Ohio State University

We the People…Which People? BY Mohamed Farah @ The Ohio State University

After some back and forth, much to the dismay of both Democratic and Republican leadership in congress, the Trump white house settled on wanting border security funding (upwards of 25 billion) and the ending of lottery visas in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for the 800,000 dreamers. This is in spite of polling that shows 87 percent of all Americans favor allowing immigrants who were brought to America as children to stay in the country. The same CBS poll also shows that 79 percent of all those that belong to the president’s own party are in favor of allowing immigrants who were brought to America as children to stay in the country. This doesn’t make sense. Why hold childhood arrivals in limbo? Trump didn’t have to revoke the executive order signed by Obama that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. However, doing so created a crisis (the dooming deadline) and brought into question who is an American. Both of which are mainstays of the Trump brand that has won the presidency.

Jan-Warm Muller describes this particular populist behavior, “’crisis’ can be a performance, and politics can be presented as a continuous state of siege.”  This constant creation of crisis, which is not limited to the topic of immigration, is done through not only the much-discussed distortion of facts but also through the use of the legitimate powers bestowed upon the presidency. For example, the president does have the power to revoke an executive order. The terror that revocation causes to DACA recipients and the ensuing public discourse, is nonetheless the goal.

Immigration was a key campaign topic during the election of Donald Trump. Immigration, specifically of the “illegal” variety, has Donald Trump’s base energized. Trump used this time and time again during his campaign. Trump portrayed the immigration system as not only broken but the cause for the crisis, an ambiguous one whose parameters he never once clearly defined, America is in.

Immigration is particularly useful to Trump as it can not only cause crisis and political paralysis but it also affirms to his base that they are true Americans. During his campaign, his choosing to highlight specific murders of white Americans committed by Latino assailants who happened to come to the US through illegal ways, shows Trump had a certain goal in mind: get elected by any means necessary. Unity was clearly not the goal.  This dog whistle rhetoric serves to divide Americans by pushing a certain segment towards Trump to fulfill his political ambitions.

It turns out that a successful populist presidential candidate implores the same techniques used to win an election to govern. Muller describes this phenomena by stating that populist presidents don’t really stop campaigning once they are in office. Interestingly, this trait is not unique to populists.

A year into his presidency, the feeling that America is in crisis seems to have become the new normal. Headline fatigue related to the Trump presidency seems to be widespread. Trump’s administration seems to be working from right out of a populism handbook. The myth of the threat caused by the “overwhelming” number of foreigners living amongst us is not rhetoric exclusive to the campaign trail.

Does this question of who is an American and deserving of rights hurt our democracy?

It weakens our democracy greatly. America’s demographics have changed dramatically. Pew Research reports that 13.1 percent of the United States’ population is foreign born. According to the Forum on Child and Family Statistics, from 1994 to 2016 the percentage of all children living in the United States with at least one foreign-born parent rose from 15 percent to 25 percent. To have your presence or your parents’ presence in the country you call home discussed as public discourse can feel alienating. This alienation does not foster the inclusivity that successful democracies sit on.

The Preamble to the Constitution of the so-called-United States of America begins with the words “We the People”. America’s progressions and regressions from a full democracy can be traced by how its citizens have defined said people. In times that the concept of the people has expanded to include a broader sector of society the democratic experiment has flourished. Conversely, in times that the concept of the people has been contracted in the public zeitgeist America’s democracy has weaned. We, if I may use the term, are in a time that the questioning of who is included in the people can lead to presidential victory. The concept is contracting. Only time will tell, the degree to which this will lead to democratic backsliding.

 

PHOTO BY ROBYN BECK, CREATIVE COMMONS ZERO LICENSE

3 Comments

  1. HARRIET DIAMANTE FERRER

    March 13, 2018 at 12:57 am

    Trump’s polarizing rhetoric has further divided constituents and has definitely raised the question of who is American and who is even allowed to be American. This blog post does an excellent job is spurring dialogue about the lack of inclusiveness under Trump’s America. While his populist sentiments are a threat to democracy, there are institutions built in our system that will prevent us from seeing this democratic decay anytime soon. Nonetheless, it is easy these days to feel that our nation is in turmoil. With the overwhelming amount of support the dreamers had from both parties, it is mind-boggling to see how the president continues to work on his own agenda. The United States has been known for a long time as a “melting pot” with its diverse citizens from every corner of the world. Not only is Trump a threat to democracy, but he is a threat to the diversity and inclusivity of our nation. It is disheartening to hear the leader of our nation to spew hate against minorities, insinuate negative stereotypes, and only represent a subset of the population. It is also offensive for him to disregard the efforts that immigrants have contributed to our economy and society; he only focuses on identities. The president has many powers, though limited; however, he alone does not hold the power to denounce the citizenship and identities of many in our nations. As mentioned in the blog post, democracy prospers best when everyone in the nation is accounted for and included in the phrase “We the people.”

  2. ISABELLA MULLEN

    March 15, 2018 at 2:00 am

    This blog post perfectly addresses the new normal of crisis in America. In this post, the explanation of the current situation of immigration in America under President Trump points to many current events issues. Donald Trump believes that there can’t be a country without a fence that is separating America from the rest of the world. In his mind he believes that by making a physical wall between the US and Mexico we will be able to keep out anyone who seems un-American. This creates a skewed view of our country where everything that is inside the wall is fully American and automatically everything that is outside the wall isn’t American. America becomes defined by everything that it is not. By saying that building a wall will keep our people that could pose a problem it is negating the problems that are happening within our country right now. Donald Trump puts his own agenda first and his choices effect the diversity of our entire country and the fate of democracy in America.

  3. KENSHARRA DAVIS

    March 15, 2018 at 3:16 am

    Your blog hits home to me because I have close friends who are basically struggling right now to understand what’s going to happen to them in the next few months or years to come because their parents are immigrants. America has always been known as a land of opportunity and a place where people can come to, live the “American dream”, and make lives for themselves that would not have been possible if they stayed in their native countries. A lot of people are migrating back to their native countries due to the fact that they’d rather face the harsh conditions of life in a familiar place than to be somewhere they are not wanted although they do contribute greatly to our society. This makes me wonder, what is an “American” exactly? What are the standards for being American, does it only apply to those who are born and raised in America or does it only apply to those who possess certain characteristics? I found it interesting how at the beginning of your blog post, you include the statistics on people opposed to and from Trump’s party and how they voted in regards to allowing immigrant children who were brought to this country to stay in this country- on both sides, the polls reached more than 50%, shouldn’t that tell us something? Trump is ‘trumping’ on the voices of the people and not allowing America to be the democratic, inclusive place that we see it to be.

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