Men like Trump: US president appears to have found the voters' pulse with shrill campaign against migrants

Editor's note: Men like Trump is a series of dispatches that tell of how a reckless president is steering the White House, and the manner in which his actions are fundamentally altering the office he holds. The writer, being a woman political journalist from India, now transplanted to the US, is in a unique position to observe the three aspects that are critical to defining this presidency: chauvinism, gunslinger politics, and immigration.

Tempers and emotions are at fever pitch all across the United States as President Donald Trump has worked hard to rouse passions, fears and insecurities of the people ahead of a crucial mid-term election that is being seen as a referendum on him.

The elections on 6 November to the 435-member Congress and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate will decide if the Republican party, which Trump represents, continues to control legislation in both Houses or whether it will go into the hands of the Democrats. Along with these, a host of local posts are also up for elections in various states. Both parties are working frantically as the election is being seen to be crucial to halt or support Trump’s protectionist policies, considered regressive by the Democrats and valid by his supporters.

Trump has been beating the drum against a caravan of migrants from Central America that is vending its way through Mexico to the US border. The size of the caravan is changing daily with the latest estimate supposing it to be anywhere between 3,500 to 7,000 people, who are reportedly fleeing poverty and oppressive conditions in their home countries of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, seeking a better life in the United States.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump has been beating the drum against migrants from Central America. Illustration: Satwick Gade

Trump, however, has seized this allegedly unconnected-to-the-elections caravan in his inimitable style. He is bombarding the voters with tweets and speeches that make out the caravan as a bunch of criminals who threaten the safety of the United States, with particular emphasis on the welfare of women. A conspiracy theory has also been put out that Jewish billionaire George Soros, a philanthropist and Democrat supporter, has facilitated the caravan to arrive in the United States and this theory has not only Trump’s stamp of approval, but also widespread acceptance. Despite reports from the ground by the media of the struggles of the people walking nearly 5,000 miles to the American border, queries are raised on how come they appear so clean and not tired at all.

These queries buy into the general suspicion against migrants that Trump is fanning with great exuberance. “We have to have a wall of people (against the caravan). It can be considered an invasion. We can’t have that,” he said in an ABC interview. And there are reports since that besides the US army, several militia groups are headed to defend the border.

Trump is also hammering away at the anxieties of women voters. He has claimed that he got the support of 52 percent of women in the United States in the 2016 Presidential polls, which he won against Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton and he keeps raising the pitch on how migrants provide an unsafe environment particularly for women and for the prospects of their children.

Fact-checker sites state that Trump got 41 percent of the female vote in that election, though he did get 52 percent of votes from white women. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll indicated that the female support to him had gone further down to 38 percent. But similar polls in the 2016 election had underrated Trump’s appeal and there has been a strong female presence in his rallies, all sporting pink hats and signs supporting his “Make America Great Again” slogan. His current approval rating among Republican voters has reportedly touched a whopping 89 percent.

Of the 35 Senate seats that are facing polls, 26 were held by the Democrats. Republicans currently hold 51 against the Democrats’ 49 (with two independents). So the Democrats are in the tough position of having to retain all 26 seats and add two more, if they need to wrest control and counter Trump’s positions in the Senate.

In the House of Representatives (the Congress), elections are on for all 435 seats. Currently 235 are held by the Republicans and 193 by the Democrats with seven vacancies due to deaths. Five of those seven seats were also held by Republicans. If the Democrats have to gain control, they have to win 23 seats more than what they did in the last mid-term poll in 2014.

Democrats appear hopeful that Trump’s histrionics and harsh tongue will convince their voters to come out and vote in large numbers this time and ensure a victory for their candidates to control both houses. But Trump appears to have put his finger on a very contentious spot in the American mind-space: people are worried that the liberalism of the Democrats may work completely against the interests of those already living in the country. And Trump is appealing strongly to the conservative mindset of the white people, who are still in majority in the country and don’t want their way of life in both economic and social terms to change.

Trump is being seen as a man who fosters the economy and does not impose taxes on all to support the welfare measures for the poorer. Simultaneously, there are reports, like in Georgia, that restrictions are being put through various measures including cancellation of voting rights if different government IDs don't match, on voters who come from poorer regions. A federal court threw out this attempt in Georgia, allegedly a planned effort by Republican candidate for the post of governor, its current secretary of state Brian Kemp. Trump’s response to the court decision was to call Kemp’s campaign “extraordinary” and attack his Democrat opponent Stacy Abrams. If Abrams wins, she will be the first black woman to become the governor of the conservative Southern state of Georgia. Trump declared in his typical style: “If she gets in, Georgia goes backwards. If he gets in, Georgia goes forward."

With just a day to go for the polls, the caravan and the economy seem to have become the biggest issues for the nation, though there is some concern on healthcare for all, which the Democrats have been pushing as their main agenda. If Trump manages to pull off a victory in terms of retaining control of one or both Houses, it will be seen as a validation of his stand that poor migrants and refugees from other countries are a threat to the peaceful life of the American people and send out a clear message to the world on what the original "country of migrants" currently thinks on that issue.

It will also be seen as a validation of the Republican stand that the recent troubling sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court associate justice Brett Kavanaugh, whom Trump defended and pushed through, were invalid or not a matter of genuine concern for the general public. The Democrats, however, are also going better armed than before in this election, as many of their candidates have managed to raise million dollar campaign money chests, unlike earlier polls.


Updated Date: Nov 07, 2018 10:08 AM

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