President Donald Trump was about to deliver a speech on tax policy Thursday when he abruptly stopped, setting the paper down. Why? “It’s boring,” as the president so candidly put it. “We have to tell it like it is,” he added.
Trump employs one of two strategies whenever addressing anything he doesn’t like, or facing situations he’d rather not consider — first: hyperbole; second: distraction. Unfortunately for the country, the result of combining these strategies is that we get no clear definition of policy intention, no real understanding of what the president believes or what he stands for. Just a few weeks ago, taxes were the highest priority on the president’s mind (ostensibly); today, he pauses amid a chance to address his intentions for the American fiscal future to go off on a tirade about immigration and Democrats.
The important bit about this particular wave of vitriol is that, in the middle of his first term, after passing an omnibus funding bill and with more legislation on the agenda, Trump turns, when “bored,” to what Trump knows best — the racism that characterized his campaign continues to enliven the nastier parts of his base and will probably also fuel a 2020 reelection bid if he chooses to make one. Citing an attack last October in lower Manhattan, Trump stated, “This is what Democrats are doing to you.” And he follows the script with more of the same, sensationalized and racially inflammatory rhetoric: scary immigrants, irresponsible Democrats, border wall, brandishing threats, garnering fear. True to the pattern, we have to ask, what is he trying to distract us from?
Perhaps it could be the fact that, in lieu of the border wall that failed to receive funding due to the omnibus funding bill passed last week, Trump has elected (or pretended to support — it’s unclear what is really a priority or concern, and what’s a cheap cast to rile up the base) to deploy National Guard forces to the U.S.-Mexico border. This decision comes despite increased funding for the reparation of existing infrastructure and the hiring of more border enforcement officials.
And, as usual, key members of the administration — Mattis, in particular, in this case — are once more left out of the loop by the president’s declarations and scrambling to put together a critical, comprehensive plan to match what appears to be a consistent string of dictatorial declarations. Details for the mission, including scope, cost and duration, have yet to be determined by White House officials. There is no ballpark figure of how many of our troops will be deployed to an empty desert, despite, of course, Trump’s assertion that they would be deployed “immediately.” Whatever “immediately” might mean, or what Trump considers his cabinet to be doing about that proposed timeline is also unclear.
More important is the audacity with which the president of a multiracial and multilingual nation, priding itself on being a nation that receives the “sick,” the “huddled masses,” has so fervently taken to the justification of the discrimination, obfuscation and exile of a group of people to whom he has ascribed false national security concerns. To this group Trump attributes a host of his base’s worst fears about globalization, cultural shifts and national progression that are neither their fault nor under the span of its control. In short, Trump has redirected white anger toward another scapegoated group — just as he has done in the past with black and Muslim communities.
Trump’s venom for people of color is no secret; but what’s concerning is the manner in which he is diverting real, concrete resources from other national concerns toward approaching and assailing what is essentially the strawman of Trump’s “national security” platform. After all, if he were prepared to treat immigration with real consideration, and as a real national security issue, why would he continually resist attempts from both parties to come to the table regarding comprehensive immigration reform? Why would he not be championing the existing bills that attempted to address this issue even before the omnibus funding bill was passed?
I’ll repeat the same thing I’ve been writing for the past few weeks: It is within the legislature that our hope rests for a better future moving forward, one that doesn’t include a ham-handed attempt at taxation legislation or a total abdication of the responsibility of immigration reform. The only way to support the communities that continue to be targeted by this sort of behavior, and to fight the coming executive decisions and legislative agendas that are sure to be drummed up to match, is to vote. Perhaps the Blue Wave may not be as strong as some of California’s most ardent progressives believe, but certainly, Trump continues to do it many favors. Remember moments like these when you head to the polls.
Lily Vaughan is a junior majoring in history and political science. Her column,“Playing Politics,” runs Fridays.