Fascism begins with blaming the stranger for your problems. And it works, or Donald Trump wouldn’t be President. Of course, the brash billionaire benefited from two interrelated campaign promises: to erect a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and perk up the stagnant wages of American workers. Kick out the foreigners, and the good times will roll.
That xenophobic mind-set is a far cry from the melting-pot image that the United States has long trumpeted to the world. Starting with the first European colonists, our country was built on the smarts and brawn of immigrants, but the tradition of inclusion has been periodically savaged. The supposed land of opportunity was responsible for the Alien and Sedition Acts of the 18th century, the denial of citizenship to Chinese workers who helped build the transcontinental railroad in the 19th century and the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II.
Trump is a smart enough fellow and knows damn well that demonizing Hispanic border crossers has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with finding a convenient scapegoat for our economic ills. That’s what Adolf Hitler did by focusing on the German Jew as an irrational but vulnerable target.
While retracting a number of his ludicrous campaign promises, Trump has stuck with his war on undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America. It plays into his vow to create more jobs for American workers and increase their wages. Big Business—which controls both major political parties—will never let Trump scuttle the trade programs that led to U.S. corporations’ profit-rich dominance of a globalized economy. Apple Inc. and the others will still rely on China as their basic factory floor no matter how loud Trump bellows, but rounding up Mexican grape pickers, nannies and car washers is the demagogue’s easy boast.