What Did Trump Mean by Capitalizing the Word “TRAIL” in a Tweet About Elizabeth Warren?: Some Historical Context

Donald Trump tweeted this today:


  1.  Trump is definitely worried about Warren’s candidacy.
  2.  Why did Trump capitalize the word “trail?” As an American historian, one thing comes to mind when I see the word “trail” emphasized in a tweet about native Americans.  That is the “Trail of Tears.” Perhaps you are unfamiliar with this tragic event in our history.  Learn more here.
  3.  Andrew Jackson initiated the Trail of Tears.  He believed native Americans were racially inferior and an impediment to the advancement of white settlement across the continent.
  4.  Jackson called Indian removal a “just, humane, liberal policy towards the Indians.”  This reminds me of Trump’s statements about his “humane” border wall. He has said on numerous occasions that the wall will protect both American citizens and the immigrants.
  5.  Jackson understood the removal of these Indian groups in the context of democracy.  In the 1830s, of course, democracy was white.  The white men who voted Jackson into office wanted Indian land.  Jackson heard their voice and gave then what they wanted by forcibly moving native Americans to present-day Oklahoma.
  6. Andrew Jackson’s portrait hangs prominently in Trump’s Oval Office.
  7. Is Trump really smart enough to know that capitalizing the word “trail” would send such a message?  If he is, this is blatantly racist and yet another appeal to one of America’s darkest moments.  (I mention other such appeals in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump).  If he does not know what this tweet implies, then it is just another example of the anti-intellectual clown we have in the Oval Office right now–a man who is completely unaware of the national story to which he has entered as president.

17 thoughts on “What Did Trump Mean by Capitalizing the Word “TRAIL” in a Tweet About Elizabeth Warren?: Some Historical Context

  1. It says a lot about President Trump that his defenders *believably* argue he didn’t mean to rally white supremacists, he just lacks the most basic knowledge of American history. Somehow he simultaneously knows better than anyone what has historically “Made America Great” but he doesn’t have an elementary knowledge of America’s history.


  2. “If we’re going to decipher the “true,” secret, historical meaning, why not the Oregon Trail? Chisolm Trail?”

    … Because those had very little or nothing to do with “Indians” and are just generic wild-west associations?

    You’re response is so perfectly emblematic of the lazy right. “I don’t pay much attention to his bizarre and sinister tweets, but when I do I rationalize the crap out of them so that they’re as least offensive as possible.” If it makes you feel better you can wash your hands of what he implied, but you’re still guilty of accepting his language and cooperating with the worst of his agenda.


  3. I haven’t heard of any explanation from the president himself or the WH. Has there been any? My impression is that much more often than not he is the jerk that says something insulting and either doesn’t apologize in any way, or at best offers a back handed explanation or defense.
    It’s effective for him because his base likes the insulting things he says and he has set the bar so low that any outrageous comments get lost in the subsequent outrageous comments that are sure to come.


  4. John: one of the reasons that people tend to tune out Trump’s most vociferous critics, is because of this tendency to ascribe the most nefarious, wicked intentions — no matter how tortured the rationale — to the most mundane, nothingburger actions.

    This says far more about those obsessed with deconstructing and attacking everything Trump does (Burgers in the WH! The horror!) than it does about the Bad Orange Chancellor himself.

    In Wild West parlance, Cowboys and Injuns ride on “trails.” It’s a pretty common word association. Lame play on words? Sure. Kinda juvenile? You betcha. But this assurance that he must have been fiendishly referring to the Trail of Tears (query: if we’re going to decipher the “true,” secret, historical meaning, why not the Oregon Trail? Chisolm Trail?) reflects an unhealthy level of anti-Trump confirmation bias.

    You see what you wish to see. In the same way those red hats made you see teenagers who were being verbally abused and confronted by a lying, Native American activist as the villains. Because they had committed the crime of symbolically affiliating themselves with Trump.

    When everything is an “obvious” reference to genocide, nothing is.


  5. Seems obvious he intended the Trail of Tears reference. Certainly Don Jr. understood it that way: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/donald-trump-jr-calls-fathers-tweet-sen-elizabeth/story?id=60970497

    As for Warren: he may or may not fear her, but he certainly thinks attacking her with violent, racist, and misogynistic language and threats is politically useful to him by motiving his base. He’s the bully on the playground who finds the right target to attack, not because he cares about the target but because it impresses his snickering friends.


  6. Of course it was a trail of tears reference — that seems obvious. Clearly his son understood it that way, as we saw in his tweets in response. (See: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/donald-trump-jr-calls-fathers-tweet-sen-elizabeth/story?id=60970497)

    Trump may or may not fear Warren, but he clearly calculates that attacking her with racism, misogyny, and violent threats motivates his base. She might just be a useful vehicle for him, the way a bully finds the right target on the playground to make himself look tough to his friends. It’s not about the target — it’s about the performance of violence and racism for an admiring audience.


  7. Trump obviously capitalized “TRAIL” for a reason.
    I definitely don’t think he has more than a vague idea of historical events. So I don’t think he was alluding to the trail of tears.
    It think he was perhaps thinking of Indians in some way similar to the terrible portrayals in movies he saw as a kid, before there was Fox News to watch all day.
    He wanted to allude to Warren’s ancestry claims, and draw a parallel between the campaign trail and the kind of trail he pictures Indians tracking on, or something like that.
    He can’t make more than a murky allusion to historical events because his knowledge of them is so murky.


  8. John: this is quite a reach. I get that you detest Trump, but … c’mon. The trail of tears? Leave that stuff to Jen Rubin or Don Lemon.

    Btw: you truly think he fears Warren? She has utterly beclowned herself with her serial lying about her fake Native American heritage — the final nail in her coffin being the WaPo (which had to hurt) showing she filled out her 1986 Texas bar card as an Amercan Indian. So much for her lies about never having used this for advantage, about others having chosen to list her in this fashion unbeknownst to her. She pretended to be a Native American for 30 years for personsl and professional gain, and now her dissembling has been utterly exposed.

    I can guarantee you that Trump would like nothing better than to face a discredited, faux populist far left statist like Warren as the D standard-bearer.


  9. I disagree that Trump is worried about Warren’s candidacy. I think he is salivating about the prospects of opposing her. She could easily be painted as an extremist and a flake. “I’m gonna drink me a beer.” He has much more to fear from someone like Biden who could appeal to moderates. The hard left within the DEM party doesn’t want Biden, but in a match-up between him and Trump, to whom would the radicals have to turn? Unless there is a spoiler from a third party or an independent candidate, the lefties will hold their noses and support Biden.


  10. I think Trump is not at all worried about Warren’s candidacy. He knows she would be much easier to beat than Biden or Harris for starters.


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