Say what you will about Donald Trump, he’s the gift that keeps on giving. He’s certainly made the presidential campaign more interesting with his remarks which are, um, thought-provoking, to say the least. I’ve been writing about him on my Facebook blog, Crosswise on Politics, and I’d like to distill my comments there into three observations:
First, whatever one thinks of his opinions of Mexicans, Muslims, and immigration policy in general, he is well within the mainstream of American thought on who should, and should not, be admitted to the United States. The Know Nothings of the early nineteenth century, and those who would exclude Chinese immigrants and Jewish refugees are his political ancestors. We have a long, if not proud or distinguished, record of seeking to exclude those who “aren’t like us,” whoever “us” may be.
Second, his proposals—especially to limit Mexican immigration and ban Muslim immigration altogether, at least for the time being– are not necessarily unconstitutional, no matter what one may think of them. Although Trump’s political opponents are saying it’s unconstitutional to ban Muslims simply because of their religious views, some constitutional scholars are beginning to say that there are no limits on whom Congress can ban, or why. Whoever is born on American soil is an American citizen regardless of race or creed. But the protections against discrimination which Congress must extend to those born in America apparently do not apply to those born abroad and cannot claim natural born citizenship. So while a President Trump cannot decree by executive order that no Muslims need apply, Congress can, by law, do so if it so chooses.
Third, whatever we think of Trump’s proposals, based as they are on discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or religion in determining who can benefit from American citizenship, there is ample precedent not only in American history but in the American present for doing so. Our most shameful actions have included the oppression and enslavement of African Americans and the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans. But while we’ve put those episodes behind us—and can take real pride in ending those policies—we continue to discriminate on the basis of race to seek “diversity.” In fact, lawyers for the University of Texas are currently trying to persuade the United States Supreme Court to let the University use race-based criteria to determine admission, arguing that “diversity” will benefit all students, regardless of race (I’m not certain how perspective students excluded from UT on the basis of their race will benefit from “diversity,” but then again I’m not a UT admissions official). As I noted on my blog, both Donald Trump and the President of UT , to the extent that each wants to use race as a basis for discrimination, each has more in common with the other than either would care to admit.
Donald Trump’s immigration proposals would be counterproductive. Both President Bush and President Obama have wanted to pursue a divide and conquer strategy to defeat Islamofascists—divide them from civilized Muslims, and then defeat and destroy them. Whether this will happen remains to be seen. But Trump’s policies might well help ISIS achieve one of its goals, i. e., to radicalize the currently civilized Muslims throughout the world, and thereby strengthen the ranks of the barbarians.
But though I disagree with Trump and cannot support him for the Republican presidential nomination, I personally think that on balance he’s an asset, since he’s inspired more people to pay attention and get involved in politics, and he’s forcing many to think long and hard—much longer and more hard than might otherwise be the case—about some of the most important issues confronting America this election cycle. Long after Donald Trump fades from the scene—or perhaps not so long—others will arise to advance his ideas. It’s only a matter of time. But the current debate Donald Trump is forcing us to have today will make us better able to think things through when Donald Trump 2.0 comes along.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.