President Trump has been tweeting ominous warnings and threats about the caravan of migrant families making its way through Central America, and it’s all a part of his strategy to use racism to lift Republican candidates in the November elections.
“But maybe he’s legitimately worried for the safety of Americans?”
“But those migrants might take my job!”
That’s not going to happen, Phil. Unemployment is lower than it’s been in most of your lifetime, the economy is booming, and the same president who’s trying to scare you about the nonexistent migrant threat is also thumping his chest, taking credit for that soaring economy.
Trump knows that racism can be a winning strategy for Republican lawmakers. There is nothing new, clever, or innovative about racist fear-mongering as GOP electoral strategy. In the 1960s, during another period of significant shifts in the demographics of political power, in large part due to the recent enfranchisement of Black Americans, Richard Nixon shamefully pandered to White Americans’ fears to assemble electoral majorities throughout the South. Republican presidents since have used some version of that playbook, with varying degrees of success and subtlety.
Beyond the ugliness of demonizing immigrants, the president and his followers continue to insist that their Democratic political opponents are cultivating and supporting violence. In discussing the caravan of migrants with reporters, Trump declared, “That is an assault on our country and in that caravan you have some very bad people and we can’t let that happen to our country … I think the Democrats had something to do with it.”
It’s striking that, on the same week that a Republican president accused his political opponents of fomenting an “assault” on America, prominent Democrats – including the two most recent Democratic Presidents – were the targets of improvised mail bombs. It’s possible that these events are unrelated, but the GOP’s continuing characterization of equal rights for non-White people as an existential threat to the country is unsubtle in its appeal.
White Americans have a long history of using racism as political strategy. White America also has a way of ignoring the fact that racism is about power, and not just prejudice. President Trump has made his message abundantly clear to his overwhelmingly White constituency: when Black and Brown people get power, you lose yours. As long as White people believe this lie, it will be easy for the GOP to scapegoat Black and Brown people as a viable path to victory.