TRUMP OR US?
Trump’s recent comment painting African nations as “shithole countries” has set off a wave of condemnation. Many claim to be shocked by his words. Where have they been? They are either shamefully disingenuous or have been absent from this world. There is nothing surprising about it. Dating back decades, Trump has a record of racial bias from the 1975 federal court ruling that he had discriminated in housing against African-Americans and Hispanics through his many campaign statements such as calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals.
His “shithole countries” statement also ignited a fury over whether he is a racist. This is rather pointless hairsplitting – it is pilpul; to steal Hebrew word. He either is a racist or one of the most racially insensitive and ignorant persons ever to walk this earth. It doesn’t make much difference which it is.
The amazing aspect of his insensitivity is that comes from such an enormously hypersensitive person. The slightest critique or disrespect – perceived or real – sets his Twitter account ablaze
Trump’s racial ignorance easily is demonstrated with Census data. About 43.8% of African immigrants achieved college degrees, compared to 42.5% of Asian-Americans, 28.9% for immigrants from Europe, Russia and Canada, and 23.1% of the U.S. population as a whole. People from Trump’s “shithole countries” are almost twice as likely to have a college degree than the average American. In addition, African immigrants out-earn the average American by about $10,000 per year. Why do we need them? Simple, they are improving our country.
IT SAYS EVEN MORE ABOUT US
Trump is reported to be happy with the “shithole countries” controversy. It allows him to play to his base. But why is he so free to play to his wingnut fringe while ignoring the majority? Again it is simple, he sees no downside risk either form his party or from the nation.
The Spineless Party
The only downside loss that would matter to Trump would be the condemnation and loss of support from the Republican Party. Their opposition would cripple his ability to act. With sure support from Democrats, they could pass legislation he opposes, box him in with restrictive laws, and override any vetoes with impunity. In short, Congressional Republicans could show voters that the GOP was capable of governing while also doing what is right for our country. However, the silence from the large majority of Congressional Republicans is deafening and the heavily moderated disapproval from most who have spoken is pathetic. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are poster children.
McConnell has been stonily silent while Ryan timidly offered that the “shithole countries” comment was “unfortunate, very unhelpful.” It was not unacceptable or despicable; it was unfortunate and unhelpful. To parse this a bit, it was unfortunate and unhelpful to the GOP’s political agenda and that agenda takes precedence to Ryan over any considerations of moral values, justice and what is right for the nation and America’s international reputation and leadership.
Although tepid this time, Ryan knows better and once had the courage and conviction to exhibit it. When Trump attacked a judge as being biased because of his Mexican heritage, Ryan stated: “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.”
Fearing the bully and lacking any confidence in their co-equal status, the GOP has taken an obsequious stance on one Trump outrage after another. But this only fuels the bully. It proves to him that he can run roughshod over them any time he chooses. Trump promises to sign a bi-partisan deal provided it contains money for border security including a wall (fence). They promptly came back with such a bi-partisan plan and he instantly throws it back in their faces.
With any modicum of self-respect and spine, they should have put this plan to a vote. It could have passed both Houses with veto-proof majorities and the bully would have had no choice but to sign it. This could have been done on many issues and could be done on many more. One should stand up to a bully. This defeats him. Appeasing him encourages him.
The Indifference of the Populace
Just as Trump sees no downside risk from the GOP, the GOP Congressional delegations cave into Trump because they see no major downside risk from the voters. They see trouble ahead in the 2018 elections but the silence and restrained disapproval coming from large numbers of voters does not to them herald a coming calamity.
The lack of outrage and action is revealing a shameful apathetic streak in us.
Prejudice against African-Americans has been with this country since its birth and there is no debate that it is alive and well today. But not so for bias in immigration. This is more recent.
For about 150 years following the early colonists, we were proud of being a nation of immigrants. We recognized that those who had the moxie to pull up roots and come here were those with the desire to better their lives and the drive to succeed.
This pride in our multi-cultural achievements began to erode and “we-they” protectionist prejudice began to take hold with the arrival of Irish and Chinese immigrations. Stirred by demagoguery about the “yellow peril,” the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was a clear tipping point. Pride in our immigrant roots was heavily undermined by the time the Statue of Liberty with its marvelous inscription was dedicated in 1886.
The 1890s saw the rise of the exclusionary nativism that we see again today. Its Congressional champion was Henry Cabot Lodge – a man of strange contradictions. He vehemently defended the voting rights of freed slaves while just as loudly opposing immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, Asia and other lands – succinctly, anyone other than Anglo-Saxons.
Senator Lodge was an avid member of the Immigration Restriction League. The league’s central tenet was that people from southern and eastern Europe were racially inferior to Anglo-Saxons and that allowing them to come here threatened American values and the American way of life and also undermined the wages of Americans. [Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.]
Just as this song today plays well to Trump’s base, it played well in the early 1900s and resulted in the highly restrictive Immigration Act of 1917 (also known as the Literacy Act) that included an Asiatic Barred Zone running from the Arabian Peninsular to the Pacific Islands.
Trump’s policies would take us back to these sad days and they are based on the same well-debunked rationale that immigrants of certain races and from certain countries are inferior in one way or another and that they threaten our way of life and financial wellbeing. These blatant falsehoods fly in the face of the basic facts that immigrants from Trump’s “shithole countries” are better educated than the average American, out-earn the average American and, in so doing, contribute greatly and essentially to America’s success.
But like our counterparts from the early 20th Century, today’s citizens complacently mouth dissatisfaction but take little action regardless of the nature of the outrage.
The #MeToo movement has led to multiple resignations and terminations but the Predator-in-Chief is barely nicked. Women marched when he was elected. Now they sit at home and fret about the ill effects of his words and policies on women.
He has insulted every minority one can name and works with his Attorney General on voter suppression.
He pardons Joe Arpaio and backs Roy Moore. There is little difference is between Joe Arpaio who openly targeted Hispanics and Bull Conner who used fire hoses and attack dogs on Black civil rights protesters. Similarly, Judge Roy Moore who supports voter suppression and is a tangle of racial and ethnic prejudices is but a modern day version of former Alabama Governor Gorge Wallace and his whites-only stance. Yet Trump endorses them.
There should be outrage regarding all of these actions as well as his derision of the press, his undermining of our intelligence agencies and the FBI, and his total disrespect for the truth and common decency – no less morality.
Where are the leaders of today who should be calling the people to action? Why aren’t they in the streets? Where are the sit-ins at Trump properties and boycotts of Trump facilities and brands? Instead within hours of Trump’s “shithole countries” insult, Dr. King’s nephew joined Trump at the podium for his brazen and galling proclamation of Martin Luther King Day.
Today too many of us are mired in moderation. Are we that content in ourselves and that indifferent to others? Does contributing some cash to one cause or another suffice? Maybe we are just exhausted by the near daily battering of destructive and divisive outrages. This, however, is a weak excuse.
Barry Goldwater, an arch conservative, had it right: “Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
Shame on the GOP. Shame on Congress. Shame on us.