Shortly before Donald Trump left for a campaign rally in North Carolina, the president stopped for a brief Q&A with reporters, some of whom asked about his recent attacks on young congresswomen of color, including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). The Republican quickly set the tone for the rest of the day.
"Well, there is a lot of talk about the fact that she was married to her brother," Trump said. "I know nothing about it. I hear she was married to her brother." (The Minnesota Democrat is on record calling these rumors "disgusting lies.")
A few hours later, the president took the stage in Greenville, where he continued his offensive against Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Omar, Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), accusing them and their party of supporting "the destruction of our country."
The event devolved from there.
"Omar laughed that Americans speak of al Qaeda in a menacing tone," he said. "You don't say America with this intensity. You say al Qaeda makes you proud. Al Qaeda makes you proud. You don't speak that way about America," he added, referring to her remarks in a 2013 interview.
The crowd broke into a chant of "Send her back!"
Yes, this is American politics in 2019: a president eager to maximize division for his own purposes, lies about an elected congresswoman, and then basks in the adulation of rabid followers who chant in unison about deporting the American lawmaker.
I imagine that Trump's allies will argue today that the president did not personally say, "Send her back." That's true, though it doesn't make the display in North Carolina any less sickening: Trump peddled unsubtle lies, exploiting racism and fomenting hate, leading his base to his desired destination.
The president even paused to appreciate the chant, interrupting his remarks with silence, not to dissuade his followers, but to enjoy them.