“He’ll do a second term. Or Ivanka will run, maybe”, I said to Jessica, a middle school teacher and yoga afficionado in a predominantly white neighbourhood in Maryland with top-rated schools and premium real estate.
It was a warm evening just after Trump ratcheted up a war song for raising the drawbridge on America’s borders and slashing new arrivals by half over the next 10 years.
“You’re adding to my anxiety. My husband and I already disagree on him and now you’re telling me this… Hmm.”
Jessica rested her hands on the dining table, then raising them to hold her head. Her pizza lay uneaten, the olives and arugula topping going limp, her tea cold.
My Trumpian hobby horse had touched a raw nerve. I asked Jessica why she, as an all-American white resident in a tony neighbourhood, cared.
Jessica’s husband Chris did not vote Trump but didn’t vote Hillary either. He travels between London and the US and when Londoners ask him about Trump, he asks them about Sadiq Khan and the bike lanes in the city, just so “I don’t say anything that hurts them”.
My question remained.
Six months into the Trump presidency, urban Americans in white neighbourhoods are still unable to form coherent sentences for why Trump’s dog whistles worry them.
“It’s just not who we are," says Jessica’s husband Chris, whose work in IT cloud architecture brings him into daily contact with H1B workers.
Are his H1B teammates anxious?
“Actually, the management is. They have ongoing projects and clients get used to a certain work flow. The constant threat that the H1Bs may be sent home doesn’t help the business case," he says.
We get talking about the RAISE Act — the new chunk of red meat Trump has flung to his restless base, the battle-hardened anthem of his still-young political career — a proposal to slash in half legal immigration to the United States within 10 years by limiting the ability of legal residents to bring family members into the country.
This is one of hundreds of bills introduced in Congress every year, Trump has singled it out for praise at a time when he is unable to deliver on any of his other promises. Trump’s promised repeal of the existing healthcare law — an enduring Obama era legacy — failed after his own partymen killed it off.
The RAISE Act’s 40 pages unload policy talk in six broad subcategories but its resentment agenda is simple — to slam America’s doors shut on non-whites.
“So how exactly would the points system work? In general, one would earn more points for advanced degrees in science and engineering fields. One would get more points for being younger. One would get points for a job offer if the salary was at least 150 percent of the median local wage, with even more points for salaries worth 200 or 300 percent. In Arkansas, for example, the 300 percent mark of median wages is $128,394; in Georgia, it’s $152,304," say the authors of the RAISE bill, now blaring from America’s loudest megaphone — the daily White House despatch.
Decoded, that means if you’re — say — 40, you’re not a Nobel or Olympic medal winner, you’re a post-grad from a top Indian University, you speak polished English, have a job offer for less than $100,000 a year and don’t plan to invest at least $1.35 million in the US, you’re out.
Experts will argue till they’re red in the face about how this Bill will be tough to pass in US Congress, about how it requires a super-majority. (The Obamacare repeal needed a simple majority and three Republicans is all it took to sink it.)
But who said anything about getting the RAISE Act passed?
Trump’s promise has never been about the ‘doing’.
Like his real estate projects, Trump’s politics follows from the license fee model that underpins his properties across the world: Take my name, pay me lots of money, enrich yourself, I’m not going to wear a hard hat and stand on the construction site. Gold plating is mandatory.
Trump is neither responsible for the structural design nor construction, he pockets his license fee and exits while the builder deals with the selling.
Similarly, Trump’s politics is not about practicality, it’s about how white men ‘feel’.
These are white men who live in America’s sinks of economic duress — in mining towns where people lost jobs during or after the 2008 crash. Two terms of a black Presidency following the greatest economic debacle since the 1930s convinced them that only a white man could be their hero.
Obama did not cause the crash of 2008 but he gave America’s voters a measure to assess the draining away of white privilege that his election came to symbolise.
Trump is not seeking to be everything to everybody but just to those who brought the Democratic vote bank to its knees.
Neither Obama nor Democratic Presidents before him began the southward slide for the party. Working class whites deserted the Democratic Party back in the early Sixties after the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Trump voters’ worries of America becoming a non-white majority country are directly proportional to their support for Trump — greater the worry, greater the support. These are the same folks who think Barack Obama is a Muslim (60 percent) and and don’t really care if they are Republican or not as much as they care about being Trumpkins.*
So, with the Opposition in tatters, what is the resistance against Trump?
White, educated men.
Ivy Leaguers, career bureaucrats, a war hero battling brain cancer who turns up at midnight just to vote against Obamacare. James Comey, Robert Mueller, John McCain.
So, he’s gone and drafted a cast-iron right winger to protect the base, to make Trumpism mainstream.
Tom Cotton, 40, is Trump’s new 'educated white male' mascot with custom tailored credentials — son of a cattle farmer from Iowa, Harvard law graduate, served in Iraq and Afghanistan, a serving Senator.
To those who say immigration helps the labour-market thrive, Cotton responds: “Only an intellectual could believe something so stupid. The laws of supply and demand have not been magically suspended.”
RAISE Act is this young politician’s first poison arrow.
It’s not his last.
Updated Date: Aug 12, 2017 11:28 AM