Eight days after igniting a national firestorm by sending a series of racist tweets urging four Democratic congresswomen of color to “go back” where they came from, President Donald Trump was at it again. Here’s what he tweeted at “The Squad” — aka Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan) — on Monday:
“The ‘Squad’ is a very Racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart. They are pulling the once great Democrat Party far left, and were against humanitarian aid at the Border…And are now against ICE and Homeland Security. So bad for our Country!”
I want to hone in on one aspect of that tweet — where the President of the United States says that the members of “The Squad” are “not very smart.”
On what, you might ask, is Trump basing that conclusion about the intellectual capacity of these four female progressive Democratic members of Congress?
After all, it’s hard to imagine that Trump suddenly gained access to IQ tests for the four. Or that Ocasio-Cortez’s double major in international relations and economics at Boston University or Tlaib’s law degree from Western Michigan University were evidence that they weren’t smart. Omar graduated from North Dakota State University. And Pressley went to Boston University for two years before she dropped out to help her out-of-work mother.
What then, could it be?
The answer of course is that all four members of “The Squad” are a) women and b) people of color.
Why might that be the real — and only — reason for why Trump said they were “not very smart?” A little thing I like to call history.
As Trump toured the country during the 2018 midterm campaign, he would almost always include a line in his stump speech attacking California Rep. Maxine Waters, who is African-American. “Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low IQ person, has become, together with Nancy Pelosi, the Face of the Democrat Party,” Trump tweeted in June 2018. “She has just called for harm to supporters, of which there are many, of the Make America Great Again movement. Be careful what you wish for Max!”
Two months after that, Trump sent this tweet — aimed at CNN’s Don Lemon and NBA star LeBron James, both of whom are black: “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!” (The Mike he was referencing was Jordan, also an African-American basketball legend.)
Which, well, feels like something more than a coincidence.
The best-case explanation for Trump’s fact-free judgement on the intelligence of “The Squad” goes like this: Trump is an equal-opportunity offender when it comes to attacking people’s intelligence. As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote in August 2018:
“Trump often divides the world into two groups: those who are stupid (or dumb or ‘dummies’ or ‘low IQ’) and those who aren’t. It was also a reminder that, of late, Trump has often chosen to describe as stupid people who are not white.
“That wasn’t always the case. Before the presidential election, Trump mostly disparaged white people as stupid.”
There’s some evidence for that theory in Trump’s recent tweets not aimed at “The Squad.” For example, he called the former UK ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch, a “very stupid guy” earlier this month. And he tweeted this about New York Times columnist Paul Krugman: “He is obsessed with hatred, just as others are obsessed with how stupid he is.” Darroch and Krugman are both white males.
So at a minimum, the President of the United States leans on a grade-school epithet (“You’re so dumb!) to describe people who disagree with him.
At a maximum, Trump knows exactly what he is doing with these descriptions of the intelligence of “The Squad” and other people of color. And he is also entirely unaware of the negative history he evokes when attacking women and people of color as stupid.
Either way, not a good look. At all.