Immigrants, Trump and the RNC

Trump’s convention

This past week saw Donald Trump accept the nomination for president during the Republican National Convention (RNC) which lasted from Monday, July 18th until Thursday, July 21st. The Republican party is often referred to as the GOP, which stands for “Grand Old Party.” I don’t know if you watched their convention, but here’s what I noticed the most: many speakers gave a lot of criticism of Hillary Clinton, no one explained many hard plans for how a Trump administration would reach its goals, and although there were quite a few speakers who were people of color, there was also a lot of fear expressed towards immigrants. Three parents of adult children who had been killed by car accident or violence, spoke before the convention, using “illegal aliens” to describe the people who caused their children’s deaths. Indeed, “illegal aliens” or just “illegals” seemed to be the theme of Monday night.

You’ve probably heard that Donald Trump has promised to build a wall along the Mexico-U.S. border to reinforce the patrol there and says he’ll stop the immigration of people from countries that have demonstrated any hostility towards the U.S. He wants to closely monitor Muslim communities in the U.S. and restrict the entry into the U.S. of people who identify as Muslims. This kind of thinking typifies a certain part of the American population, the part that is afraid of change, and those are the people who support Donald Trump’s candidacy.

The Republican platform

Most Americans don’t support a lot of the Republican platform of 2016 (“platform” means formal policy positions intended to guide Republican policymaking at every level of government for the next four years). Here are some positions it holds:

  • No support for the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgendered/Queer (LGBTQ) community.
  • Marriage should be between a man and woman.
  • Children should be raised in a family with a mother and a father.
  • Religion should be our guide to policy-making.
  • Teach the Bible in public schools.
  • Pornography is a threat to children and should be eliminated.
  • And yes, the Mexico-U.S. wall is in there.

(You can read through the entire Republican Party 2016 platform here, if you want.)

The GOP’s willingness to embrace opinions that aren’t shared by the majority of Americans suggests to me that the GOP doesn’t expect the majority of Americans to vote. It has always been true that it doesn’t matter if only a minority of the U.S. population supports certain ideas, if that minority makes up the only people voting. Historically, it’s been possible for a minority of the U.S. population to make laws that benefit only them because there have always been ways to block large parts of the population from voting. It’s part of our terrible history of racism, exclusion and exploitation.

How many Americans actually vote?

The total U.S. population is 324 million people, but only 225 million are eligible to vote. In the 2012 election, about 60% of eligible voters voted (Americans don’t usually have high voter turnout). Eligible voters must register if they want to vote. Some Americans refuse to register on principle, but well over 50 million eligible voters want to register, but are unable to. These people are disproportionately low-income people, people of color and young people. They’re often blocked by residency rules, registration deadlines, criminal records, outstanding legal fines they haven’t been able to pay and administrative errors. Until the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed, many African-Americans were prevented from voting by literacy tests or a voting fee that polling places would require of Black people. Our country is still recovering from the idea that voting is a white thing. Many people of color think it’s not worth the trouble to even try.

In this election, the people that Trump has alienated the most are Latinos and Muslims. There are 56 million Latinos and 3.3 million Muslims in the U.S. Many Muslim and Hispanic organizations are working hard to register voters for November, but they’re battling generations of political disenfranchisement (being discouraged or blocked from voting), disgust with the political system and the belief that people of color and low-income people won’t really be allowed to make a difference. Trump has motivated record numbers of people to support him. We’ll see how many people he motivates to vote against him on November 8th.

The Democratic National Convention starts this Monday and ends on Thursday, July 28th. And I’ll be watching.