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The Long Descent

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Five Years Ago Trump Descended his Escalator to Inflame Racial Tensions; Since Then, He’s Never Stopped

Five years ago – on June 16, 2015 – Donald Trump descended the golden escalator at Trump Tower and kicked off his presidential campaign by slandering Mexicans as “rapists” and “criminals.”

Since then, the long descent has never stopped.

The xenophobia and racial incitement central to that day is the animating force behind Trump and Trump-ism. It’s one of the few points of consistency throughout his private and political life,  and paranoid tenure in office. And, of course, it will be central to his re-election strategy, As Politico reported last week:

“President Donald Trump and his top aides are planning to rev up their campaign machine in the coming days with an aggressive focus on voters’ perceived fears about crime, China and immigration…”

To add insult to injury, the Associated Press reports that the White House is planning a new effort to blame the spike of coronavirus cases on immigrants and travel from Mexico.

While none of this is surprising, the key question is: will Trump leverage racism and xenophobia to win reelection? As we assessed in detail last week, we at America’s Voice are optimistic that Trump’s racism and xenophobia will backfire in 2020.

Why? From 2017 through 2019 the Trump/GOP electoral strategy has been to stoke racial grievance by running on xenophobia and racial incitement. As our recent deep-dive report documents, that strategy has mostly failed. Meanwhile, polling demonstrates that the American public has rapidly evolved on issues of racial injustice and police violence while remaining durably pro-immigrant (see a detailed explanation here).

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Five years ago, Trump began the long descent on his infamous escalator. He’s never stopped. The odious journey continues to this day. There is no bottom to his xenophobia and racism.

Since then, he’s presided over a relentless and cruel effort to keep out and kick out immigrants and refugees. From the Muslim ban to family separations to the Africa ban to ending DACA and TPS, Trump’s embrace of nativism and race-baiting is unmatched by modern American presidents.

It is likely, then, that the 2020 election will turn out to be something of a referendum on racism and xenophobia. Will Trump’s cries of “law and order” and “deport bad hombres” prove punishing for Democrats once again? Or will a majority of us stand up to this divide-to-dominate strategy and for an America that extends freedom, justice and equality to one and all, regardless of background? Will the infamous and divisive Southern Strategy finally get served justice?

We are optimistic, but realistic. We know how difficult it is to win equality for marginalized people of color. We know the depth and intensity of the resistance to fundamental change.

But if you listen carefully, history is calling.