Trump knows exactly what ‘poisoning the blood of our country’ meant

January 29, 2024 5:00 am
Pres. Trump from the back leaving UN press conference

Donald Trump's increasingly violent and provocative rhetoric is alarming | (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Does it matter whether former president Donald Trump was consciously quoting Adolf Hitler when he said that  undocumented immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country”?

Whether Trump cribbed the notion from Hitler or whether it was an original thought, a person has to draw from a putrid internal cesspool of hate to think it, much less say it. Moreover, this country has its own lamentable history of blood politics.

Trump apologists say he was not speaking of people polluting American blood. He was really talking about the importation of fentanyl from other countries and what he sees as the corrosive effects of immigration on  the U.S. economy and institutions.

There’s a pattern.

He really didn’t mean undocumented immigrants are an infestation. You know, like cockroaches.

He didn’t really mock people with disabilities when mimicking a reporter with one.

He wasn’t really disrespecting veterans when he called  them losers. And his taunt that U.S. Sen. John McCain was not a hero because he was a POW did not signify any disrespect for veterans either.

When Trump says it, steps deeply into it, his plain language is not plain, according to backers and handlers. 

That’s a tough sell. 

Trump’s oratory is never what you could describe as soaring or even coherent at times, but he plainly believes plain language is his superpower.

That’s  why his MAGA minions adore him. 

And his history – from supporting his father for refusing to rent to African Americans to his Obama birther nonsense to saying Mexican immigrants are mostly criminals and rapists – is ample proof that he knew exactly what he was saying.

And he has all but locked up the GOP presidential nomination, though he is also saddled with four felony indictments, not to mention his woes in civil courts. 

Trump said he didn’t know he was borrowing on Hitler hate – hasn’t read Mein Kampf – and didn’t mean it racially. And then doubled down even after he was told what the words sound like to plain people who understand plain language. Yes, he also mentioned immigrants poisoning mental institutions and prisons but “blood” is using plain language.

Hitler’s fixation on Aryan purity and his hunger for conquest resulted in mass extermination and world war. Trump’s words are also fraught with sinister consequences for democracy and America. But the equation with Hitler in almost every circumstance is a stretch that invites skepticism. 

But we don’t have to draw on Nazism to explain Trump’s words, though the parallels with demagogues who come to power by sowing racial and ethnic discord are quite real.

We could examine our own history. 

There were state laws banning mixed marriages — overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving vs. Virginia in 1967 — in my lifetime.

A compromise well before the Civil War declared only three-fifths of the states’ slave population could be counted to determine taxation and representation in the U.S. House. This is often misinterpreted to mean slaves were three-fifths citizens. But other laws, including the inability to vote and to not be enslaved, really meant they were 0% citizens. They were deemed worthy of enslavement because of their race – their blood – in any case.

And, of course, there was the infamous one-drop rule in the 20th Century that meant even one Black ancestor in a person’s past made that person Black, which meant they were denied rights and kept separate.

We don’t need to invoke Hitler’s Third Reich to interpret Trump’s blood-as-poison statement. We’ve had our own blood politics, including using it as the basis for immigration policies that restricted non-whites. And we have our own sad history of eugenics.

Nevertheless, to use Trump parlance, we’ve already been “poisoned,” though I would say enriched.

Just take one of those private genetic tests. Mine showed mostly a mixing of Spaniards and Native Americans of Northern Mexico, along with not insignificant traces of other European origins. Yours will also likely show that racial and ethnic purity is a nonsensical construct.

According to the Pew Research Center, we’ve long been inching up to 20% of all marriages being interracial and 42% of these involve one Latino spouse and one white spouse.

Poison our blood?

That would mean my daughter’s blood is poisoned because her father is the son of undocumented immigrants from Mexico and her mother white with mostly English and Scottish ancestry.

You shouldn’t need Hitler to be outraged by Trump’s vile rhetoric. 

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O. Ricardo Pimentel
O. Ricardo Pimentel

O. Ricardo Pimentel has been a journalist for about 40 years. He was most recently the managing editor at Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, was editorial page editor for the San Antonio Express-News in Texas and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel before that. He has also worked in various editing and reporting positions in newspapers in California, Arizona, Texas and Washington D.C., where he covered Congress, federal agencies and the Supreme Court for McClatchy Newspapers. He is the author of two novels and lives in Wisconsin.