Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Really? Because this eloquent, distant plea on the base of America’s Statue of Liberty, became an anti-immigration policy platform in the US mid-terms elections – at least in the mind of President Donald Trump. Yet it wasn’t American voters’ main concern.
Top priority for them according to polls, was affordable health care and there’s another puzzle. How is it that while most Western democracies enjoy stable universal health provision, the United States – one of the most affluent societies – has the most expensive and least effective health care system, according to Think Progress.
Still, the people spoke this month, re-balancing the country’s Constitutional checks and balances which have been absent for the past two years. The Democrats now have control of Congress. Donald Trump is in a cage of his own making and his lies about immigration have returned to haunt him. Two days after the polls closed, the man who gloried in the chants and cheers of his followers had to face the press, and that confrontation was informative.
CNN’s Jim Acosta challenged the President about his description of the migrant ‘caravan’ and Trump lost his cool, telling the reporter that he was ‘a rude, terrible person’. Acosta had questioned Trump’s claim that the caravan approaching from the South was an ‘invasion’, though the only soldiers present at this fake border war were from the US military.
It was hardly Trump’s first clash with the media who he has routinely described as ‘horrible and dishonest’ and ‘enemies of the people’ – a slogan used against a free press by 20th century despots. Again that pattern of attack was revealing. To many, these labels mirror Trump’s own personality. Take dishonesty – it’s now commonplace to hear him described in US media as a pathological liar. Quoting the Washington Post, the ‘New Yorker wrote that in his first year as President, Trump made 2,140 false claims.
‘In just the last six months’, the magazine wrote recently, ‘he has nearly doubled that total to 4,229. In June and July, he averaged sixteen false claims a day’.
The mid-terms revealed much about Trump, including his lack of empathy, his casual cruelty in promoting violence at his rallies, his endless ad hominem attacks and finally, his record of racist comments. John R. O’Donnell, the one-time President of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, wrote in his 1991 book Trumped! that his former employer frequently used racial slurs.
Fast forward to 2018 and to Trump’s former ‘fixer’ and lawyer, Michael Cohen, who told Vanity Fair this month that during the 2016 election cycle, he and Trump had watched a rally on TV. Cohen noticed that the crowd was largely Caucasian and told Trump that it looked ‘vanilla’ on television. Trump responded, ‘That’s because black people are too stupid to vote for me.’
The mid-terms and post-election performances at the White House also revealed a wilful ignorance from Trump and his staff about Constitutional norms and expectations.
The same day as Trump gave his woeful best at his press conference, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reportedly shared a doctored video of CNN’s Acosta ‘laying his hands’ on an intern, as she tried to wrest the mike from his hands.
How ironic. Because this rapidly discredited plaint came from the very people who had spent the past two years labelling news they didn’t like, as Fake News. And then they fell into a genuine fake news trap of their own creation.
It was a public relations nightmare – another day watching Trump and his team Make America Grate Again.