After Democrats lost the 2016 presidential election, a certain conventional wisdom congealed within the pundit class: Donald Trump’s success was owed to the Democratic abandonment of the white working class and the party’s emphasis on identity politics. By failing to emphasize a strong economic message, the thinking went, the party had ceded the election to Trump... the meantime, Trump’s administration has seen that economic message almost entirely subsumed by the focus of congressional Republicans on tax cuts for the wealthy and plans to shrink the social safety net. But even as the message has shifted, there hasn’t been a corresponding erosion in Trump’s support. The economics were never the point. The cruelty was the point... Nevertheless, among those who claim to oppose identity politics, the term is applied exclusively to efforts by historically marginalized constituencies to claim rights others already possess... Trump’s campaign, with its emphasis on state violence against religious and ethnic minorities—Muslim bans, mass deportations, “nationwide stop-and-frisk”—does not count under this definition, but left-wing opposition to discriminatory state violence does... A November panel at the right-wing Heritage Foundation on the threat posed by “identity politics,” with no apparent irony, will feature an all-white panel... But the entire closing argument of the Republican Party in the 2018 midterm elections is a naked appeal to identity politics—a politics based in appeals to the loathing of, or membership in, a particular group. The GOP’s plan to slash the welfare state in order to make room for more high-income tax cuts is unpopular among the public at large. In order to preserve their congressional majority, Republicans have taken to misleading voters by insisting that they oppose cuts or changes to popular social insurance programs, while stoking fears about
- Latino immigrants,
- Muslim terrorists, and
- black criminality.
.. In truth, without that deception, identity politics is all the Trump-era Republican Party has.
.. Trump considers the media “the enemy of the people” only when it successfully undermines his falsehoods; at all other times, it is a force multiplier, obeying his attempts to shift topics of conversation from substantive policy matters to racial scaremongering.
.. The tenets of objectivity by which American journalists largely abide hold that reporters may not pass judgment on the morality of certain political tactics, only on their effectiveness. It’s a principle that unintentionally rewards immorality by turning questions of right and wrong into debates over whether a particular tactic will help win an election... In the closing weeks of the campaign, the president has promised a nonexistent tax cut to the middle class after two years in which unified Republican control of government produced only a windfall for the rich.. Trump’s nativism, and the Republican Party’s traditional hostility to government intervention on behalf of the poor, have had a happier marriage than some might have expected.
.. But that wasn’t what Trump promised—rather, his 2016 campaign pledged both generous social-insurance benefits for working-class white Republicans and cruelty for undeserving nonwhites.
.. Republicans are scrambling to insist that they will cut taxes on the middle class, offer robust health-care protections, and protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, even as GOP leaders in Congress plot to slash all three to cut the deficit created by their upper-income tax cuts.
.. When armed agents of the state gun down innocent people in the street, when the president attempts to ban people from entering the U.S. based on their faith, or when the administration shatters immigrant families, these are burdens that religious and ethnic minorities must bear silently as the price of their presence in the United States.
And in the impoverished moral imagination of Trumpist political discourse, any and all white Americans who also oppose such things must be doing so insincerely in an effort to seek approval.
.. America is not, strictly speaking, a center-right or center-left nation. Rather, it remains the nation of the Dixiecrats, in which the majority’s desire for equal opportunity and a robust welfare state is mediated by the addiction of a large chunk of the polity to racial hierarchy. It is no coincidence that the Democratic Party’s dominant period in American history coincided with its representation of both warring impulses and ended when it chose one over the other. The midterms offer a similar choice for the American voter, in rather stark terms.
The American Public Health Association wrote that the trauma from such separation could lead to alcoholism, substance abuse, depression, obesity and suicide. (While the White House says the policy will end for future migrants, it will still affect the thousands of children currently in custody.)
.. But even for those who believe immigration lawbreakers deserve punishment, there’s another argument against separating children from their families: national security. The government’s policy puts the United States at risk, in both the short and long term, by breeding a generation of children with psychological problems and a population elsewhere that reviles us. Traumatized children are prime recruits for extremist groups.
Their children and children’s children grow up in the shadow of, to use the language of 9,300 mental health experts, “shrapnel of this traumatic experience embedded in their minds.” As adults, these traumatized children are significantly more likely to have encounters with law enforcement.
.. An extensive body of literature documents how early childhood trauma creates cycles of violence that can destabilize whole nations.
.. most “deterrence” interventions, including jailing and family separation, actually triggered increased terrorist attacks.
.. In North America, the survivors of forced attendance in American Indian boarding schools have seen the effects reverberate for years. Scholars in Canada have drawn causal links between boarding school attendance (sometimes for children as young as 3) in the 1900s and elevated levels of depression, drug use and criminal behavior two generations later.
.. Native American women sent to boarding schools as girls were six times more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts and had a 57 percent higher rate of alcoholism as adults.
.. A 2016 study of 15,587 adult children of incarcerated parents found that separating children from parents directly increased interactions with the criminal justice system, including drug abuse and gang affiliation.
.. Syrian children separated from their support systems are “more likely to become
- the youngest laborers in the factory,
- the youngest brides at the altar, and
- the youngest soldiers in the trench.”
.. The individual suffering of older children is immediately consequential to our security because incarceration centers have become recruiting grounds for armed groups. Trump’s favorite boogeyman, the MS-13 gang from which so many Salvadorans flee, was founded in Los Angeles prisons. The United States is keenly aware that young people can be easily radicalized while imprisoned
.. We have seen the radicalization of incarcerated youths firsthand. One of us, Steven Leach, spent years working with South African juveniles awaiting trial. These youths did not all enter detention as organized criminals, but without exception, among those who worked with Leach, each left prison a member of the gang.
.. A similar problem emerged in the internment camps of the Anglo-Boer war, in which British soldiers detained civilians to deter guerrilla campaigns by Boer insurgents. Approximately 115,000 people were held in the camps between 1901 and 1902; 22,000 Afrikaner children died. More than a century later, that horror remains at the forefront of the Afrikaner imagination
.. He leverages lies to stoke fear here: “We don’t want what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us!”
..Naturally, this feeds radical anti-American sentiment and promotes nationalism abroad when the U.S. is most in need of alliances to solve global problems.
.. There is now strong evidence that punitive deterrence strategies don’t work, no matter how burdensome they are.
.. punishments between 2000 and 2015 effectively reduced economic migration from Mexico but had negligible impact on the population the administration is targeting with its current policy: asylum seekers fleeing violence.
The report points out that there is no consequence worse than death and violence at home for these migrants.
.. If these are people we want as enemies, we had better be prepared for a multigenerational war.
Separate but equal” is a segregation-era term — one that most Americans are trying to put behind them, not delightedly apply to the armed forces.
.. Another Trump administration favorite is “law and order,” a holdover from Richard M. Nixon’s 1968 campaign. Candidate Trump reclaimed it in 2016 and has been repeating the term ever since. It’s not about actual law and order, of course (otherwise, something would have to be done about the array of grifters and criminals parading through the White House and Cabinet), but about creating a perception of growing crisis. The purpose of the term is to spawn nightmares of violence and criminality, controllable only from the top down. And it’s best applied in a racialized manner —
- to “illegals,”
- immigrant “animals” and
- purveyors of inner-city “American carnage.”
.. Which brings us to “America First,” the phrase that rolls off Trump’s tongue — and Twitter feed — with a gleefulness that belies its distasteful history. That particular slogan rose to prominence around 1915, when President Woodrow Wilson used the phrase to defend American neutrality in World War I. Its nativist undertones lent it credibility as a Ku Klux Klan slogan, and, grounded in nationalism and xenophobia, the phrase was again famously deployed by anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh to advocate for keeping America out of World War II.
.. What Trump’s go-to word associations have noticeably in common is that they are all phrases of division, plucked from the uglier chapters of the past century of American history. They are racialized. And they are used to stoke a fear of the other while promoting self-serving — Trump-serving — ways of quashing dissent and asserting authority.
.. Just a day after using “separate but equal,” Trump branched out to using shameful episodes in other countries’ recent histories to supply the vocabulary for his spur-of-the-moment public statements. In a tweet Tuesday morning, he attempted to lay the family separation policy at the feet of Democrats, saying that “they don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13.” An outside population “infesting” a nation, like vermin. Where have we heard that before?
.. Trump’s flights of language are bizarre but not entirely accidental. This Space Force announcement should remind us that even when our administration talks about the future, we should beware attempts to pull us back into the past.