Opinion | President Trump, American nationalist

By on February 6, 2018

Ian Berkey
President Trump’s speech last Tuesday night to Congress is significant for several reasons.

Politically, it comes at a time when his approval ratings are rebounding and the midterms look less disastrous for the Republican party than they did just a short while before.

The Democrats had a lead on the generic congressional ballot of almost 13 points on January 1st, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. Today, it is down to just seven points. As for the speech itself, a CBS poll found that 75 percent of watchers approved. Why?

I think the first important thing is immigration. What Trump laid out in his speech is really not radical at all. He offers a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million dreamers, illegal immigrants who were brought into the country as children. For comparison, President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), gave legal status without a pathway to citizenship to just under 700,000 of these individuals, according to Politico.

So Trump is offering a much better deal to dreamers than the previous administration, and for what in return?

The Republicans want to make sure that we aren’t ever in a situation like this again. If we do give some people amnesty, it will encourage others to try to enter illegally in order to benefit from future ones, instead of coming over legally. Thus, we have to take steps to make sure this doesn’t happen. This means more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and border patrol agents, e-verify to prevent people who are here illegally from being employed, and yes, a wall along some parts of our southern border.

If you’re thinking, “Huh, that sounds like a reasonable compromise,” you aren’t the only one.

Until recently, both parties could have signed onto something like this. Consider this from President Clinton’s 1996 platform:

“We cannot tolerate illegal immigration and we must stop it,” Clinton’s platform stated. “For years before Bill Clinton became President, Washington talked tough but failed to act. In 1992, our borders might as well not have existed. The border was under-patrolled, and what patrols there were, were under-equipped. Drugs flowed freely. Illegal immigration was rampant. Criminal immigrants, deported after committing crimes in America, returned the very next day to commit crimes again. President Clinton is making our border a place where the law is respected and drugs and illegal immigrants are turned away.”

Or this from John McCain’s 2008 platform:

“Border security is essential to national security,” McCain’s platform stated. “In an age of terrorism, drug cartels, and criminal gangs, allowing millions of unidentified persons to enter and remain in this country poses grave risks to the sovereignty of the United States and the security of its people.”

To characterize what was the bipartisan consensus until about five seconds ago as some form of bigotry or white supremacy is kind of like those anarcho capitalists who say that public buses are socialism.

But the Democrats, in lieu of standing for something, appear to just want to reflexively oppose Trump. Watching the speech, one might be forgiven for thinking somebody had put superglue on their seats. They stood and applauded for next to nothing.”

Economic growth? Nope. Record low African American unemployment? Nope. Even when Trump veered left into things like paid family leave and infrastructure spending, nope. They appear to believe that Trump’s low approval ratings will mean that the public looks favorably their acts of #resistance.

There are a few problems with this, first and foremost because we know it doesn’t work. Trump won the presidency with about the same approval ratings that he has now. To win over the American public, you must actually present a vision of the future that is more than “not the other guy.”

And yet, many on the Democratic side continue. Perhaps that is a sign that instead of cynical political posturing, at least some of them are sincere. Take, for example, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA).

Waters decided to boycott Tuesday’s speech on the basis that she considered President Trump to be a racist. And yet, she had no problems warmly embracing Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan, for the record, leads the Nation of Islam, a hate group that holds that white people are a “race of devils,” that were created by an evil scientist 6,600 years ago. He has  called Judaism a “gutter religion” in a sermon, and responded to comparisons to Adolf Hitler afterwards by praising him as ”a very great man,” according to the New York Times.

Farrakhan also blamed the Jews for 9/11, and is described by the Anti Defamation League as “the leading anti-Semite in America.” And yet, as far as I’m aware, Waters hasn’t even been asked to condemn him.

President Trump, on the other hand, has a very strong opportunity. To date, most of the injuries he has suffered during his presidency have been self inflicted; a wayward tweet, an off the cuff remark, an impulsive firing and so forth. Given his age, it’s very possible he is set in his ways. But if he isn’t and can learn to control himself, perhaps he can pave the way for something truly special.

America, unlike the nations on Europe, is not united by an ethnicity, but by a creed. In other words, Americans are united by the content of their character and values, which makes a unifying, American nationalism different in kind to what you might see elsewhere. Time will tell if he can make it work politically, but the president has a real chance to make America great again, for all Americans.

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