The Atlantic

Trump Tells America What Kind of Nationalist He Is

In a series of tweets attacking four Democratic congresswomen, the president reiterated his belief that only white people can truly be American.
Source: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

When President Donald Trump declared himself a “nationalist,” he was telling the truth, but he was inadequately specific.

On Sunday morning, the president told four members of Congress to “go back” to the countries “from which they came.” The remark, a racist taunt with a historic pedigree, inspired a flurry of fact-checking from mainstream journalists who were quick to note that Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar are American citizens, and that only Omar was born abroad, in Somalia. It was a rather remarkable exercise in missing the point.

[Read: The nationalist’s delusion]

When Trump told these women to “go back,” he was not making a factual claim about where they were born. He was stating his ideological belief that American citizenship, and one of the president’s few closely held ideological beliefs. It is a moral conviction, not a statement of fact. If these women could all trace their family line back to 1776, it would not make them more American than Trump, a descendant of German immigrants whose ancestors arrived relatively recently, because he is white and they are not.

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