoric. His criticisms of Omar etc. — particularly the ugly ‘send her home’ and ‘go back where they came from’ language — is at least in part about defining politics as a space dominated by white men,” Galdieri said.

“Finally, it gives him antagonists. Trump is often at sea when he has nobody to contrast himself with, and ‘the squad’ makes for ready-made opponents in his tweets,” Galdieri said.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell told Xinhua that Democrats are going to “double down on (accusations of) racism and Trump is going to show them how ridiculous their claims are.”

Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua that Trump is “criticizing minority legislators in order to get more white votes. He sees race as a fundamental dividing point in American society, and he wants a big white turnout in order to win.”

“What he doesn’t realize is how his rhetoric also mobilizes minority voters for Democrats. They are upset with his divisive comments and are likely to turn out in big numbers in 2020,” West said.