J. Damon Cain

It is abundantly clear that President Trump is going to run on our nation’s cultural differences in his bid to win re-election.

Top of the ticket for the president the past several days has been pressing his attack against four minority female members of Congress – otherwise known as “The Squad” – and holding them up as being out of sync with American values and, simultaneously, the face of the Democratic Party.

In short, it is more than a broadside against the Democratic brand. It is his definition of what Democrats stand for.

All of the women whom the president told in a tweet to “go back” to their countries – Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts – are United States citizens, duly elected to the House of Representatives. Only one, Omar, was born outside the country, in Somalia.

Each won her race in 2018 when the president was giving his culture wars via immigration a test run.

It did not work. Maybe because he was not on the ballot, but he lost the House – bigly. Democrats took control, gaining 41 seats.

But the president is betting his strategy will pay dividends in 2020. On Sunday, he said the four were not capable of loving America. On Monday he called them “a very Racist group of troublemakers.’’

Just as interesting will be if the crowd at his next campaign rally picks up where the last left off, chanting “Send her back. Send her back.”

At first, the president said he “disavowed” the chant. And then, a day later, called rally participants “patriots.”

So, yes, this has the potential to turn ugly because wielding racism and white nationalism is a dangerous and incendiary tactic, and I am not sure how that plays in the president’s favor. At the same time, let’s recognize that nobody thought Trump would win in 2016. But he did. Narrowly.

Maybe he’s onto something. Or maybe there are just enough voters who will become repulsed by this particular culture war to deny the president of critical votes across the industrial upper midwest.

A new CBS News poll offers a hint. It found that white voters disagree with the attacks by 52-48 percent; they dislike the attacks by a 49-31 count; they say they’re unpresidential by an overwhelming margin of 51-22. Perhaps most interestingly, by a count of 41-41, whites found the attacks as racist.

Do those numbers improve if he keeps after it? Hard to see how.

Cain is executive editor of The Register-Herald.

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