Let’s talk about Donald Trump’s recent speech on immigration.
Before we do, though, we’ll need to remember a few facts so we can forget them. First: Immigration from Mexico, legal and illegal, is at its lowest in years. Second: President Obama has deported more “illegals,” by far, than his predecessors. Third: Legal immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans. Fourth: Undocumented immigrants receive no benefits under Obamacare or most other programs. Fifth: Undocumented immigrants pay billions in taxes, at a higher average rate than the top 1 percent. There’s more, but the point is to forget the facts; it gets harder if I list them all.
Of all the problems we face, in other words, illegal immigration has moved well down the list. On a 10-point scale I’d put climate change at 11. Immigration, maybe a 3. If you listen to Donald Trump and his corybantic surrogates, though, you’d believe “they” are swarming past unguarded borders like Congress-ignored Zika through a proboscis, after which they go on to roam our streets, especially the one outside your door, “crime-ing” (as one of them said) at will, while patriotic legal Americans cower inside their barricaded homes.
“It’s a Paul Revere moment,” said Trump’s spokeswoman, meaning we’re about to be overtaken and (I assume) enslaved, or worse. A few days ago, Alex Jones announced the official beginning of The New World Order, while babbling something about cannibalism. In what world does any of this make sense? How is this the leg on which Trump stands, the thing among things his supporters love the most? It’s as if Trump were selling galoshes (made in China!) in the middle of a drought and his audience were buying them furiously (at a huge markup!), donning them in a panic, even as parched dust filled the air.
Watch that speech (CNN: tinyurl.com/oneifbyland). Yes, he said a few reasonable things: Other than certain employers, we don’t want illegal immigration. We do want immigrants who’ll be responsible, have jobs, appreciate our country. Can’t argue.
But when he got rolling, uncorking his real agenda in all its darkness, it was the most disturbing oratory I’ve witnessed by a major candidate for president. Chilling, horrifying demagoguery, it was definitional hate speech straight from Berlin in the 1930s. Except for his lack of charisma, Trump’s a modern-day Elmer Gantry.
His were the classical words of a would-be dictator, right here in America; his tone, his gestures, his dire warnings, his inveighing against hordes of dangerous and scary people, different from us, darker, people to be reviled, repelled, feared, risen up against. He spoke of an existential horror, of which he and only he can and will rid us; of an enormity, if you’ve forgotten to forget, that simply doesn’t exist. But there it was.
And the audience cheered till they were hoarse. Booed those despicable people, adored the savior, oblivious to the dishonest demagoguery because the execration felt so good. Did I say galoshes? I meant jackboots. America. This happened in America.
A candidate for president, choosing fear and hatred and scapegoating as his vehicle, counting on the gullible, fearful and ill-informed to buy the snake-oil he’s selling, calculating he can ride their disproportionate fears to victory, to become a “real leader,” like his unrestrained hero Vladimir Putin.
How much more obvious must it get before his diehards recognize how they’re being manipulated? Because he’s convinced them that they’re one breath away from being murdered by a Mexican, people of modest means are lining up to vote for a man whose taxation and spending priorities will make life better only for the very wealthy. “The bad ones,” he’ll get rid of in his first hour as president, and that’s a promise. The cops know who they are, he tells us. Evidently they’ve just been waiting for Donald to take office before rounding them up, because … well … because he says so, I guess.
Do we need to do something about undocumented immigrants already here? Sure, some of them. Is illegal immigration an ongoing threat? Minimally. Except, maybe, for Donald Trump himself, illegally importing models, schooling them on avoiding discovery, and paying them slave wages (Mother Jones: tinyurl.com/trump-models).
If it were Hillary, it’d be called human trafficking. For Trump, just good business.
Email Sid Schwab at email@example.com.