Trump border wall and birtherism are about stoking racial resentments

Trump border wall and birtherism are about stoking racial resentments.

by Jason Sattler, Opinion columnist
No amount of evidence will cure birtherism. And no wall will protect Trump’s followers from the fear of losing cultural dominance or majority status.

In Chicago on Nov. 19, 2016.
(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
It has no value on its own. Racial resentment makes people want it. And even if they get it, they won’t be satisfied.

Donald Trump’s wall is Barack Obama’s long-form birth certificate as a $25 billion budget item. And if Democrats reward him for birthering the entire country over the wall with what could soon be the longest partial government shutdown in American history, it will only fuel the racist fire Trump hopes to ride to re-election.

We know that Trump’s wall has no value on its own because of what Republicans are willing to give up in exchange for it — nothing.

Trump could have asked for a wall in 2017 or 2018 when his party controlled both houses of Congress. He was within reach of making good on his campaign promise in early 2018.

“The tell here is that when congressional Democrats started getting close to a deal that would swap help for ‘Dreamers’ for wall money, immigration hawks swooped in — not with quibbles about the details but with a huge set of unrelated demands,” Vox’s Matthew Yglesias wrote.

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What the hard-liners wanted far more than the wall was a plan that would cut legal immigration by half. These “immigration restrictionists” are eager to reduce the legal paths for citizens to bring their family members to this country because America has already made huge steps toward reducing undocumented immigration. It hit a 12-year low in 2016 as the world’s most famous birther was running for president on the premise that our borders were under siege.

Fences and walls have already been built in the most porous areas of the border. New requirements have made it harder to hire employees without proper documents. The vast majority of unauthorized immigrants in this country have been here for more than 10 years. And immigrants who stay in this country without permission increasingly arrive here legally.

Border wall and birtherism are racist frauds
There’s no deal to be had with Trump and his hard-liners because this isn’t about securing a border, which is more secure than it has been all this century or possibly ever. It’s about the same thing birtherism was about: Re-establishing the dominance of white Americans.

If this issue weren’t a racist fraud, the Trump administration wouldn’t have to invent phony statistics that crumble when even Fox News gives them the slightest scrutiny — much like birtherism.

Unlike Donald Trump, Barack Obama’s mother was born in America. And, of course, Hawaii is as much a state as New York.

That sight of the first nonwhite president in our history being hounded for his papers seemed racist on the surface to many Americans. And a 2014 study by political scientist Philip Klinkner of Hamilton College found that a belief in this conspiracy theory was closely correlated with increasing levels of racial resentment.

Likewise, a 2017 analysis of American National Election Studies by Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel found “racial attitudes towards blacks and immigration are the key factors associated with support for Trump.”

Of course, in the 21st century few people want to admit that they’re motivated by racial resentment. But it’s impossible to ignore what’s behind the spectacle of creating a monument to division and racial fraud at our southern border while ignoring or encouraging climate change, a genuine crisis that actually threatens America’s more than 10,000 miles of coastline.

“For white evangelicals who see the sun setting on white Christian dominance in the country, the wall is a powerful metaphor,” Robert Jones, the author of “The End of White Christian America,” told The Washington Post.

Trump enriches himself by dividing us
But the worst aspect of this fraud is that getting this symbol, which Trump reportedly first adopted as way to remind himself to talk about immigration, will do nothing to soothe the people who want it most. In that respect, it is much like Obama’s birth certificate. In December 2017, more than six years after Obama had released his long-form birth certificate, a majority of Republicans still said they thought he was born in Kenya.

No amount of evidence will cure birtherism. And no wall will ever protect Trump’s followers from the fear of losing cultural dominance or majority status.

Pointing out that racism drives the wall strategy isn’t an excuse to call Trump followers racist. The goal is to expose Trump’s favorite con — creating false crises that stoke racial resentment, while he enriches himself and his donors.

Trump did not fight for this wall while his party ran Congress. Instead he focused on cutting taxes for himself, his family and the billionaires that finance him.

Right now, as about 800,000 federal workers (tens of thousands of them veterans) are going without paychecks, dozens of foreign guest workers are working at Trump’s properties, which are still open. Investigators are looking into reports that the president employed undocumented workers at his golf club in New Jersey. And Trump’s wife, the first immigrant first lady since London-born Louisa Catherine Adams in 1825, once worked in this country without proper documents.

To Trump, laws are for other people.

He believes in nothing but dividing us for his convenience. Appeasing him only validates this strategy. Standing up to him and demanding that Senate Republicans reopen the government now is our only choice.

Jason Sattler, a writer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and host of “The GOTMFV Show” podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @LOLGOP

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