“By the end of the year, the stories of wonderful newcomers and resilient Americans will be so familiar that the experience of each will feel utterly familiar, and most people will continue along this trajectory – more complete and confident in who they are, and more enriched by the participation of people from different walks of life.”
Donald Trump only has about 18 months left on the job. But that might be enough to make America start to acknowledge that the media narratives are misrepresenting the new America. With anger and division building, the percentage of people under age 45 with college degrees has dropped to a 20-year low. It appears that President Trump’s appeal is overwhelmingly to older whites and as their demographic continues to age, their power will diminish. If recent history is any guide, America will become more representative of what I call the Managed Home. That means more diversity.
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New Americans are what Trump is about. Or at least that’s what the president’s recent talk about immigration focuses on. In his recent speech in California, his proposed construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border was hearkened back to the “waitress in Bakersfield who, after arriving as a guest worker, went on to complete college”.
But this nurse may not be from Bakersfield, and a waitress in Bakersfield might not be from Mexico, but the waitress’s stories are very similar to the proverbial Bakersfield waitress, working at the local Texaco on a student visa who is pregnant, worried that Congress is about to scuttle her chances of not only getting her degree, but her jobs. Trump’s speech reminds us that if he’s going to deport “the criminal alien clogging our prison system,” many more working people will suffer. The same is true with the nurses at the university, students who now have an uncertain future.
Trump’s goal is to build loyalty to Trump. As his “illegal alien clogging our prison system” approach becomes increasingly unpopular with voters, his stance will only widen the gap with the white working class that voted for him.
But why are the stories so alike? This strikes me as a case of “idea v reality.” Yes, today there are more immigrants in America who obtained the needed education for a better life, but we’re ignoring the immigration that we did not.
Certainly there is immigration from Mexico that complements other immigrant groups, but there is also immigration from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America that has contributed to social mobility and to that of every other race in America. There’s also been downward pressure on low-skilled workers. But again, it’s not always immigrants but also an aging white working class which is a much more significant force in politics.
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Trump is right about one thing, though. There is talk about and there are events where immigrants have kept the American dream alive. The Dreamers are an example. According to a survey, 88% of Latinos would be proud to call themselves an American. And that’s because Dreamers are – dare I say it – American first and Latinos second.
But the most successful Democrat is a Latino, and the most successful Republican is a white guy. The Dreamers in America are giving people hope, something to strive for, not to fail to obtain. Why is this American exceptionalism? The idea that American exceptionalism is something that only white people can be and something that only elite elite men can attain?
If Trump’s citizenship pledge truly had a ring to it, it would have been something along the lines of Americans first: first generation, first in time and first in place. But it’s time to wake up to the reality that America is not the country that has advertised itself in so many ways in the last decade or two. It’s a place where not just whites but also people of all classes (even the impoverished) have a chance to achieve. Perhaps now that Trump has finally tried to rally Americans behind his ideals, America will finally learn that immigrants are good for this country, and this country is good for immigrants.