By Guy Page
A former Vermont State House journalist — a sincerely good, decent, civil person of long and pleasant acquaintance — recently chastised me on my Facebook page for backing “racist” President Donald Trump. He said: “really gross to see you promoting Trump” and “Sad to see that you have become such an apologist for this racist and rapist who now occupies the White House” and “You must be twisted up like a pretzel with all the excuses you make for him. I hope selling your soul was worth it.”
Mom and Dad raised me to hate racism. The faith of my upbringing (Unitarian) and my adulthood (evangelical Christian, we take our souls very seriously) both reject racial hatred. When my 1960’s schoolyard playmates in Colchester used the N word, I never joined in. My late wife and I adopted two African-American children. We know and love birth family who still live in Philadelphia. Mistreating anyone on the basis of race is anathema to me.
I Invited my colleague to ask me why I support Trump the alleged racist. He declined. Anyway, here’s my answer.
I support Donald Trump in part because of what he has done and I hope will do for American minorities. For too long, Washington has talked the talk but not walked the walk. After two generations, the Great Society of big, supposedly benevolent government hasn’t really done much for Detroit, Baltimore, or even the poor neighborhoods of Washington D.C.. When Candidate Trump told African-Americans in Michigan, “what the h—l do you have to lose,” it resonated with me and I suspect many other Americans. I support his administration’s:
- 2017 Tax reform and ongoing red-tape rollbacks that have drastically reduced unemployment for minorities, and put more after-tax money in their pockets, with the promise of further progress. The best social program is a good job.
- Determination to raise wages, reduce crime, and increase home ownership for all Americans of all skin colors. He is fighting the international trade system that has been taking jobs from Americans of color for far too long. You want to talk about systemic racism? Look at our trade policies that afflict low-income Americans.
- Desire to transform inner city schools into places where student outcomes matter more than adult employees’ demands.
- Work to reduce gang violence tormenting inner city families by (for starters) restoring respect for police and building a southern border wall to help interdict illegal drug trafficking.
- Commitment to not send soldiers to die in another middle-eastern Oil War because America won’t produce the oil it needs to survive. One-third of all American enlisted soldiers are minorities.
- Appointment of judges who oppose legal abortion on constitutional grounds. Abortionists have targeted minorities since the days of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. Although African-Americans comprise just 13% of the U.S. population, 36% of aborted fetuses are African-American, the Centers for Disease Control reported in 2018. If systemic racism may be inferred from arrest statistics, surely it may be inferred from abortion statistics as well.
One might think that a president who has done much for minorities and hopes to do more could be excused for some eyebrow-raising tweets. Alas, one would be wrong. And in all fairness, sometimes his tone is too harsh and his criticism is misguided — although not nearly so often as his critics suggest. The following is my take on Trump’s supposedly racist statements that weren’t.
“Very Nice People” – For example, it’s just not true that Donald Trump said there are “some very nice people” in the Klan or the Nazi party. He was talking about the people who didn’t want Confederate statues taken down and he explicitly condemned Nazis and the Klan. Most of the media seem to have quite intentionally ignored this important fact. Sorry to disappoint, Trump haters: See the entire transcript of everything he said.
“Muslim Ban” – Days after jihadis slaughtered 14 people at a Christmas party in San Bernadino, California in December 2015, Candidate Trump called for “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S.” This over-the-top campaign rhetoric could easily be understood as blanket bigotry towards all Muslims. But as president, Trump imposed a ban only on countries with terrorist governments or independent organizations, affecting just 12% of the world’s Muslim population. It may even be working. Since 2017, of the dozens of radical Islamic acts of terror worldwide, only one has occurred in the United States – in October 2017, when a man drove a pickup truck into a crowd in New York City. Eight people died.
“They are rapists” – June 16, 2015, Candidate Trump said (as quoted from Washington Post): “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Trump critics construed this statement as ethnic condemnation of Mexicans, especially immigrants. Yet it is a fact that illegal immigrant women are often raped by their couriers before crossing into America — just ask Arizona border ranch owner Cindy McCain about the “rape tree” on the southern side of the border from which hangs the underwear of these unfortunate women. It is also true that virtually all heroin consumed in the U.S. is manufactured and transported from Mexico.
Those are the awful facts of the lawless injustices being committed by some Mexicans against their own countrymen and countrywomen, and against Americans. President Trump has a vigorous plan to stop that injustice by reinstituting the rule of law at our southern border.
“S—hole countries” – According to reports from lawmakers who were there, President Trump at an Oval Office meeting in January, 2018 pushed back against a bipartisan deal continuing existing Haitian and African immigration protections with the coarse question, “Why are we having all these people from s—hole countries come here?” Trump has always stressed that our government should prioritize immigrants who will benefit the U.S.. Hard-hearted? Possibly. Unfair to the governments of Haiti and Sierra Leone, where poverty and corruption continue no matter how much western aid is delivered? Not at all. Trump was passing judgement on the quality of government, not the skin color of its citizens.
And for all of the talk about mass deportations by Trump’s ICE, CNN reported last month that deportations were far higher under Pres. Obama than under Trump: “Trump still has not reached anywhere near the level of interior removals as the early Obama administration” referring to the steady increase over the first five years of his presidency. It is also interesting that the critics who accused Trump of racism when he called the Puerto Rican government a “mess” in April have been silent since recent revelations of mismanagement led to the resignation of the governor and a shake-up of the island commonwealth’s entrenched ruling class.
“Go back home” – On July 14 President Trump tweeted: “So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how … it is done.”
Because his tweet clearly referred to the Squad of Congresswomen Pressley, Tliab, Omar and Ocasio-Cortez — all women of color — his critics immediately called it racist. Actually, the tweet makes more sense in context with his “s—hole” comments. Trump is nothing if not a proud American nationalist. He thinks America really is a better place to live than Somalia, and he doesn’t mind saying so. Elected representatives who rip American government and are apologists for less effective governments merit his scorn. When it comes to America vs. other countries, or capitalism vs. socialism, don’t expect false equivalency from Trump.
Trump the “Birther” – Trump’s pre-campaign leadership of the “birther” movement, which questioned Barack Obama’s nation of birth, is considered by many as indisputable proof positive that he is both racist and panders to virulent white racists. But it’s more likely that Trump, while considering a presidential run in 2012, learned of the “birther issue” raised by a Clinton campaign worker in 2007, and then (unlike Clinton) decided to run with it. Not until 2011 did Pres. Obama produce definitive evidence – his actual, real-deal birth certificate. Whereupon Trump dropped the issue, as reported by CNN April 27, 2011: “I’ve accomplished something nobody else was able to accomplish,” Trump said. “I’d want to look at (the birth certificate), but I hope it’s true so that we can get on to much more important matters. Obama “should have (released the certificate) a long, long time ago.”
So, why did Trump lead the “birther” movement? One could argue that Trump was “dog-whistling” to American bigots. One could also argue persuasively that had GOP nominee McCain or Romney been born somewhere questionable under Section 1, Article II of the Constitution, Trump might have called them out, too, and for the same reason – because it drew attention to himself as an aggressive challenger of the political status quo, even if it meant being called a racist.
All of these explanations beg the question — if he’s not really a racist, why couldn’t a savvy guy like Trump just avoid the hassle and say the right things like every other smart politician? Here’s why: even New York Times Magazine editorial writer John Herrman concedes that the left has “weaponized” the issue of race – “meaning accusations of racial hatred, not racial hatred itself.” What the NYT Magazine finally admitted in March 2017 has long been taken as gospel among any conservatives trying to make headway against the leftward flow of laws, regulations and court decisions. Donald Trump appears to have decided from the outset that anyone — white or minority — who tries to hit him with that club or use it as a shield should expect a counterpunch.
He’s not trying to turn the other cheek, nor calm the waters. That hasn’t worked for any Republican since GW Bush, and more important it hasn’t accomplished much for marginalized Americans or all ethnic and racial origins. For one thing, the left’s weaponized racism is always pointed at conservatives, almost never at its own, as a black selectboard member in Hartford, VT discovered when virtually no-one in the Vermont media or advocacy or government world criticized an immigrant activist for calling him a “coon” at a July 20 public hearing.
In his January, 2017 inaugural address, Trump eloquently summarized his race policy:
“It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag. And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator. So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again.”
In his mind, white Americans in the heartland and minority Americans in our cities share a common fate: the ruling class has written them off as collateral damage. But to Trump, they are the priority. He has made them a promise — and damn the torpedoes of weaponized race, it’s full speed ahead.
Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.