There’s no reason to be surprised by Trump’s ‘shithole’ comments

The New York Times, when reporting the story that President Trump referred to countries such as Haiti and other African nations, as ‘shithole countries’, said that it was this specific comment that ‘shocked and appalled many lawmakers and created a public outcry.’ It should have created a public outcry, and it should have appalled many lawmakers, but there is absolutely no reason why it should shock them. The President is a racist, and one that has never hid his real views and attitudes.

He launched his campaign, a period of time that feels like it is a million Trump-scandals ago, by denouncing some Mexicans as rapists, and saying they were bringing crime over the border. Way back before the nightmare of a Trump presidency was even a distinct possibility, he was the main proponent of the ‘birther’ theory: that President Barack Obama had not been born in Hawaii, but instead was born in Kenya.

His company was sued by the Justice Department in 1973, accused of refusing to sell apartments to black people. The 1991 book Trumped! which was written by a former employee of his, alleges Trump said that laziness was an inherent trait in black people, saying he thought a certain black employee was lazy: “and it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in Blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not something they can control.” In 2015, when still a candidate, he advocated a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

All these remarks aren’t based on a dislike of immigration, they are based on a dislike of anyone who looks or sounds or acts differently to Donald Trump. In the same meeting that he referred to the shithole countries, he said that America should be admitting more immigrants from countries such as Norway, whose Prime Minister he had met the day before. Norway is a country that, unsurprisingly, is overwhelmingly white (83% white, to be exact, according to a fact book released by the CIA in 2017). So the very idea that despite living through all of Trump’s remarks and comments that clearly show what he truly thinks of anyone who isn’t white, lawmakers could be shocked, is ridiculous.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat representing Connecticut, summed up the remarks well when he stated that they were “the most odious and insidious racism masquerading poorly as immigration policy.” The White House sent Raj Shah, the deputy press secretary, to effectively deflect, and inadvertently completely prove Blumenthal’s point. He stated: “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries. President Trump will always fight for the American people. Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.” His comments did not deny the account of the meeting that said that when hearing of help for people from Haiti, among other countries, in gaining legal status in America, that Trump referred to those countries as shitholes. They also showed that those countries that can benefit America and “assimilate” are by Trump’s view, white.

Trump did deny on Friday that he used that phrase, typically, using Twitter to do so. He said that his language had been tough but that the fact that he used the word shithole had been made up by Democrats. He had to deny the comment, he had no choice. He’s the President of the United States and in a stroke had offended the populations of entire countries, some of which the US had previously enjoyed productive relationships with. But I don’t doubt he said it. Why after everything else he has said would this be a step beyond? A phrase he wouldn’t use?

Blumenthal’s remarks continued, saying he had spoken to a number of his Senate colleagues who had expressed “a combination of disbelief and a sense of repugnance” at the phrase. There should be repugnance but why is there disbelief? Trump has been saying things like this his entire political career – short as that is – and to express disbelief, or shock, at what he says, implies the lawmakers haven’t been paying attention.

Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents Illinois, said “As an American, I am ashamed of the President. His comments are disappointing, unbelievable but not surprising.” I have no idea how comments can be simultaneously unbelievable yet at the same time not surprising. That’s the point of these comments, whether they are true or not, they’re believable precisely because they aren’t surprising. Gutierrez went on to say that Trump’s comments show that the President is clearly a racist and does not share the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Yes, Trump is clearly a racist, but, awkwardly, so were the people who originally wrote the two documents Gutierrez was referencing. The entire country was built on the racism Trump is espousing.

Lawmakers, whether they really were surprised or not, must now decide whether they are going to stand by a racist President, or consider how history will view them when the Trump presidency mercifully turns into past (assuming we all make it that far). The Republicans hold both houses, and the electoral map, despite the President’s low polling, doesn’t look disastrous for them this year, so it is their senators and representatives who can decide what Trump’s future is.

One day Trump and his entire administration will be history, like every administration before them, and how they acted, but also how the lawmakers in Congress acted, will be scrutinised. When dealing with their racist President, Republicans may want to ask themselves how history will view their actions, and their subsequent legacies.

Photo Credit: Tom Brenner/New York Times. 

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