It’s bad enough that headlines are calling last night’s speech “presidential” and even “hopeful.” I read the thing this morning. It seemed to me to be the same old hateful crap, with some conciliatory bleats tacked on to the beginning and end to make it more palatable. It was a true shit sandwich.
I think purely as a speech, its crafting, the thematic cadence and delivery, it was pretty average to unremarkable. It wasn’t a very good speech. Having said that, I think Trump may pick up a few points of support from the public because he seemed like a fairly normal person delivering it. This is admittedly an extremely low standard. But when you compare this Trump to the meltdown press conference Trump or the rageful, spewing Twitter Trump, he can’t help but seem more balanced and less threatening by comparison. Low bar. SAD! But there it is.
I think that’s exactly what happened. He’s being praised for managing to not crap on the lecturn.
In his first speech to a joint session of Congress, Trump declared Tuesday that he had come to the House chamber to deliver “a message of unity and strength.”
Though Trump’s rhetoric took him to a new and loftier plane, however, the goals he spelled out were the familiar and divisive ones that have left little room for compromise and conciliation — as evidenced by the fact that the Democratic side of the chamber sat largely silent and stone-faced throughout his speech.
Nor did the president give his Republican allies in Congress what they had wanted to hear, which was a sense of clarity on how he plans to achieve the ambitious agenda he promised. There were few detail offered and no nod to the complexity of the issues nor the fact that achieving his goals will require navigating deep fissures within his own party.
The whole sorry thing left me sputtering in outrage, although most of it was generic Republican drivel. This is the part where he colored way outside the old lines:
I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims. The office is called VOICE –- Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.
Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them.
Their names are Jamiel Shaw, Susan Oliver, Jenna Oliver, and Jessica Davis.
Jamiel’s 17-year-old son was viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member, who had just been released from prison. Jamiel Shaw Jr. was an incredible young man, with unlimited potential who was getting ready to go to college where he would have excelled as a great quarterback. But he never got the chance. His father, who is in the audience tonight, has become a good friend of mine.
Also with us are Susan Oliver and Jessica Davis. Their husbands –- Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver and Detective Michael Davis –- were slain in the line of duty in California. They were pillars of their community. These brave men were viciously gunned down by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and two prior deportations.
Sitting with Susan is her daughter, Jenna. Jenna: I want you to know that your father was a hero, and that tonight you have the love of an entire country supporting you and praying for you.
To Jamiel, Jenna, Susan and Jessica: I want you to know –- we will never stop fighting for justice. Your loved ones will never be forgotten, we will always honor their memory.
Certainly, anyone who has lost a loved one to violence deserves sympathy. But losing a loved one to violence hardly makes one a “hero.” And the scapegoating of undocumented people as a violent, criminal element in our midst is both inaccurate and unjust. In saying this, Trump has planted a flag firmly in neo-fascist territory.
First, let us be clear there is absolutely no data to suggest that immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, are commiting violent crimes at a higher rate than natural-born citizens. Just the opposite, in fact. So where is the special cocmmission for victims of natural-born citizens? How are such people not just as “heroic”?
“Both contemporary and historical studies, including official crime statistics and victimization surveys since the early 1990s, data from the last three decennial censuses, national and regional surveys in areas of immigrant concentration, and investigations carried out by major government commissions over the past century, have shown instead that immigration is associated with lower crime rates and lower incarceration rates.”
“Recently, public figures have claimed that immigrants are “killers” and “rapists,” bringing crime to the U.S. Study after study has shown, however, that immigrants—regardless of where they are from, what immigration status they hold, and how much education they have completed—are less likely than native-born citizens to commit crimes or become incarcerated. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, while the overall percentage of immigrants and the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. both increased sharply between 1990 and 2010, the violent crime rate in the U.S. during that time plummeted 45 percent and the property crime rate dropped by 42 percent. Studies have consistently found that immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than native-born Americans and that there was no correlation between crime rates and levels of immigration. Other studies have in fact found that crime rates are lowest in states with the highest immigration growth rates.”
I could go on. There is copious data from research organizations across the political spectrum telling us that immigration is not causing a crime problem. The perception that there’s a particular problem with immigrant crime, as opposed to regular old human-on-human crime, is coming purely from bigotry, not data.
Neo-fascism is widely defined as “a political movement arising in Europe after World War II and characterized by policies designed to incorporate the basic principles of fascism (as nationalism and opposition to democracy) into existing political systems.” Britannica says,
Like earlier fascist movements, neofascism advocated extreme nationalism, opposed liberal individualism, attacked Marxist and other left-wing ideologies, indulged in racist and xenophobic scapegoating, and promoted populist right-wing economic programs. Unlike the fascists, however, neofascists placed more blame for their countries’ problems on non-European immigrants than on leftists and Jews, displayed little interest in taking lebensraum (German: “living space”) through the military conquest of other states, and made concerted efforts to portray themselves as democratic and “mainstream.” The National Front in France, led by Jean-Marie Le Pen, and the Liberal-Democratic Party in Russia, led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, are often cited as neofascist.
The scapegoating of immigrants is a prominent feature in European neofascism, so it should be no surprise to see it here. And certainly, ugly nativist movements have sprung up before. The purpose of this is, as it has always been, to divide us; to absolve the genuinely guilty of blame; to establish power and authority through fear. As Giles Fraser wrote at The Guardian, scapegoating immigrants is the oldest trick in the book. Scapegoating any vulnerable minority — whether immigrants, blacks, Jews, Latinos, or anyone else — is a hallmark of fascism. And it’s hardly speaking to the better angels of our natures.
I’m very discouraged to see that nearly all the media are giving Trump a pass on this and instead praised him for mouthing cliches about “the dreams that fill our hearts.” The dream that fills my heart is that his monster and all of his enablers will be removed from office, sooner rather than later.