President Trump began his Monday with another broadside against the four House Democrats at whom he hurled invectives last week, when he told them to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested” countries they “originally came from.” This time, Trump derided the women as stupid, bigoted, and inexperienced. “The ‘Squad’ is a very Racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart,” he tweeted, referring to Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. “They are pulling the once great Democrat Party far left, and were against humanitarian aid at the Border…And are now against ICE and Homeland Security. So bad for our Country!”
The racist overtones of Trump’s initial salvo — in which he suggested that the group of four women of color were not authentically American, despite all four being American citizens and three being born in the United States — culminated with him reveling in chants from supporters in North Carolina to “send her back,” directed at Omar, who was born in Somalia. But the hypocrisy of his attacks stands out almost as much as their viciousness and dishonesty: The president’s stated rationale for why these women should self-deport is that they are critical of America — a remarkable argument for a man who has described the United States as a criminal hellhole wracked by “carnage” and populated by “suckers.”
Of course, Trump’s conception of national belonging has less to do with constitutional rights than white supremacism and personal loyalty. For him and many of his followers, white citizenship is taken for granted; that of anyone else is conditional. “If you’re a Somali refugee wearing a MAGA hat, he doesn’t want to send you back,” Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters, ostensibly in defense of the president. “You’ll probably have dinner at the White House.” Trump’s notions of experience and its value hinge on a similar calculus: For the four House Democrats, “inexperience” is evidence of their inability to govern; for Trump, his daughter Ivanka, and others in his administration, it’s hardly worth mentioning, despite the outlandish professional outcomes and often-startling ineptitude it has produced.
The most recent example of the latter is the White House’s failed legal defense for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was an investment banker with no political experience before Trump appointed him to his Cabinet. Ross oversaw the administration’s push to get the question added — a brazen effort to deter Hispanic immigrants from participating, thus prompting a population undercount that favored white people and, by extension, Republicans. But the administration harmed its own case by lying so obviously about its rationale. Its defense — that it needed the citizenship question in order to properly enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — was a blatant fabrication, undercut further by the uncovery of documents, written by the late GOP strategist Thomas Hofeller, outlining the actual plan in unambiguous detail.
Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court was generous enough to offer the administration an opportunity to try again and come back with a reason for adding the question that wasn’t so ridiculous, after he ruled against it. But the timeline for printing the census, paired with a lack of more convincing lies at hand, made a redux too difficult. As a result, the White House seems to have missed a prime opportunity to further guarantee GOP dominance for the next decade.
Trump’s perpetual inability to fulfill his central campaign promise — constructing a concrete wall that spans the U.S.-Mexico border — is further emblematic of the ineptitude conveyed by his inexperience. After two years of Republican control over the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Oval Office failed to yield results, Trump waited until Democrats controlled the House in 2018 to pursue hardball negotiations. He threatened to shut down the government unless Congress gave him $5.7 billion to fund the wall. Predictably, Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined. Trump responded by closing roughly a quarter of the federal government for 35 days, the longest such standoff in U.S. history. But as anger from federal employees intensified and the large share of furloughed airport workers threatened to cause air travel to grind to a halt, Trump relented. He got none of his border-wall money, and has spent much of his tenure moving the goalposts so that what was once a concrete wall spanning the whole border — and paid for by Mexico — has become a sporadic series of see-through iron slats paid for by U.S. taxpayers, very little of which has actually been constructed.
Perhaps the most flagrant example of Trump’s disregard for the pluses and minuses of inexperience when it comes to people loyal to him is his daughter, Ivanka. The 37-year-old former fashion designer and self-help book author has been elevated, along with her husband Jared Kushner, to an advisory position in her father’s White House that belies her total lack of experience in governance. Trump’s insistence on involving her in his diplomacy efforts have been met with widespread skepticism, as illustrated by the chilly reception she received at the G20 summit in Japan, when she awkwardly tried inserting herself into conversations with world leaders. Trump has overruled the counsel of top aides and gotten Ivanka a security clearance. None of which is surprising if one recalls how Trump suggested Ivanka would be a good U.S. ambassador to the United Nations because “she’s a natural diplomat,” or that he considered nominating her to run the World Bank because “she’s very good with numbers.”
All of which is to say that Trump using “inexperienced” as a pejorative is laughable. His own lack of experience has led him to apply a businessman’s stronghand to governing, resulting in bizarre concessions, like his failure to negotiate wall money with Congress, and likely made him susceptible to the charms of like-minded leaders like North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un. His insistence that his daughter’s inexperience doesn’t disqualify her from being considered for a World Bank nomination, while the four congresswomen’s warrants an angry Monday morning tweet, further confirms that inexperience itself is not the problem. Rather, his differential treatment is driven by the same brand of racist opportunism that produced his presidency in the first place.