In 2017 American liberals could still laugh. The Trump Administration was plagued with resignations, firings, court rulings against White House edicts, a failure to overturn ObamaCare in Congress and a president who sometimes couldn’t even make up his own mind on controversial policies – liberals could still take comfort in the idea that they were dealing with “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight”.
In the middle of 2018, however, the Trump White House has managed to shed itself of the incompetence, focusing almost laser-like on one issue close to the home of paleo-conservatives: border security.
First, the family separations at the Mexican border may have caused public outrage, but detentions continue, and media report that the Department of Defense is looking to building detention centres for 20,000 migrant children and that the government is looking to review the status of naturalized citizens. While Trump has had his own turnabout on family separations, his determination to secure the border, either through a wall or more militarized defences, goes on, full of quasi-fascistic rhetoric deploring undocumented immigrants as MS-13 gang members or insects who will “infest” America.
Couple that with his administration’s major victory at the Supreme Court. While Trump’s initial travel ban inspired waves of pro-immigration protests at the nation’s airports and a series of lower court rulings against the president, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority (solidified by a Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to regain the majority) has said that the Trump Administration’s motivations behind barring citizens from several Muslim-majority nations was within his broad executive authority.
What’s telling about the ruling is that it explicitly said Trump’s order was not in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 – Chief Justice John Roberts, writing the majority opinion, said that the “President [has] ‘ample power’ to impose entry restrictions in addition to those elsewhere enumerated in the [Immigration and Nationality Act].” For the “America First” and anti-globalism crowd that helped bring Trump into office, this is the law that set the nation on a road to existential ruin.
In 1965, after international pressure, the Johnson Administration enacted the law ending an immigration system that gave preference to European immigrants. The impact on the United States was profound. According to the Center for American Progress, “In the 50 years since the 1965 Act, 59 million people immigrated to the United States from all over the world. Unlike the dominantly European focus of immigration during the national origins quota era, over the past half-century, Latin Americans have comprised more than half of all immigrants. Asian immigrants comprised a quarter of this total, whereas immigrants from Europe only made up 12 percent.”
This fundamental shift has been a bugbear for social conservatives and nativists long before the rise of Trump, attaching itself to other political campaigns, including that of Pat Buchanan, as well as movements to make English the official language of the United States and state-level anti-immigrant measures like Arizona’s infamous “papers, please” legislation. The multiculturalism resulting from the Immigration and Nationality Act has left a segment of America angry about public signs in languages other than English and the fact that enough religious minorities reside in the country to inspire a few people to say, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
The multiculturalism resulting from the Immigration and Nationality Act has left a segment of America angry about public signs in languages other than English and the fact that enough religious minorities reside in the country to inspire a few people to say, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
Roberts’s logic, that the travel ban doesn’t mention Muslims even though we know it is targeted at them, would uphold cornerstones of Jim Crow law, which were often superficially “neutral” and had public safety justifications. https://t.co/9F96j3L8LA pic.twitter.com/oNzAVOrAEd
— Adam Serwer 🍝 (@AdamSerwer) June 26, 2018
For self-affiliated globalists like myself – who might hear Tibetan, Spanish, Bengali and Korean between my home and the nearest subway station – this multicultural existence is a desirable one. But this trend has been a decades-long threat to the small-n native American identity, one that for many voters is firmly European and Christian. It’s easy to dismiss Trump’s stance as the result of either his inward obsession or his advisor Stephen Miller’s hardline stance, but the fact is that this resonates with a strong current in American politics and has more relevance to Trump’s voting base than accusations about Russian collusion. As a result, for all the hoopla around the family separations, Trump’s approval ratings haven’t budged and a third of voters aren’t bothered by the family separations.
There is also the reality that racially motivated and unjust policies are a part of the American political DNA – the days of Trump are invoking internment of Japanese-Americans, the Trail of Tears and the Chinese Exclusion Act. These injustices might make Trump’s crusades at the border not that unique but still all the more pressing because if such measures happened before then they can certainly happen again.
A year ago, Trump’s attempts might have seemed outlandish, but the judicial approval of the travel ban and the administration’s steadfastness in demanding more southern border security shows that these priorities are attainable because they are not just Trumpian fantasies but desires embedded within the electorate. And even if the Democrats make gains this November in the congressional elections, Trump is getting his way when it comes sealing America off from the rest of the world that he, and his base, believe is defiling the national spirit.
Photograph courtesy of Loco Steve. Published under a Creative Commons license.