WASHINGTON - Donald Trump's presidency is melting down into a noxious stew of racism, failure and farce. With breathtaking cynicism, the Republican Party pretends not to notice.
Trump had to know there would be outrage and uproar over his Sunday tweet admonishing four progressive members of Congress, all of them women of color, that they should stop "telling the people of the United States ... how our government is to be run" and instead "go back" to the "totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."
The president's motives are obvious: He was proudly displaying his white-supremacist racial views, drawing a bright line between his aging white political base and the rest of the country, and clumsily trying to exacerbate tensions within the Democratic Party. But why choose now to lob this political cluster bomb? My guess is that he wanted to change the subject from last week's humiliating surrender, when he had to abandon his quest to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census that would have guaranteed an undercount of Latinos.
"Trump is a Racist" does not exactly qualify as breaking news. But the silence from prominent Republicans is staggering - and telling. It amounts to collaboration - perhaps collusion is a better word - with Trump's assault on diversity and pluralism. In the coming campaign, you will hear Republican candidates at every level claim to be color-blind and embrace all Americans regardless of race or ethnicity. Do not believe them. Their failure to speak out now tells us everything we need to know about their true feelings.
The farcical aspect of this disgraceful episode is that while Trump hoped to further divide squabbling Democrats, he ended up bringing them closer together.
The four House members he attacked - Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.; and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. - have indeed been at odds with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the rest of the Democratic leadership on some issues. Calling themselves "the Squad," they fought hard against Pelosi's approach on funding border security. They display none of the meekness expected of first-term members and are unfamiliar with the concept of deference.
Any possibility that this intraparty squabbling would become serious was probably foreclosed by Trump's attack, which caused Pelosi and others to rush to the Squad's defense. Apparently living in some kind of bizarro parallel universe, Trump went further on Monday by insisting that the members of Congress he attacked owe him an apology.
The reaction from Republicans? Still crickets.
There's nothing new about the Republican Party playing footsie with racists, going all the way back to the "southern strategy" pioneered by Richard Nixon. But as Trump has toppled the traditional pillars of Republican philosophy - fiscal responsibility, free trade, markets undistorted by government interference, muscular foreign policy, equal opportunity for all to pursue the American Dream - the GOP is reduced to being the party of no. Following Trump's lead, the party practices the politics of resentment.
The wedge Trump is trying to drive, with his attacks on the Squad, is essentially white vs. non-white. He also seeks to portray them as immigrants, telling them to "go back" to where they came from, even though Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Tlaib in Detroit and Ocasio-Cortez in New York. Omar, indeed, is an immigrant - a naturalized citizen who enjoys the same rights and responsibilities as any other American, including President Trump.
Eugene Robinson is a syndicated columnist. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.