Trump’s Divided State of America
Chidanand Rajghatta in Times of India, June 15/16
(Note: This is a must read article as it provides a lot of harsh facts and figures about US to reflect and hard to accept conclusions of Chidanand, Times of India’s US-based Foreign Editor for long in Washington DC . In real life American presidents – even comical figures — are heroes to be celebrated. (recall Bush, Kennedy, Clinton, Nixon etc.) Now both Trump and Clinton are at sniffing distance to Oval office. Trump is described as a “crude, coarse, corrosive businessman of shallow learning and dodgy principles,” hijacking Republican Party with a toxic agenda. Still he is getting applause and popular support, similar to those Modi used to get and still getting. That means Trump is uttering fears of the public which are likely to turn into votes as was the case of Modi.
US is built first on the blood of its native American Indians, and later on the sweat, toil and enterprise of immigrants whom Trump opposes now forgetting or hiding from his audiences the truth, that his own empire is built on the backs of an immigrant work force. America today is fast browning. How soon will White House, symbol of white supremacy become a black house as the colour of US is changing from white to brown to black? Number of whites in US has come down to around 200 million now (63 %) in a population of 320 million. Whites were 80% in 1980 and 69% in 2000 and the forecast is it will become a minority by 2043. A blanket ban on immigration may keep all types and stripes of terrorists but it will simply shut out all smart entrepreneurs who built up the America that is today. What is needed is the strenuous process of fool-proof screening all future immigrants and those who got in by crook like the ones at Orlando and Sancramento. Trump may be appealing to a white constituency whose number is fast diminishing and who are reluctant to venture out to vote unlike the brown or black. Also it is not necessary that his barks now during campaign should be as bad his bites when he become a mature president or when US presidency makes him much more mature. The heat of the campaign between a Man and a Woman, has made US a terribly divided on multiple issues. Cool thinking and harsh realities may force the victor to tred the path of a really United States on all counts. james kottoor, editor)
The road to power is paved with hypocrisy – and casualties, says Frank Underwood, the protagonist in the acclaimed television drama House of Cards. Cynical, manipulative and conniving, he is the lowlife politician who will stop at nothing, not even murder, in his march to the White House.
Americans have watched his progress over three seasons more in thrall than in horror because they have seen presidential capers before, on celluloid, in movies such as Absolute Power, Murder at 1600, and The Pelican Brief. Not as egregious as the machinations of Kevin Spacey (who plays Frank Underwood), but bad enough.
However, in an idealised, real-life America, presidents are heroes to be celebrated, even when they commit the country to dubious wars (Bush) and engage in personal shenanigans (Kennedy, Clinton). The worst that has happened to a US president – aside from the four assassinated, which is a whole other story – is being forced out of office before the end of his term (Richard Nixon) or being put through a torrid impeachment process (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton). Despite Clinton’s description of the White House as the finest public housing in America or the crown jewel of the American penal system, there is still some panache and prestige attached to the Oval Office.
With Donald Trump getting within sniffing distance of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – literally, since the Trump International Hotel is coming up at 1100 – all bets are off. A crude, coarse, corrosive businessman of shallow learning and dodgy principles, his hijacking of the feckless Republican Party and the toxic agenda he has infused it with, signals that the era of genteel domestic politics – even as Washington rode roughshod over much of the world – is over.
It will take a long time for American politics to recover from candidate Trump, much less a President Trump. His proposals on immigration and terrorism – ill-defined as they are – will spell an end not just to American primacy, but the idea of America itself.
The US is built on the blood of its Native American inhabitants and the sweat and toil and enterprise of immigrants, including that of Trump’s own forbears who fled Germany. With nearly 44 million immigrants – the population of Ukraine or Argentina – it remains by far the greatest magnet for international migrants, adding a million legal immigrants to its population every year. They supply the country with labour and skills, bring investment and innovation, and have filled its coffers with revenues and taxes that support America’s own ageing population with pensions and social security.
The percentage of non-Hispanic white people in the US population has reached an all-time low of 63% and is dropping rapidly. But they still constitute approximately 200 million (white) people out of 320 million Americans, in what is sometimes described as the Browning of America. This is the constituency Trump is now firing up.
It is estimated that by 2043 whites, who were 80% of the population in 1980 and 69% in 2000, will be in a minority. By appealing to the base instincts of this constituency Trump will only delay the inevitable, but he hopes the gambit will carry him to the White House.
Without immigration and fresh blood, the key drivers of economic growth, America will be dead in the water. No one knows this better than Trump himself, his empire constructed on the backs of an immigrant work force. Already, immigration is shrinking as a contributor to American growth with a slowdown in legal ingress.
There is no way Trump can evict or deport 11 million illegal immigrants, much less three or four times of that who are legal. Not even if he begins with the demonisation of Muslims by tying terrorism to immigration, as he has done in the case of the Orlando carnage (while glossing over the homophobic nature of the assault, which is supported by some of his Christian conservative clergy).
But if firing up the white nativist base can propel him to the Oval Office, that is what a wanton Donald Trump will do, a la Frank Underwood. To be sure, such blinkered mindsets are seen in other countries too, including in India.
Mongering fear and paranoia to a distrustful constituency without the skills or the tools to compete in a free world, they want to foreclose a fair contest that will test their constituents’ patronage-filled lives. So they disparage and demonise specific communities or ethnicities, extrapolating immigration with terrorism on the road to power – from Orlando to Washington DC in this case – that is paved with blood and gore.
The trouble is such roads lead down to a slippery slope. Keeping out terrorists of all stripes and types, which is a fair goal, is not the same as a blanket ban on immigration or movement of people that will render America insular and enfeebled.
As of now there are already four states that are “minority-majority” (where minorities are in a majority), including California and Texas, two of the bigger states. In nine other states, including New York, New Jersey and Florida, non-Hispanic white residents have fallen below 60%. Thirteen of the 40 largest metropolitan areas in the US are minority-majority, an additional seven have a non-Hispanic white population below 60%.
Trump thinks he is building a Fortress America to protect his mostly-white constituency. But the road to that fortress will take him through the Divided States of America.