WASHINGTON — The Republican responsible for winning back the House calls his Democratic counterparts the “red army.” But the chants of "send her back" from President Trump and his adoring fans Wednesday night went way too far, even for him.
“There’s no place for that kind of talk. I don’t agree with it,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer, a Minnesota GOP congressman, told reporters during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in D.C. Thursday morning. “There’s no place for whatever you just brought up. ‘Send her back.’ I disagree with that completely.”
President Trump kept up his attacks on four nonwhite Democratic congresswomen during a Wednesday night rally in North Carolina, accusing them of wanting to “demolish our Constitution” while falsely accusing Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of supporting al-Qaeda. His supporters responded with chants of “send her back, send her back.”
Trump’s ongoing racist attacks and the responding chants make clearer than ever that he plans to put “The Squad” of Omar and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayana Pressley at the center of his campaign, to make them the face of the Democratic Party.
That may not be the best thing for House Republicans looking to return to the majority, a path that leads through more-upscale suburban areas that Trump lost or won narrowly.
“It’s a red army. It’s not a squad, it’s a red army of socialists.”
Emmer’s squirming made that clear. He sought to move past what he described as a “manufactured” scandal over Trump’s racist remarks, arguing the president wasn’t racist and claiming he’d misspoken and wasn’t intentionally targeting nonwhite members, even though the president himself has now quadrupled down on his remarks.
Emmer refused to say whether he’d encourage GOP candidates in swing districts to put distance between themselves and Trump going forward when he makes more incendiary and racist remarks.
“What he was trying to say is, if you don’t appreciate this country, you don’t have to be here. That goes for every one of us,” he said.
But while Emmer shied away from Trump’s open racism, he was happy to lob some rhetorical bombs at his Democratic counterparts that would have been considered shocking from top GOP officials just years ago.
“If you want to call them the squad, you should call them the leadership squad since they are the Speaker, in fact, and the rest of the conference, you can call the new red army of socialists,” Emmer said as he read from prepared remarks at the top of the breakfast meeting. “Their entire 235-member caucus is responsible for the radical socialist policies emerging from their caucus, and voters are going to understand exactly what that means when we get to November of 2020.”
He returned to that rhetoric later in the breakfast, arguing that since a minority of House Democrats had signed on to Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, the entire party was socialist. That rhetoric has become central to House Republicans’ message as they seek to make Omar, Ocasio-Cortez and their allies the face of the Democratic Party.
“It’s a red army. It’s not a squad; it’s a red army of socialists. You have well over 100 members who signed on to socialized healthcare. You have well over 70 members that signed on to the Green New Deal,” he said.
And while he offered tepid criticism of the chants at Trump’s rally, he was happy to offer his own criticism of Omar, a fellow member of his Minnesota congressional delegation, who came to the U.S. as a refugee after escaping the civil war in Somalia.
“I had somebody say to me recently, ‘When Ilhan talks, she lets people believe she hates America.’ Now, I don’t know if that’s true, but as somebody said to me back home, ‘How about a little gratitude with that attitude?’” he said.
Cover: President Donald Trump pumps his fists as he arrives for a "Make America Great Again" rally at Minges Coliseum in Greenville, North Carolina, on July 17, 2019. (Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)