Schwab: Trump — and his rally crowds — lay bare their cruelty

The latest: his threat to bus migrants to sanctuary cities out of spite, not to address a crisis.

By Sid Schwab

Herald columnist

William Barr chose to lie, blatantly, about the Mueller report. Taking time to digest that, let’s change the subject.

Donald Trump’s idea of transporting refugees to “liberal sanctuary cities” and releasing them onto the streets fills all the squares we need to understand him and his most unwavering enthusiasts. It shows he views those desperate people as pawns, cruelty to whom he counts on to please his supporters; it explains his obsession with our southern border, not as an immigration issue, but as a reliable arouser of his flock. After all, if his aim is to keep refugees out because they’re rapists and murderers — whom liberals would turn into voters using the kind of dark magic only liberals know — setting them loose in our cities exposes the lie for what it is.

In addition, it shows his vengeful attitude toward those who disagree with him; and it confirms a theory posited by many writers, including this one, about why the most devoted among Trumpists love him: They have in common their hatreds. In this case, immigrants and liberals.

It’s immaterial whether the hauling away and dumping of refugees was Trump’s idea or, as has been said, came from Stephen Miller, the most evil inhabitant of Trump’s lowest circle of Hell. That it’s seriously considered is all one needs to know. And it follows a well-worn pattern of ill-conceived policies that have, or would have, the opposite of intended consequences. Like tariffs and trade wars, shutting down the government, closing the border, cutting or eliminating taxes on corporations.

It’s easy to imagine a conversation in the White House that followed the proposal: “That’ll stick it to those treasonous liberals. Hah. Hah. Low five.” We can be sure Trumpists of the rally-attending sort love the idea, for exactly that reason. Imagining refugees wandering the streets, getting what they deserve for huddling beside the golden door, yearning to breathe free. While liberals shrink away, their hypocrisy exposed.

In fact, it’s certain that people in those cities, and their governments, would scramble to do right by the refugees. Governors and mayors have already said so. It’s equally certain that Trump would fail to recognize such empathy and traditional Americanism for what it’d be. Not his oeuvre.

That we have a “president” who thinks like this and who has followers who love him for it, shows how deep is our decline as a nation, and how sharp is the inflection point at which we find ourselves, on which we must act come November 2020. If, among Trumpists who take offense at having their motives questioned, there are people who like this dumping idea or find it amusing, they need to stop pretending they’re not something they are.

As there’s no bottom to this “president’s” intentional cruelty, it’s unsurprising that he’s also unloading poisonous attacks on U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, nor that they’re resulting in death threats against her. About which he said he’s “not at all” concerned. Whatever one thinks of her comments or how they’ve been characterized, one ought to expect better from a “president.” The last person to hold the office without quotation marks also failed in uniting us; yet, notwithstanding a few easily-misconstrued remarks, he spoke of our commonality. But he said a murdered black youth could have been his own son. How divisive!

That’s in stark contrast to Trump, who calls for jailing opponents, considers constitutionally required oversight treasonous, and threatens the free press; who can’t be trusted to be truthful about anything; who claims Democrats hate America. Raucous agreement from those who, were they actual conservatives, would know better is alarming. Silence from those who, under other circumstances, would speak out, is disappointing. Are we, finally, irreparably fractured?

Among Americans who see refugees differently is Sound Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose candidacy-announcing speech ought to be seen by everyone, especially those who assume they wouldn’t like it. Confuting the right’s standard characterization of Democrats, he shares his Christianity unhesitatingly. Unlike Trump’s multimillionaire megachurch preachers and their followers, he advocates policies that don’t ignore the least among us. Freedom, he reminds us, derives not only from military power, but from health and economic security. And equality.

In times unremembered, Republicans would have agreed with much in Mayor Pete’s speech. In the era of “alternative facts,” though, having forsworn Christian values by embracing the politics of greed and exclusion, Trumpists are claiming it’s Buttigieg who’s not a real Christian. Which reveals their own apostasy. Were they capable of it, they’d feel ashamed.

Email Sid Schwab at

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