Donald J. Trump became the most powerful person on the planet in large part through the use of racial scapegoating. His lies to his supporters have a consistent theme: If you do not have a job, it’s because an immigrant has taken it. If your farm is hurting it is because China is screwing us. If your kid’s school has poor funding, it’s because brown children are pouring over the border. Using race to divide Americans has paid off, and with less than 100 days until the midterms elections, Trump is turning up the volume of his xenophobic messaging to drown out real economic issues affecting voters’ lives—and the fact that he’s ignoring them to enrich the already wealthy.
At a rally in Wilkes-Barre, PA on Thursday, Trump promised his supporters he would secure funding from Congress for his border wall, “or we are closing down the government.” Earlier this week, he prepared them for other “drastic” measures. I would argue he’s already done plenty of “drastic” things to get his wall. He ended DACA, he terminated temporary protected status for Haitians and Salvadorians, he’s continuing to rip families apart at the border. But Trump is willing to go further, at least in theory, and is now announcing publicly that he will shut down the federal government at the end of next month if he doesn’t get the wall and other items on his racist wishlist. Trump won the presidency of the United States (with some help from Russia) on a nativist platform, and, with little to show his base after almost two-years in office, he will continue to rely on racial scapegoating to help get Republicans elected in the midterms.
Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice noted on twitter, “There will be no wall and no shutdown. Trump’s talk about a border wall and shutdown is not about policy, it’s about narrative. It’s not about outcome, it’s about brand. It’s not about legislating, it’s about the midterms. It’s not about progress, it’s about attitude.”
The bitter reality is that this narrative is having a horrific impact on immigrant communities, with no residual benefit for working Americans. Over 500 children remain jailed in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security, separated from their parents, with no guarantee they will ever see their parents again. Dreamers continue to be in limbo, their future at the mercy of continuous legal challenges. On August 8th, a court in Texas is set to hear a motion for a preliminary injunction that could lead the federal government to stop accepting DACA renewals. While the National Immigration Law Center points out that it is uncommon for judges to issue orders during preliminary hearings, this is just one of various lawsuits moving through the courts. But despite the pain reverberating in immigrant communities, working Americans of every race, color, and creed have stagnant wages and lack access to healthcare.
The only winners of the Trump presidency have been large corporations and their ultra-wealthy owners. Trump’s tax cuts have not translated into higher wages for working Americans. Corporations are not using their tax savings for the benefit of their employees. They have instead lined the pockets of their investors, completing a record $178 billion in share buybacks in the first quarter of the 2018. And as if huge tax cuts for the top one percent of Americans were not enough, the Trump administration is considering bypassing Congress to give rich Americans the ability to inflation-adjust the cost-basis of their assets when paying capital gain taxes—a $100 billion perk, with no basis in law. By his own admission, Trump knows his policies are helping the elite, “ They love my Tax & Regulation Cuts, Judicial picks & more. I made them richer,” he tweeted recently in a rant about the Koch brothers.
The contrast to Trump’s treatment of working people is stark. He has made their health care worse, and their expenses greater, and when taken to account for it, he blames minorities, foreigners, and immigrants. Some Americans are surely fine with this arrangement, but the test for Democrats is whether they can convince America to reject the Trump vision where the rich get richer and the rest of us get a ginned up culture war.