Politics

The One Sentence Donald Trump Won't Stop Saying

August 19th 2015

By:
Mike Vainisi

In the first three minutes of his interview with Bill O'Reilly last night, GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump said four times that "we have to take our country back," a statement that he's echoed many times in recent media interviews, public speeches, and press conferences. He's said it in different ways, but the message is the same.
 

In the above clip, he says it:

  • At the 7-second mark ("We have to bring our country back, Bill.")
  • The 15-second mark ("We have to bring our country back.")
  • At 3:06 ("We have to start a process where we take back our country.")
  • At 3:11 ("We have to start a process, Bill, where we take back our country").
He also said, "Our country is going to hell," which is a negative phrasing of the same idea.
 
ATTN: spoke to a media consultant and strategist, Joel Silberman, about the repetition of this phrase and whether it has any deeper or coded meaning.
 
"It's a dog whistle," Silberman said. "It's a cheap way to appeal to people who are underemployed and to blame minorities for taking jobs."
 
Silberman thinks the repetition might not be a coincidence.
 
"I would be shocked if someone with that money did not do focus groups and that was the phrase that kept coming up," Silberman said. "The language from politicians these days does not come out of the air."
 

 

This phrasing is not new.

And it's not just Latinos in America who are accused of taking America from Americans. Dylan Roof, the man who is charged with murdering nine Black people at a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, reportedly told the eventual victims that he had to kill them because Black people were "taking over our country."
 
This is an old political argument that has been made for decades and has referred to people beyond Black and Latinos. In the late 19th century, the American Party, commonly known known as the Know-Nothing Party—an anti-immigrant party—campaigned on the principle that "Americans must rule America," suggesting that immigrants, that is, anyone who was not white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant, was not truly American. Seemingly every immigrant group to come to U.S. shores has been met with accusations that they were somehow fundamentally altering America, whether the new Americans were Irish, Italian, Jewish, Chinese, German, or any group that was not White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. This comic from 1893 illustrates the fact that we've been arguing about immigration for a very long time as it highlights the hypocrisy of anti-immigrant advocates who are so often themselves descended from immigrants:
 
Anti-Immigrant Cartoon

In the 1928 presidential election, Democratic candidate and New York Gov. Al Smith dealt with bald-faced bigotry attacking his immigrant background and Catholic faith, with opposition making the argument that a vote for Al Smith was really a vote for the European Catholic Pope to rule America. "A [Ku Klux] Klan colleague in remote North Manchester, Ind., warned his audience, in booming tones, of the imminent arrival of the pope: 'He may even be on the northbound train tomorrow! He may! He may! Be warned! America is for Americans! Watch the trains!'” Robert Slayton wrote, looking back on that election in the New York Times in 2012.

"Trump's not saying anything new," Silberman said. "This kind of xenophobia, gosh, how many times have we heard this in just the 20th century alone?"

There has always been a fear in America that some marginalized group was undermining American values and seeking to fundamentally change it for the worse. And as long as that fear as existed, there have been politicians willing to feed that fear. Donald Trump is just one in a long line that will probably continue into the future.