New York: With five days to go before America’s midterm elections, US president Donald Trump’s closing message is clear: Be very afraid, because illegal immigrants, according to Trump, are “invading” America, having babies on “this side of the border” and freeloading on the country’s bounties. The messaging is so loaded with violent imagery that even the booming economy or last week’s massacre at a synagogue come a far second. As far as Trump’s White House and his campaign is concerned, the midterms and the 2020 elections are a culture war whose time has come. New polling this week suggests there is an uptick in the underlying angst that may be driving the White House onslaught - nearly six in ten (58%) Republicans say that things have changed so much they often feel like a stranger in their own country.
Trump’s latest video tweet goes like this: "Illegal immigrant, Luis Bracamontes, killed our people!" It adds: "Democrats let him into our country...Democrats let him stay.” The video includes scenes of a migrant "caravan," warning, "Who else would Democrats let in?”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2018
Trump first said he’s sending 5,200 troops to the border to keep the migrant caravan “invasion” away; he’s now saying 15,000. Earlier this week, he threatened to sign an executive order ending birthright citizenship for children of non citizens. White House sources claim a tight knit group of hawks which decides Trump's immigration drumbeat is loving how the dog whistling is playing out.
What looks like Trump’s fixation on border security in the closing weeks of the campaign wasn’t anywhere on the headlines even four weeks ago. That it came storming back is not by chance, it’s been cleverly planned by senior staffers who believe this remains Trump’s winning strategy both now and in 2020. For the Trump White House, immigration is not a distraction, everything else is.
Led by firebrand Stephen Miller, the White House crack team on immigration is not going to relax after the midterms either. Reportedly on the agenda for the coming weeks and months include changes to the asylum program; changing rules for or ending work permits for spouses of foreign workers; more funds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the DHS, and regulatory changes inside US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Trump has left the detailing to Miller and team and instead belts out the mass messages by stoking fear. Until the election is actually over, no poll can tell precisely how many people struck by the fear mongering or appalled by it are actual voters. Like Trump has said often “I’m not on the ballot and I’m on the ballot”. If this works, Trump can take credit; if it doesn’t, it will still be prime fodder to plan for 2020.
Take the threat of repealing birthright citizenship, for instance. Even if it’s just an election stunt and nothing else, the toothpaste is out of the tube and people are talking about it while the migrant caravan comes closer to the US border. It’s where the imagery of Trump’s speeches - “they’ll be on your front porch” - and the dramatic visuals on television intersect in voters’ minds.
Trump has successfully conflated the terms immigrants, illegal immigrants, legal immigrants, foreign workers and birthright citizenship to mean a lump of “horrible” elements that pockmark America’s whiteness and safe zones.
Trump’s opponents are saying this tactic is “stupid and flat out wrong”, but are offering few alternatives. Practically everybody agrees Democrats are generally running against Trump’s rhetoric and not offering solutions to issues like, say, illegal immigration, which worries all Americans alike.
For his part, Trump says his extreme rhetoric is that way because “it’s my only way of fighting back”. "But you’re the President, you don’t have to do this," an Axios reporter insisted. To which Trump replied with snake oil: “But I was doing this before I won…”. If that combative streak is putting off wealthier whites who may have voted for Trump in 2016, Trump doesn't seem to care. He is betting on whipping up the core base with distractions like birthright citizenship and a migrant 'invasion'.
After every election is done, it’s ‘before’ some other election. This stuff is going downhill before it gets better.
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Updated Date: Nov 02, 2018 06:07:34 IST