(CNN) – "You can't step into the same river twice," goes a saying attributed to the early Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Last week's tweetstorm by President Donald Trump raised a related question: Can you descend the same escalator twice?
In June, 2015, Trump rode down to the lobby of Trump Tower and accused Mexico of sending rapists over the border. His incendiary comments helped draw attention to a longshot campaign. Last week, he tweeted about four Democratic women in Congress, three of whom were born in the U.S.: "why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." He followed up at his North Carolina rally Wednesday night with criticism of Rep. Ilhan Omar, who came to the US as a teenager, and then paused as the crowd chanted, "Send her back," in an echo of the "Lock her up" chants from his 2016 rallies. (He disavowed the chant Thursday.)
Trump's tweets led Frida Ghitis to observe that, "although there has always been a segment that does not trust outsiders – and bigots who consider non-whites inferior – most Americans are not racists, not bigots, and not nativists. So why is Trump ... betting his re-election on dividing Americans and turning them against their better instincts? He thinks it worked the first time. But this is not 2016."
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Ghitis argued that as the threat from ISIS and the memory of the Great Recession fades, Americans are less likely to vote out of fear of the other.