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‘Send Her Back’ Foreshadows More Misogyny in 2020 Race

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Speaking with reporters at the White House on Thursday, Trump said, “I was not happy with it. I disagree with it,” referring to the chants. But Trump was the one to first assert, in tweets over the weekend, that Omar and three of her fellow congresswomen of color—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan—should leave the country. “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Trump tweeted. “These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.” As his supporters chanted the natural extension of those words on Wednesday, Trump seemed content to bask in the ritual, letting their cries continue without interruption.

“Send her back!” could well prove just the beginning of a campaign against Omar and her progressive female colleagues as a group. To remember the lessons of “Lock her up!” is to remember that, with Trump, a tidy three-word chant is unlikely to sound just once. The president’s supporters use these chants in lieu of actual, reasonable arguments against his opponents, and instead of focusing their energy on beating them at the ballot box. Menacing action, not the democratic kind, is what’s called for.

And as the 2016 election cycle showed, a campaign against the congresswomen could encompass much more than a chant. Trump rallies were also convenient sites for the purchase of merchandise reading “Trump that bitch” or “Hillary sucks, but not like Monica.” At a rally in Richmond, Virginia, that June to kick off the general election, a supporter yelled, “Hang her!” as Trump began leveling his attacks against Clinton. “Supporters don’t just want to defeat her, but they seem to want to see her hurt,” Melinda Henneberger, Roll Call’s former editor-in-chief, told me at the time. “Disagree with her, dislike her, vote against her, but to even talk about hanging her?”

This history could foreshadow an anxious, if not dangerous, election cycle for the Democratic nominee. With an unprecedented number of women running for president, the likelihood of a woman winning the party’s nomination is higher than in previous elections. If the chants against Clinton and Omar do, indeed, suggest a pattern when it comes to Trump’s female opponents, it’s not difficult to imagine what, say, an Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris could have in store themselves.

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