Dear Trump fans:
As you likely know, the Trump administration is sending thousands of US troops to our border with Mexico. The number may rival the number of American troops we have in Syria and Iraq—and may go as high as 15,000 if you believe Donald Trump. They aren’t being sent because there has suddenly been a flood of armed, masked men about to overrun the Border Patrol and the US troops and other security personnel and equipment already on the border. President Trump is deploying them for you, and you alone.
This is not about our national security or sovereignty. This move by Trump may actually be undermining both, given that it makes us look utterly weak and callous. We are so fearful that we have to deploy the most advanced military in the history of the world to confront a caravan of poor, desperate people who are still several hundred miles away? Excuse me. It’s not we; it’s you. I’m not afraid. No sane American is afraid of this bigot-manufactured crisis. Trump is doing this because you seem to be terrified of your own shadow these days.
US troops aren’t going to the border because ISIS knocking on our door, despite the rumors and conspiracy theories being pushed by right-wing crazies and people on Fox News, among other places. They aren’t being mobilized to alleviate the much-discussed “economic angst” we’ve been repeatedly told is the primary reason poor and middle-class white voters continue supporting Trump.
No, those troops are being sent to gin up your irrational fear before the midterm elections because Trump is convinced the best way to motivate his base is to turn vulnerable brown and dark-skinned people into the perpetual boogeyman. That’s the only reason to send troops, no matter how many fast-talking Trump surrogates tell you otherwise on CNN or MSNBC or behind a podium with the presidential seal during a press briefing.
Trump isn’t convinced his tax cut—heavily weighted towards the already-wealthy—would motivate you to vote next week. He talks about the low unemployment rate and good GDP numbers from the past couple of quarters—things that were already good and getting better under Barack Obama and continued under Trump—but he knows that isn’t enough.
He isn’t even convinced all the outrage conservatives felt during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings will be enough to get you to the polls and stave off the day he will have to face real accountability and oversight if Democrats retake the House, which most forecasters say can very well happen next week.
The only thing he’s convinced will move his most ardent supporters—you—is the kind of open bigotry he kicked off his campaign with in 2015 and has doubled down on as president. Why is he convinced that is the one thing that will work? Because you have allowed it to work time and again.
That’s why Trump tweeted one of the most racist American political ads of the 21st century—a video that was created by the Trump campaign—Wednesday night and planned to talk immigration again on Thursday.
Clueless conservative writers such Andrew Sullivan have warned against allowing the caravan of asylum-seekers to turn into a political positive for Trump, and tone-deaf editorials, like this one in Bloomberg, have made idiotic, immoral and cowardly demands, such as calling on Democrats to tell the caravan—which is still in Mexico, hundreds of miles from the US border—to turn around. Think about that for a second: Their solution isn’t to stand firm against Trump’s bigotry and the cowardice of so many Republicans; it’s to tell a group of vulnerable people walking across countries, desperately trying to flee violence, to go back into the hell they are trying to escape.
All of this analysis assumes, cynically, that the best way to get you angry is to tell you that poor, dark skin people might get something that betters their lives. The pundits and politicians, and Trump in particular, know the most popular image of you is that you either are bigoted yourself or are at least comfortable with bigotry if it means you can continue feeling special and elevated over others. Trump is counting on your callousness, your cruelty and, frankly, your idiocy. He wants you to believe a small band of desperate migrants is a threat to the greatest country on the planet, a country of nearly 330 million people. I mean, how dumb must you be to believe something so cravenly disgusting and untrue?
Unfortunately, there is plenty of American precedent for the kind of immorality and cowardice Trump is banking on to protect himself during the midterms—because that’s what we did during the Holocaust. From Smithsonian magazine:
Immigration restrictions actually tightened as the refugee crisis worsened. Wartime measures demanded special scrutiny of anyone with relatives in Nazi territories—even relatives in concentration camps. At a press conference, President Roosevelt repeated the unproven claims from his advisers that some Jewish refugees had been coerced to spy for the Nazis. “Not all of them are voluntary spies,” Roosevelt said. “It is rather a horrible story, but in some of the other countries that refugees out of Germany have gone to, especially Jewish refugees, they found a number of definitely proven spies.”
Here and there, skeptics objected. As the historian Deborah Lipstadt points out in her book Beyond Belief, the New Republic portrayed the government’s attitude as “persecuting the refugee.” The Nation didn’t believe that the State Department could “cite a single instance of forced espionage.” But these voices were drowned out in the name of national security.
We don’t need a repeat of that kind of cowardice. We need to make sure that more Americans are so upset by this ugly fearmongering, this open bigotry—to the point of the president of the United States using American soldiers to carry it out—that they will overwhelm polling places next week.
Trump is using this to gin up votes among a base of support he is convinced is bigoted and racist enough to fall for it at least one more time. The rest of us better be ginned up as well. If we aren’t, if we—if you—allow this kind of bigotry to stand, the rest of the world should be ashamed of what you have allowed this nation to become.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
Follow Issac J. Bailey on Twitter.