When the late Enoch Powell, the right-wing British Conservative politician who sought to end Afro-Asian immigration, was ranting in the 1960s about repatriating “foreigners” to countries of origin, the socialist weekly New Statesman published a cartoon of Queen Elizabeth II packed for despatch with a label reading “To Germany”.
The same tag would suffice for Donald Trump whose tirades against four American Congresswomen has earned a critical motion in the US House of Representatives as well as a sharp reprimand from the British prime minister, Theresa May.
The irony is that Mr Trump’s racist tweets might improve his chances of returning to the White House in 2020. Many white nations are witnessing an exuberant nationalism expressed in the US by Mr Trump’s “America First” slogan.
Many white Americans may agree with Mr Trump that the four progressive Democratic Congresswomen known on Washington’s Capitol Hill as the Squad and who, according to him, "originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe" should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came, then come back and show us how it's done.”
In his famous – or infamous – “rivers of blood” speech in Wolverhampton in 1967, Powell suggested assisted passages back for Afro-Asian immigrants. But as his critics pointed out, they kept Britain’s National Health Service, which is the world’s envy, going.
They also ensured there were enough drivers, conductors and mechanics for urban bus services. Mr Trump has no experience of such emergency situations. He displays no awareness either of the US need for thousands of Chinese and Japanese labourers to build the railways after the First World War.
Nor does his bellicose response to thousands of South American refugees seeking to enter the US through Mexico suggest any historic awareness of either the need or the inevitability of a multiracial future. Hence his fury at the four women politicians, three of whom -- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley -- were born in New York City,
Detroit, and Cincinnati, respectively, while the fourth, Ilhan Omar, came to the US as a child refugee from Somalia. But as several American commentators have pointed out, Congresswoman Omar has been a US citizen since she was a teenager, longer than Mr Trump’s wife, the US first lady.
Mr Trump’s grandfather was born in 1869 in the small (only 1,200 residents) German town of Kallstadt and migrated to the US as much in search of a living as to avoid military service.
The Trumps were a modest family that ran a small vineyard while Grandfather Friedrich Trump initially also worked in a barber’s shop in a neighbouring town. But opening his own men’s haircutting saloon in Kallstadt proved difficult.
There already was a barber in town. Friedrich Trump was also expected under German law to serve in the military for some time which he was apparently very reluctant to do.
Mr Trump’s grandmother was also an immigrant but a domestic servant from Scotland. It has been noticed before that Mr Trump glosses over all this, unlike the late John F. Kennedy who exalted his Irish roots, claiming in a letter to Jawaharlal Nehru that Oliver Cromwell had been far more repressive in his ancestral Ireland than Robert Clive ever was in India.
Historical comparisons are beyond Mr Trump or his supporters. Congressional Republicans were largely silent initially — with some afraid of chastising a president who is so popular with the party’s base — although a handful began speaking out critically a day or two later. Rep. Michael R. Turner from Ohio, who is white, called Mr Trump’s tweets “racist” and said he should apologize.
Rep. Will Hurd from Texas, who is black, told CNN that Mr Trump’s remarks were “racist and xenophobic.” And Sen. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, decried Mr Trump’s “unacceptable personal attacks and racially offensive language,”
while also bemoaning how the president had distracted the debate which should have been about “the Democratic Party’s far-left, pro-socialist policies.” Meanwhile, officials tried to play dumb, like the director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, who insisted he hadn’t seen the tweets.
When asked if he was bothered that many people viewed the remarks which were delivered in response to questions at a White House event as racist and that white nationalists found common cause with them, Mr Trump retorted, “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me. And all I’m saying:
They want to leave, they can leave.” The four Democrats, the Squad, responded with a joint news conference in which they sought to contrast their efforts on issues such as health care and immigration with the president’s actions.
Congresswoman Omar also highlighted a list of Mr Trump’s most incendiary remarks involving race and gender — including talking about grabbing a woman’s genitals, and using profanities to describe black athletes and to disparage nations in the developing world. “This is the agenda of white nationalists,” she said bitterly. “This is his plan to pit us against one another.”
More to the point perhaps, Mr Trump’s jibes offered a glimpse of the type of re-election campaign he is likely to run: openly and defiantly fanning racial animus in an effort to excite portions of his hard-right base. “These are people that hate our country,” he said.
“They hate our country. They hate it, I think, with a passion.” And he suggested several times that the group should simply leave the US. In a letter to her Democratic colleagues, the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, previously no supporter of the Squad, at once chided Mr Trump for going “beyond his own low standards using disgraceful language about Members of Congress” and urged Democrats to “forcefully respond to these disgusting acts.”
She immediately defended the four congresswomen, writing that Mr Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan “has always been about making America white again.” Ironically, Mr Trump at once misquoted Ms Pelosie and misquoted her words to accuse her of racism.
“Speaker Pelosi said, ‘Make America white again,’ ” Trump said. “Let me tell you, that’s a very racist — that’s a very racist statement. I’m surprised she’d say that.”
Curiously, Mr Trump is condemning any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic, and therefore also anti-American. He drags in other issues. “Certain people,” he says, “HATE our Country.
They are anti-Israel, pro Al-Qaeda, and supported the 9/11 attack.” Then comes his trump card. “We will never be a Socialist or Communist Country. IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY HERE, YOU CAN LEAVE!” This could be his re-election platform. It also sounds like the curtain-raiser to a purge.
Sunanda K Datta Ray is the author of several books and a regular media columnist.