WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s latest racist attack on four Democratic congresswomen, telling them to “go back” to “where they came from,” signals a reprise for the 2020 election of the tactics of division that helped him win the presidency in 2016.

That stern reality was confirmed at his Wednesday campaign rally in North Carolina, as supporters shouted “Send her back!” referring to Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a naturalized citizen whose parent came from Somalia. Trump said: “If they don’t like it, let them leave. They don’t love our country, and in some cases I think they hate our country.”

With every passing day, the president’s contempt for American racial and ethnic diversity and tolerance deepens the imperative of removing him from the presidency, and the sooner the better.

Yet Democrats remain divided between those who want impeachment hearings now and those who, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, prefer first building an iron-clad case against Trump. She has reminded the so-called “Squad” of four rebels — Omar and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — that they do not constitute the House party majority she leads.

A House vote of 240 to 187 Wednesday backed a resolution condemning Trump’s words, but only four Republicans and one independent joined the majority, indicating the president’s hold on the GOP remains strong,

However, his brutal and crude assault unmasks both his ignorance and his disregard of America’s historic role of sanctuary for the world’s oppressed. Trump did not bother to know or find out that three of the four women were born in the United States, and the fourth, Omar, was naturalized as a teenager.

Trump has defended himself as not having “a racist bone in my body,” to which Ocasio-Cortez shot back: “You are right, Mr. President. ... You have a racist mind in your head, and a racist heart in your chest.”

Trump’s open war on the women in clearly racist terms provides ammunition for formal impeachment in the House with no further delay. Democratic Rep. Al Green of Texas filed such a resolution Tuesday, but Pelosi promptly arranged to have it tabled the next day, enabling Trump to declare it killed and present the vote as further vindication of himself.

As of now, the Republican majority in the Senate, where any House impeachment would require a two-thirds vote for conviction, explains why Pelosi prefers to focus on further fact-finding on Trump’s behavior before opening any formal House hearings against him.

After Trump’s call for the Squad to go back to the “crime-infested countries” where he believes they belong, he followed a familiar pattern of cowardly retreat, telling reporters: “They can go wherever they want, or they can stay,” but they “should not hate this country.” None of them has ever expressed hostility to the United States.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has sought to brush the whole matter aside by saying the argument is simply between “socialism and freedom.” He thus invokes again an old Republican bugaboo, which the party has used since the New Deal to attack popular government programs as Social Security and Obamacare.

The majority of Americans protected by our government’s social safety net are white. However, the Republicans waste no opportunity to associate social assistance with foreign-born immigrants and racial minorities. McCarthy’s transparent pivot to the tiresome GOP argument against taxpayer “handouts” to so-called hyphenated Americans gives Trump cover for his latest and most outrageously un-American slanders.

His White House counsel and apologist-in-chief Kellyanne Conway responded to a question on Trump’s latest diatribe by asking the reporter: “What is your ethnicity?” When he inquired how that was relevant, she unleashed a diatribe of her own that she and Trump were “sick and tired of ... America coming last, to people who swore an oath of office....”

Such is the state of relations between the Trump White House and the reporters assigned to inform the public about its conduct of the people’s business. Why should the American people have wait much longer for Congress to step in and confront this true “enemy of the people”?

Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at juleswitcover@comcast.net.

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