BALTIMORE — At this point, 17 months into Donald Trump’s White House adventure, is there someone in America still denying this president’s overt, malignant attempts to divide the country by race?
This is the man who insisted Barack Obama was African and not American. He’s the man who opened his presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists. He looked at the rioting in Charlottesville and somehow couldn’t tell a neo-Nazi from a protester.
And he was just getting started.
He gave us phony statistics about black people murdering white people. He called El Salvador and Haiti and African countries “shitholes.” He’d still like a ban on Muslim immigrants. He wanted a judge disqualified for his Hispanic ancestry. He blamed Puerto Ricans during their hurricane recovery and fed us lies about casualty figures there.
Underlying issues of skin color, every time.
And we still haven’t gotten to the worst of it, which is the separation of parents from children along America’s southern border. Trump calls their heartache “phony.” He says they’re gang members. Yup, gang members cleverly disguised as four-year-olds.
He says we should focus on the law. He says we’re a nation of laws, and these people entered the U.S. illegally. He says he wants “zero tolerance” of all who break our laws.
Over the weekend, he said those entering the United States illegally – no matter if they’re seeking asylum from the violence in their home countries – should immediately be sent back.
Without due process.
Without an appearance before a judge.
In other words…it’s OK to uphold one law by breaking a few other laws?
We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order. Most children come without parents…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2018
We can go on reciting these outrages. We can recite Trump’s follow-up tweet about “Law and Order.” And we can recite the response from Lawrence Tribe, the famous constitutional law professor at Harvard, who noted that the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that “the due process requirements of the Fifth and 14th Amendments apply to all persons, including those in the U.S. unlawfully.”
But let’s not lose track of the race issue, and how Donald Trump uses it to exploit America’s ancient anxieties.
There’s a new twist to those anxieties, and Trump knows it, and he plays on it.
The Census Bureau has projected that whites could drop below 50 percent of the population around 2045, a prospect that has unnerved some white voters.
As the New York Times reported last week, “The change has broad implications for identity and for the country’s political and economic life, transforming a mostly white baby boomer society into a multiethnic and racial patchwork.
“A majority of the youngest Americans are already nonwhite and look less like older generations than at any point in modern American history,” the Times reported. “Some experts say that rapid demographic change became a potent issue in the 2016 presidential race – and helped drive white voters to support Donald J. Trump.”
The change in skin color is not only from white to black – but to brown, as well. And the effects are long-range. The median age for Hispanics in the U.S. is 29. For blacks, it’s 33. For whites, it’s 43.
But last week there arrived new variations on racial changes. Demographers say that deaths now outnumber births among white people in more than half the states in the U.S.
Of the states where white deaths now exceed white births, there were four key places that voted for Barack Obama in 2012 but backed Donald Trump in 2016 – Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida – the very states that unexpectedly helped swing the election to Trump.
Maybe Trump has seen these figures, and maybe he hasn’t. But he clearly knows the general demographic changes the country’s going through.
Those weeping children along America’s southern border? For this president, it’s not just about a few thousand immigrants with brown skin. It’s about a changing America, and the latest chance for him to exploit it politically.
Michael Olesker, columnist for the News American, Baltimore Sun, and Baltimore Examiner has spent a quarter of a century writing about the city he loves.He is the author of five previous books, including Michael Olesker’s Baltimore: If You Live Here, You’re Home, Journeys to the Heart of Baltimore, and The Colts’ Baltimore: A City and Its Love Affair in the 1950s, all published by Johns Hopkins Press.