Originally published by The Washington Post
President Trump has relentlessly used his bully pulpit to decry Latino migration as “an invasion of our country.” He has demonized undocumented immigrants as “thugs” and “animals.” He has defended the detention of migrant children, hundreds of whom have been held in squalor. And he has warned that without a wall to prevent people from crossing the border from Mexico, America would no longer be America.
“How do you stop these people? You can’t,” Trump lamented at a May rally in Panama City Beach, Fla. Someone in the crowd yelled back one idea: “Shoot them.” The audience of thousands cheered and Trump smiled. Shrugging off the suggestion, he quipped, “Only in the Panhandle can you get away with that statement.”
On Saturday, a 21-year-old white man entered a shopping center in El Paso, according to police, and allegedly decided to “shoot them.” Inside a crowded Walmart in a vibrant border city visited daily by thousands of Mexicans, a late-morning back-to-school shopping scene turned into a pool of blood. Twenty people died, and dozens were wounded.
After yet another mass slaying, the question surrounding the president is no longer whether he will respond as other presidents once did, but whether his words contributed to the carnage.
Since the moment Trump rode down his gold-plated escalator four years ago to start his renegade run for the White House, us-against-them language about immigrants has been a consistent and defining feature of his campaign and now of his presidency. Absent from his repertoire has been a forceful repudiation of the white nationalism taking rise on his watch.