The president of the United States, Donald Trump, recently wrote a message on Twitter that was so unabashedly, obviously racist, it represents a watershed moment in our nation’s history.
On Sunday, President Trump directed a tweet at four U.S. House Democrats — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — telling the four women of color to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” All four women are United States citizens. Only Omar was born outside the U.S.
But that information is only evidence of the president’s tweet being factually incorrect. The more important concern is the evident racism of assuming that people of color must not be Americans, that they must be from impoverished and crime-ridden places — places inferior to America — and that they do not belong here.
It would have been bad enough, had someone in no position of political influence said this. Coming from the highest office in the nation, it is a poor representation of everything our country is supposed to stand for.
The president’s comments are racist. They are wrong. They are also divisive, which provides an opportunity for every Montanan to acknowledge that President Trump’s tweet crossed a line, and to declare what side of that line we stand on.
Since Sunday, a number of national leaders have stepped up to do just that. To Montana’s credit, our U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Gov. Steve Bullock, both Democrats, did not hesitate to condemn the president’s hateful rhetoric.
Unfortunately, our Republican senator and congressman apparently found it too difficult to break with their party and speak against the president’s outright racism.
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte offered this sour statement: “Greg is concerned less about where extreme liberal Democrats are from and more about their socialist agenda for socialized medicine, open borders, and a national gun registry. Greg will continue standing against socialism and working to protect our Montana way of life.”
And U.S. Sen. Steve Daines posted on Facebook and Twitter: “Montanans are sick and tired of listening to anti-American, anti-Semite, radical Democrats trash our country and our ideals. We’re the greatest country in the world. I stand with @realdonaldtrump.”
Gianforte and Daines can continue to “stand with” President Trump without standing by in tacit agreement with his racist comments. They can support the president’s agenda and work toward Republican ideals while also speaking up against bigotry and division. It is not too late for them to do so. Montanans should expect more from our leaders.
It’s not just our political leaders who must raise our voices, however. Every Montanan should use every means available to exercise our right of free speech, and make it clear that we do not support or accept racism from anyone; not our neighbors, not our elected representatives — and certainly not the president of the United States.