The traditions behind Trumpism

Trumpism is the latest manifestation of the hostility to foreign things that keeps cropping up in America’s history. Our history is one of immigrant waves that are denounced, become assimilated, and join in denouncing the next immigrant wave. Hostility is especially strong when the country seems threatened. During World War I speaking German could get you in trouble; during World War II over 100,000 Japanese Americans were put in concentration camps without so much as reasonable suspicion of anything.

Scan of newspaper ad saying 'No Irish need apply'

His campaign is based on an exclusionary form of cultural Americanism. His calls for trade barriers and physical barriers, his opposition to refugees, and his “Make America great again” slogan are all parts of it. It’s not just him, though; all or nearly all of the Republican candidates (including Rand Paul!) have played on anti-immigrant sentiment. If anything, his opponents don’t consider him sufficiently anti-immigrant; Rubio has denounced him for allegedly hiring undocumented Polish workers. (It was his contractor who hired them, and they may have been cheated of their pay, but what Rubio objects to is that they were paid at all.) A high school basketball team in Iowa has reportedly been chanting his name to mock Latino opponents. David Duke has expressed his support of Trump, who at first disavowed the endorsement but then turned around and claimed to know nothing about Duke.

Some old, ugly, unreasoning traditions are the heart of Trumpism. They’d exist even without him; he’s brought them out into the open.

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One Response to “The traditions behind Trumpism”

  1. Eyal Mozes Says:

    I don’t think you’re being fair to Rubio here. In general my opinion of employers who employ illegal immigrants is that as long as they treat them decently, they’re not doing anything wrong. But the fact that Trump, who has made cracking down on illegal immigrants so central to his campaign, has employed illegal immigrants, represents the worst kind of hypocrisy, and it’s perfectly reasonable for Rubio to point it out. From all the reports I’ve seen, Rubio wasn’t explicit on this, but the most natural way to understand his statements attacking Trump is that it’s the hypocrisy, not the paying of immigrants, that he objects to.

    Judging by Rubio’s voting record, and by his rhetoric up to a few weeks ago, he is the most pro-immigrant of the candidates, of either major party. It’s disappointing that he is now trying to downplay his previous pro-immigrant stands; but unlike Trump, Cruz, or Paul, he hasn’t made any clearly anti-immigrant statements, and voted against Paul’s “SECURE act”. Certainly there are a lot of very strong legitimate reasons for criticizing him; but I don’t think it’s fair to call him anti-immigrant, let alone accuse him of considering Trump insufficiently anti-immigrant.


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