As fallout over the impeachment trial continues, I find myself wondering why Republican voters so desperately wanted Donald Trump acquitted for a second time, despite clear wrongdoing.
One explanation may be immigration. Donald Trump has been their champion against immigration, and he has effectively used this issue to divide the country.
Surely racism plays a role. But, as we know, passions turn on money.
It could be that voters see today’s economy as a zero-sum game, where one person’s gain is necessarily another person’s loss. In that light, every dollar of taxpayer money sent to support a newcomer to this country is obviously going to feel like a dollar unfairly taken out of their paychecks. They hate it.
It wasn’t always this way: Our world has changed. Whereas opportunities seemed limitless in the decades of the ’60s through ’80s, they no longer are.
Since 1995, according to the Brookings Institute, the share of wealth held by the middle class has steadily declined, while the top 1% share has steadily increased. Before 2010, the middle class owned more wealth than the top 1%. In 2016 the top 20% held more than triple what the middle class held.
This is the pain voters are feeling. Even though the top 20% amassed wealth at the expense of the other 80% of taxpayers, in a zero-sum world, blame will naturally be placed on what seems controllable: immigration.
The resentment might be assuaged if we had a coherent immigration policy, one based on the economics of today, not on the heyday of earlier decades, one that brings to America people who will enhance this country, not people who will have the opposite impact.
Yes, many in this country want the United States to be the refuge of last resort to endangered people in the world. But we also need to be realistic about the trajectory of need in the world and the diminishing resources in this country to satisfy that need. Most of all, we need to do justice to our own citizens. A policy balancing the needs of our country and population with the altruism we can afford is what’s needed for all of us.
Without such a policy, demagogues like Donald Trump will continue to exploit the vacuum, falsely painting “the other side” as dangerous liberals who welcome all comers, to the detriment of average taxpayers. This remains an explosive issue, a main tenet of Trumpism. It needs to be diffused.