It can be challenging to keep track of every American constituency Donald Trump and his campaign have offended with insulting language. At various points, the Republican presidential candidate and his operation have alienated women, Latinos, African Americans, Muslims, veterans, and people with disabilities, among others.
But in case it wasn’t obvious before, Native Americans certainly belong on the same list.
But while Trump was hammering trade and his should-be allies-turned-adversaries, it was his opening act that picked up the mantle of attack against Democrats, specifically Elizabeth Warren. Taking a cue from Trump’s nickname of “Pocahontas” for Sen. Warren, conservative New England radio host Howie Carr took the moniker once step further during the pre-rally show.“You know Elizabeth Warren, right?” Carr said, tapping his hand over his mouth in a mock tribal chant. The crowd loved it, some joining in with chants of their own.
Slate’s Josh Voorhees raised an important point about all of this: “In the big bucket of Trump-sanctioned racism, a mock war cry from a guy who introduced the guy who introduced the candidate is but a drop. Still, if this were anyone but Trump we were talking about, he or she would be pressured to condemn the remarks. Trump, though, has dulled everyone’s senses with a year’s worth of controversy, so this barely registers.”
And that’s a shame. Casual, everyday racism should be shocking, not routine.
It’s also true that for all the media chatter about the new, more mature Trump campaign operation – we’ve heard quite a bit about an alleged “pivot” and “Trump 2.0” – evidence of the purported shift doesn’t appear to exist.
But Carr’s ugly attempt at racial humor also serves as a reminder that when it comes to Native Americans, Team Trump’s record is tough to defend.
The subject has come up before, following Trump’s attacks on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) family heritage, but it goes much further. The Huffington Post reported this week, for example, “Prior to being the GOP frontrunner, Trump was a real estate tycoon who was trying to hack it as a casino magnate. And while the LA Times reported that he would court Native American tribes when it worked to his advantage, he also routinely targeted their casino operations in hostile, racially provocative terms.”
Trump accused the Native-American-run casinos of being fronts for the mob to get unfair tax breaks and avoid anti-corruption regulations. But he didn’t stop there. He used racial epithets and funded secretive campaigns to drum up opposition to those casinos. Like with Warren, he questioned whether the main operators were actually Native American at all.The most famous instance of this came during congressional testimony Trump gave in 1993, when he triumphantly declared: “They don’t look like Indians to me and they don’t look like Indians to Indians.”Trump would go on to tell radio host Don Imus that same year that he would “perhaps become an Indian myself” if he felt that it might give him an economic advantage. “I think I might have more Indian blood than a lot of the so-called Indians that are trying to open up the reservations,” he said. Imus concurred: “A couple of these Indians up in Connecticut look like Michael Jordan, frankly.”
I’m sure there are minority groups that Trump hasn’t insulted with offensive language, but it’s getting more difficult to find them.