By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –
Whether Trump wins or loses (and in my view there isn’t much chance he can win), he will leave behind a toxic legacy of increased racial and religious hatred, which he has deliberatedly stirred up in order to take the focus off his policies– policies that will hurt workers and will throw even more money at the super-wealthy. This use of racism to divide the working class and whip up support for the business classes is as old as American capitalism.
Trump has galvanized sentiment against Latinos and immigrants (a minority of Americans of Latino ancestry is first-generation immigrants) by loudly proclaiming that they are guilty of all kinds of crimes. In fact, violent crime has fallen 48% in the US since the early 1990s, yet in the past 25 years immigration has soared. Research shows that immigrants commit less crime than the native-born. It isn’t hard to figure out why. First, those who don’t yet have citizenship are afraid of being deported, so they keep their noses clean. But more importantly, and contrary to what Trump alleges, immigrants are go-getters who have taken the big step of leaving home to accomplish something. They are highly motivated to succeed and often bring with them a great deal of human capital. As for jobs, immigrants aren’t stealing them from the native born. They are doing different jobs than locals with the same educational attainments. That’s because they often don’t have as good English skills or can’t afford to turn down menial jobs. The hatred against immigrants Trump has fostered is based on a set of lies, lies that are easily shown to be falsehoods. But it is a little unlikely that this hatred of foreigners will subside Wednesday, whatever happens.
Trump has given aid and comfort to the American far right. With his racist dog whistles (and often just unadorned racism) he has emboldened the Ku Klux Klan, Alt-right and other disgusting organizations. David Duke of Louisiana has been encouraged to run for the senate and is pledging to be Trump’s biggest supporter. This genie will be hard to put back into its lamp.
Trump has encouraged hatred for Muslims in the US on an unprecedented scale. Hatred for Muslims has already been adopted as a latent platform by the Republican Party, but they are usually at least a little more subtle about it. If Trump can succeed in discriminating against Muslim-Americans, he can then proceed to discriminate against the rest of us on one pretext or another. Muslim-Americans are only 1% of our population. There isn’t actually any danger of them taking over the country or imposing their religious law, and most terrorism comes from the far right or from overseas, not from native-born Muslim-Americans. Trump supporters have already burned down a mosque in Florida, have assaulted Muslims (and Sikhs, whose men wear turbans) all over the country, and some Trumpists have plotted terrorism against Muslims.
Trump has left a legacy of contempt for women and a resurgent patriarchy. He has juvenilized women and hurled slurs at them. He accused Megyn Kelly of being on her period when she asked him sharp questions. He boasted about grabbing strangers by the genitals. His message is that women should be judged not by their intelligence, hard work, or character but by their breast size and figure and the symmetry of their faces.
Trump has taken optimistic trend lines and pulled them down into Sheol with him. He has diminished our country, traumatized our children, and made us laughingstocks in the urbane capitals of the world. He leaves us a large bequest, tied up with a bow, of hatred and prejudice, smelling like the piece of dog shit that is Donald Trump.