On Saturday morning, after a tense scene at the White House the night before, Donald Trump published an unfortunate tweet, which not only openly mocked protestors, but also hinted at the president's interest in some kind of confrontation with counter-protestors.
"The professionally managed so-called 'protesters' at the White House had little to do with the memory of George Floyd," the Republican wrote. "They were just there to cause trouble. The [U.S. Secret Service] handled them easily. Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???"
Almost immediately, observers questioned whether Trump wanted to see his "Make America Great Again" supporters confront those protesting racial injustices at the White House. During a brief Q&A soon after, the president tried to clarify his message:
"MAGA says 'Make America Great Again.' These are people that love our country. I have no idea if they're going to be here. I was just asking. But I have no idea if they're going to be here. But MAGA is 'Make America Great Again.' By the way, they love African-American people. They love black people. MAGA loves the black people."
Right off the bat, the idea that Trump was "just asking" about a possible counter-protest is tough to take seriously. The president literally wrote a tweet that read, "Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???" This is not the missive of someone who's just curious about a rumor that only he'd heard.
But more important was Trump's effort to clarify his vision of the population: "Make America Great Again" people, according to the president, are patriots. There's no reason to worry about racial tensions between MAGA people and African Americans because "they love African-American people. They love black people. MAGA loves the black people."
Trump appeared oblivious to the subtext: as he sees it, there's a division between his America-loving supporters and black people. There are the president's people, and there are African Americans, but he doesn't see them as one and the same.
It's reminiscent of then-candidate Trump holding a campaign rally in 2016, pointing to a black audience member during the event, and saying, "There's my African American over there."
It didn't seem to occur to him to ever say, "There's my white supporter over there," because for Trump, that was apparently the default.
Evidently, it still is.