The day of reckoning is at hand for Rep. Tom Emmer.
He must choose if he endorses Donald Trump’s racism or if he will stand with his constituents.
Emmer’s past positions as well as current statements push Emmer to pick a side.
Donald Trump’s latest Twitter tirade attacked four women of color who are members of Congress. One of those is Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents Minnesota’s 5th District, adjacent to Emmer’s 6th District.
Trump wrote the four women should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.” If they don’t like it here, they should leave, implying only European immigrants or their descendants are entitled to criticize the country.
Days later, at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, the mostly white crowd chanted “send her back” about a black woman while Trump remained silent on stage and let the chant wash over him. That rally, attended by few people of color in a city that is more than 30 percent nonwhite, fueled more outrage.
The Greenville chant was too much for Emmer and the next day he said, “There’s no place for that kind of talk. I don’t agree with that.”
But he couldn’t go all the way. Emmer added “There’s not a racist bone in this president’s body. What he was trying to say, he said wrong. What he was trying to say is if you don’t appreciate this country you don’t have to be here. That goes for every one of us.”
He should have stopped with the first two sentences. But he had to show his loyalty to Team Trump. Emmer needs Trump for the 2020 election, not so much for the 6th District, but in his new national role.
Emmer is chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. That position means he’s tasked with raising money, finding candidates and winning enough seats to give Republicans control of the House.
Emmer’s job will be tougher if Trump sees him as a wobbly supporter.
Two days before criticizing Trump’s words, Emmer voted against a resolution in the House condemning Trump’s racism. By voting no, Emmer implicitly endorsed Trump’s tweets.
But four years ago, “send her back” wasn’t on Emmer’s agenda. Along with Rep. Keith Ellison (who preceded Omar as 5th District representative), Emmer announced the creation of the Congressional Somalia Caucus. Like Ellison, Omar is Muslim, but unlike Ellison, she immigrated from Somalia and became a U.S. citizen.
“We are proud to announce the formation of the Congressional Somalia Caucus,” Emmer and Ellison said. “As Somalia emerges from decades of violent conflict and humanitarian crises, we are committed to assisting the Somali government to build on economic and security gains they have achieved. This assistance is vital to Somalia’s continued progress and to the United States’ national security.”
This is the key paragraph from the two Minnesota representatives:
“Together, we represent some of the largest Somali-American communities in the United States; for us and the constituents we represent, Somalia is not a far-off foreign policy issue, it’s a matter of domestic policy and national security. We are committed to advocating on behalf of all of our constituents while ensuring Somalia has the tools it needs to create strong democratic institutions that provide safety and economic opportunity to its people.”
Emmer needs to remember the words written with Ellison and the people he represents. He should stand with those words and not with the words of Trump.
Trump may not have a racist bone in his body, but Trump’s words prove he has a racist mind and racist heart.