Local GOP Silence Reveals Loud Support for Nativism

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The concentration camps and the White House’s daily parade of insults and embarrassments are quite difficult for people to wrap their heads around. It is unimaginable that this is what our government has become, and it is amazing how far and how fast we fell. Things that were once whispers are now amplified with bullhorns. But whereas guys like Pat Buchanan and Lee Atwater had taught Republicans how to use racism to their advantage without being, well, so blatant about it, the President now is cool with all of it – the perception and the reality. 

The Tweets shown above are official statements of the President of the United States. Think on that for a moment. 

There is no bottom with Donald Trump and his followers – it sinks deeper and deeper with each passing day.

The thing about authoritarian wannabe dictators is that they energize and re-energize the base of their support by casting themselves as victims. Accusing some “other” of being the cause of some great societal misfortune, the demagogue rhetorically shifts the conversation from one about national priorities into something accusatory and sinister. It’s not 50 years’ worth of slow, systemic changes and obsolescence that shrunk the number and quality of once-abundant manufacturing jobs – it’s immigrants. It’s not de-unionization over the last 40 years that left the middle class weaker, poorer, and less secure, it’s the “open” border. Misdirection. 

In August 2015, a couple of Trump supporters picked a random Hispanic person, beat him up, and pissed on him. They did it because Trump has gone out of his way since the beginning of his campaign to single out and demonize Spanish-speaking immigrants. Around that same time, Republican Presidential front-runners were tripping over themselves to demand an end of jus soli birthright citizenship.

It’s not just about undocumented or documented immigrants – the anti-immigrant Republicans go so far as to hurl epithets at Americans whose only crime was to have been born American on American soil – anchor baby

If you want to understand this anti-immigrant logic, take a listen to “Why Do We Build The Wall” from Tony-Award winning musical Hadestown. I saw it last weekend. This song destroyed me. Anais Mitchell wrote it in 2006; it’s not about Trump. 

Destroyed me.

The Republicans, who have been world champion nihilists ever since Barack Obama was sworn in, now say that if you don’t like it, you can leave.

Weird, because I don’t remember them all pissing off back to wherever they came from when they hated Obama and his policies. 

The whole notion of “go back where you came from” is dictatorial. It is hateful white Nationalism. The people against whom Trump first directed it are all women of color, two of them of the Muslim faith. All but one of them was born in the United States. Do you remember Obama telling Jim Jordan or Tom Cotton or Darrell Issa to go back where he came from if they didn’t like what he was doing? Of course not. He also knew how to spell “al Qaeda“.  

2017 – year zero of the Cultural Revolution – saw the ascendance of a remarkably ignorant and basically ideology-free type of neo-fascism in America. Fascism for dummies, but literally. The cruelty is the point. The cruelty – to opponents, to immigrants, to asylum seekers, to our allies, to minorities – is the unifying and foundational ethos and dogma of Trumpist fascism. The people who vocally and tacitly support Trump also support this fundamental cruelty; the hatred, the epithets, the dismissiveness, turning our backs on the Western world; the demonization and dehumanization of immigrants

During his rallies in 2016, Trump used to ask the crowd to raise their arms and pledge allegiance to him. People called it fascist. Trump said people “love it.” 

Trump tells people who don’t like him to “go back” where they came from. People say to him that this is racist. Trump says, “many people agree with me.” 

The translation is that he doesn’t mind being a white Nationalist neo-fascist cult leader because people like him and the cruelty for which he stands. 

Donald Trump’s racism and wish for a pure, white America is no secret – especially not anymore. Just ask Kellyanne Conway’s husband

But Sunday left no doubt. Naivete, resentment and outright racism, roiled in a toxic mix, have given us a racist president. Trump could have used vile slurs, including the vilest of them all, and the intent and effect would have been no less clear. Telling four non-white members of Congress — American citizens all, three natural-born — to “go back” to the “countries” they “originally came from”? That’s racist to the core. It doesn’t matter what these representatives are for or against — and there’s plenty to criticize them for — it’s beyond the bounds of human decency. For anyone, not least a president.

What’s just as bad, though, is the virtual silence from Republican leaders and officeholders. They’re silent not because they agree with Trump. Surely they know better. They’re silent because, knowing that he’s incorrigible, they have inured themselves to his wild statements; because, knowing that he’s a fool, they don’t really take his words seriously and pretend that others shouldn’t, either; because, knowing how damaging Trump’s words are, the Republicans don’t want to give succor to their political enemies; because, knowing how vindictive, stubborn and obtusely self-destructive Trump is, they fear his wrath.

So far, among western New York’s elected and prominent Republicans, there has been nary a peep about any of this. The only one with the courage to denounce Trump’s Tweets? Erie County Legislator Joe Lorigo (C-West Seneca). 

What about you, Nick Langworthy, chairman of the state committee? New York is one of the most wonderfully diverse states in the nation, and you say nothing. 

What about you, Stefan Mychajliw? You use your status as a first-generation American with each exhale, but here the President – whom you embrace – tells people who disagree with him to leave the country and go back where they came. Should you have gone back to where you came when you disagreed with Barack Obama? Where is your supposed moral and ethical leadership on an issue that hits home for you, more than it does for most people. 

What about you, Lynne Dixon? For weeks you jumped on the Green Light Bill and demanded that Mark Poloncarz say what he thinks of it. OK., he took that bait. You support this President. There’s a picture of him with you from that fundraiser at Salvatore’s floating around. Where do you stand on this notion that people with political disagreements should re-emigrate to where they came from?

And where are the media stenographers and useful idiots for the local Republicans? Why aren’t they hounding Dixon over this particular issue like they hounded Poloncarz over driver’s licenses? 

What about you, Ed Rath? Mickey Kearns (you’re a Republican now, don’t let’s pretend otherwise)? Puppetmasters Chris Grant and Michael Caputo? Chris Collins? Chris Jacobs? David DiPietro? Tim Howard? Pat Gallivan? Mike Ranzenhofer? Mike Norris? Angelo Morinello? John Mills

A lot of you come up and shake my hand at parades and stuff. You know how I think. You know I disagree. You know I think the President is a complete and utter disaster, and that his policies are making America weaker and poorer. This is your time to take a stand and to show some courage. 

After all, I’m one of those “anchor babies.” My parents came here on a tourist visa in 1966. They quickly transformed it into a Green Card and sold back their return ticket; foreign-born physicians were in demand. They settled in Queens. In 1969, my dad was drafted into the US Army. He was sworn in as a citizen within days as a Major. We were sent to live in Columbia, South Carolina for two years. 

When my dad came to the US, he spoke almost perfect, accent-free English. My mom, not so much. She had a strong accent. She couldn’t pronounce a “w” and everything was a “v”. She learned English with me – watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. When she drove around South Carolina, she was frequently called a “Commie”. They had New York plates on their car, so they were “Yankees,” to boot. My mom – until her dying day – hated South Carolina and her experience there because of how cruel people had been to her especially. She was admonished by strangers on more than one occasion to go back where she came from. I don’t think she ever set foot in that state again after 1971. I guess it’s no surprise that Trump approvingly quotes South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham in the Tweets reproduced above. 

And my parents were white. Had they been recent immigrants who also looked differently, the abuse would likely have been exponentially worse. 

When Trump tells anyone to “go back where they came from” this is a direct attack on every immigrant, regardless of visa status. 

Our local Republicans have sold out their souls and their morals and their ethics for Donald Trump. They’ll smile and shake my hand when they see me, but they don’t have the courage to stand up for people like my mom against nativist hatred from the likes of a failed casino owner and TV huckster.

Seriously, don’t bother next time. 

Don’t come looking for me at the next parade. Or if you see me at County Hall. Or at the store. Don’t greet me. Don’t come up and tell me that you don’t think like this, or that you’re disappointed in Trump’s rhetoric. Your private tsk-tsk is meaningless; your public silence is assent. Your refusal to do what you (might) know to be right is disgusting. 

You know who loves America? People who leave behind every thing they own and every person they know to come to this country for a new start; for opportunity in a new world created by immigrants from all over the world. My mom loved this country and what it offered her, and she didn’t deserve to be harassed and bullied by South Carolina rednecks just for talking differently or being from an Eastern European country. She came here with nothing – they came here with nothing except an education. She went to work at Ciba Geigy, the American Health Foundation, and Pepsico as a chemist. My dad helped people as a physician at various hospitals and clinics, including the V.A. They are my heroes and I viscerally miss them each day. They loved this country as much if not more than some spoiled rich kid who is American by accident of birth. They chose this place.

You know who hates America? People who tolerate the separation of asylum seeking families at the border. People who tolerate inhumane conditions at border detention facilities. 

You know who hates America? People who think that someone who disagrees with them should leave the country if they “don’t like it.”  

And their enablers. 

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