Monday , 27 May 2019

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‘Trump, Trump, Trump!’ How a President’s Name Became a Racial Jeer

It is a far cry from wearing a button that says “I Like Ike.”

Mr. Beschloss recalled moments in recent American history when, say, the X in President Richard M. Nixon’s name appeared as a swastika, or a caricature of President Lyndon B. Johnson featured a Hitlerian mustache. But these were generally the acts of opponents to those presidents’ policies during the Vietnam War.

“The message here,” Mr. Beschloss said, “is ‘Trump is going to come and get you — and we support that.’”

There have also been cases in which anti-Trump protesters have harassed and assaulted supporters of the president for, say, wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap. In some instances, the name Trump is invoked in punctuation.

When asked how a president’s very name could become so coded, Mr. Beschloss cited Mr. Trump’s speeches and tweets, including two in particular: the announcement of his candidacy in 2015, during which he referred to Mexican immigrants as criminals, drug dealers and rapists; and his equivocating comments after a white supremacist rally and counterprotest in Charlottesville, Va., in June ended with one person killed and 19 wounded. (“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” the president had said. “On many sides.”)

“This broadened into a feeling by some people — right or wrong — that Trump is going to be a weapon to reduce the opportunities of those who are different,” Mr. Beschloss said. “This is a signal moment.”

Leah Wright Rigueur, an assistant professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, agreed, saying that Mr. Trump’s status as a racial wedge was of his own doing.

“When Trump says, ‘I hear you, I will represent you,’ he is speaking to a particular cross-section of the nation that does not include Muslims, that does not include people of color,” Ms. Wright Rigueur said.

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor of race, history and public policy also at the Kennedy School of Government, said that Mr. Trump had created his own breakaway brand, making him the personification of specific ideals.

“To use the name as a rallying cry for a kind of embodied white supremacy, white nationalism or sense of triumphalism, for taking back the country, as best as I can tell has never been crystallized in the name of a U.S. president,” Mr. Muhammad said.

the country, as best as I can tell has never been crystallized in the name of a U.S. president,” Mr. Muhammad said.

“It’s authoritarian, the cult of personality,” Mr. Meacham said. “It’s saying that we’re American — and you’re not.”

The sporadic episodes — as chronicled by ProPublica’s “Documenting Hate” project, among others — continue. A “Heil Trump” here, the Trump name scrawled beside a swastika there. In late September, two high school football teams in the Salt Lake City suburbs were squaring off when cheers erupted. Someone was brandishing a cardboard cutout of Mr. Trump, and there began the chanting of three words that have electrified some and unnerved others: “Build the wall! Build the wall!”

Back in Iowa, there have been consequences and remorse in the wake of those two Forest City radio announcers musing on the Hispanic names of some of the players from Eagle Grove.

Ms. Kusserow-Smidt, 63, was fired as a board operator for the radio station; she has since resigned from the Forest City School District. Mr. Harris, 76, who had been with the station for more than 40 years, was also fired. The two have expressed deep regret for their comments, which they said did not reflect who they truly were.

“It didn’t sound right; it wasn’t right,” Mr. Harris told a local television station. “And I apologize.”

The xenophobic words of the two announcers stung some of the Eagle Grove players, including Nikolas Padilla, whose mother is from Iowa and whose father is from Mexico. Mr. Padilla, a 17-year-old senior, said that he briefly considered quitting because he did not want to be singled out for his Mexican heritage.

One particular comment by the broadcasters — “As Trump would say, go back where they came from” — puzzled Nikolas. His mother, Misty, recalled what her teenage son had said:

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