President Donald Trump is a manipulator who seeks out and exploits fault lines in people and institutions. He does this in two important areas, race and the press.
First, race. For decades now, historians have been bringing to light the extent to which slavery was embedded in America’s founding, economy and rise to world power.
The recognition that slavery is an integral part of who we are is difficult and painful, but facing it and acting on it is a good thing. The president should be a leader on this effort.
Instead, Trump inflames racial divisions with hate-filled rhetoric, dog whistles and regressive policies in areas like immigration and voting rights.
Take his suggestion that four Democratic congresswomen of color should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”
“Go back where you came from” is a racist trope — but one with just enough wiggle room to allow Trump’s supporters to argue there was nothing racist about it.
Trump’s slippery language leads us to the second area where his manipulativeness is clear — the press.
One job of news media is to report with a critical eye what public officials say. That’s a good opportunity when officials use it in good faith.
But Trump’s evasive, misleading, untruthful or slyly or openly racist statements put the media in a box. They can’t not write the story, but doing so muddies public discussion.
Look at what happened on the threat of higher Chinese tariffs.