Trump Is Failing at Policy, But Winning His Race Wars

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In August 2015, Marco Rubio, a rising star in the Republican Party and, by the reckoning of many at the time, the most likely candidate to claim its 2016 presidential nomination, gave an interview to Fox News. In it, Rubio offered a moving explanation for why he sympathized with the anger many African-Americans felt toward police. “This is a legitimate issue,” he said. “It is a fact that in the African-American community around this country, there has been, for a number of years now, a growing resentment towards the way law enforcement and the criminal-justice system interacts with the community.” Rubio shared the story of “one friend in particular who’s been stopped in the last 18 months eight to nine different times. Never got a ticket for being stopped — just stopped. If that happened to me, after eight or nine times, I’d be wondering what’s going on here. I’d be upset about it. So would anybody else.”

One should not mistake Rubio for a principled crusader for racial reconciliation. He is a partisan cipher, blessed with a talent for locating the midpoint of acceptable thought within the Republican Party and articulating it with apparent sincerity. And indeed, by the end of Barack Obama’s second term, one could plausibly identify the Republican Party as having begun the task of shedding what was known as its “southern strategy” of appealing to whites through their discomfort with blacks. In 2002, Republican Trent Lott had to resign his position as Senate Majority Leader after praising Strom Thurmond’s 1948 segregationist candidacy. In 2005, Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman formally apologized for the southern strategy. In 2006, Congress almost unanimously extended the Voting Rights Act. In 2008, John McCain forbade his campaign staff to mention the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, a line of attack he considered racially inflammatory. By 2013, many Establishment Republicans (including Rubio, before he changed his mind) had come to believe they needed to embrace immigration reform to maintain their party’s long-term viability. Throughout Barack Obama’s second term, the cause of criminal-justice reform attracted increasing bipartisan support in Congress, as well as financial support from the Koch brothers, who were eager to complicate their public reputation.

This is why Obama’s legacy will endure long beyond his presidency.

The point is not to glorify the racial outlook of Republicans but to note that its direction appeared encouraging. The party may have largely ignored the persistence of systemic racism and clung to an unrealistically color-blind ideal, but it increasingly shunned not only overt racism but the dog-whistle appeals of the era of the welfare queen and Willie Horton. If, in the summer of 2015, Rubio had been signaling some measure of support and understanding for Black Lives Matter protests, then there was every reason to believe that this stance represented the political high ground.

But Rubio’s idea of the Republican future was not the one that prevailed. Instead, the future belonged to a very different vision, a glimpse of which could be seen in a furious dissent registered on Breitbart, a popular young news site that railed against the country’s growing pluralism. MARCO RUBIO LENDS SUPPORT TO ANTI-COP RHETORIC, BLACK LIVES MATTER SEEKS MEETING, blared the headline. “Rubio’s rhetoric echoes progressive rhetoric that black progress is impeded by institutional racism rather than left-wing policies,” reported the story, which took care to contrast Rubio with a surprisingly popular candidate who was attracting favorable coverage. (“Trump,” the article added approvingly, “has said that the Black Lives Matter protesters are ‘a disgrace’ and that those who pander to the anti-police movement are ‘unfit to run for office.’ ”) The article’s author, Julia Hahn, went on to take a position as an aide to Steve Bannon, who now serves as the main strategist to the president of the United States.

Measured in traditional terms, Trump’s accomplishments as president have been meager. He made a series of popular campaign promises, such as replacing Obamacare with something terrific, negotiating more clever trade deals, and building a wall on the Mexican border, that require technocratic aptitude to deliver and thus have mostly floundered. But traditional measures do not capture the most profound changes he has wrought.

Where he has defined Trumpism most clearly is in his sharply distinguished theory of race. Race is the unifying idea Trump has used to recast not only his party’s place within the country but his country’s place in the world. It is where his administration has been most passionate — and also most effective. Unlike economic or health-care policy, which requires dealing with Congress, Trump’s ethnonationalist program can be carried out by Trump and his tight band of loyalists on their own. And while Trump has foundered at the complex work of policymaking, he has succeeded at the simple work of tribalism, precisely because it is so simple. In both words and deeds, the White House has established the federal government as the defender of white power in America, projecting a blunt-force message of zero-sum dominance. Trump has done little to change the country’s policies, but ten weeks into his tenure, he has already made the United States a very different place and positioned himself to reap the terrible rewards that will follow.

In 1989, Trump took out a full-page advertisement in four New York City papers demanding that five black and Latino teenage boys receive the death penalty for the rape of a white female jogger in Central Park. It is one of the most important early clues to the political style that would carry him to the presidency more than a quarter-century later. Most of the elements of Trump’s worldview were already in place: the value of marshaling fear, the conviction that simple solutions were available and being ignored by the authorities, the fetishizing of the past as an ideal in need of restoration (“What has happened is the complete breakdown of life as we knew it”) and the demands for uncritical adulation of law enforcement (“Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!”).

Of course, civil liberties exist to ensure that people identified as criminals actually are. In the case that inspired Trump, the alleged rapists turned out to have been coerced into supplying false confessions. Trump, typically, has never reconsidered his original position, insisting as recently as last fall, “They admitted they were guilty.” From Trump’s standpoint, the political style he modeled had worked. And if it could work in the balkanized urban landscape depicted in Bonfire of the Vanities, which spawned the bitterly racialized mayoral contest of Rudy Giuliani against David Dinkins, it could work in the rest of America, which was hardly more evolved.

Perhaps it had seemed so, in the days immediately following the election of the first black president. But Obama’s presidency filled the Republican base with racial terror. Beginning in 2008, social scientists identified a sharply rising correlation between racial resentment and Republican voting behavior. Obama “pitted the blacks against the whites,” Diane Fitzpatrick, the mother of Kellyanne Conway, told The Atlantic’s Molly Ball. “If something happened to a black person, he and his wife were right there. But if something happened to a white person, you never saw them, did you?”

Trump discovered the potential of nativism in national politics two years before his manipulation of the birther hoax, which famously launched him as a conservative political celebrity. In 2009, two Muslim-American businessmen proposed a Muslim-American cultural center in downtown New York designed, one founder explained, “to push back against the extremists.” The proposal nonetheless sparked rabid opposition on the far right, where the project was falsely described as located at ground zero and as a “victory mosque” designed to celebrate the 9/11 attacks. Andrew Breitbart’s website churned out screeds purporting to uncover the radical plot behind the project. Reclusive hedge-fund titan Robert Mercer ponied up a million dollars to finance advertisements denouncing the center. (Both Breitbart News and Mercer would later become crucial supporters of Trump’s campaign.) And Trump himself entered the imbroglio, publicly offering to buy the land from the developers and halting the center’s construction. “Good deal for everyone,” he tweeted. He accused the project leader of manipulating his faith to his advantage. “He is using religion as a way to get a better price, and I don’t like it,” Trump said.

The “ground-zero mosque” episode offered an early indication that Trump saw what was happening to the Republican electorate more clearly than its leaders did. Most conservative elites interpreted the tea party as their base demanding stringent fiscal measures. An outsider to the conservative movement, Trump was immune to the tempting self-delusion that Republican activists were following in the direction Paul Ryan wanted to lead. He understood the primal role of white-grievance politics in the conservative backlash. Around this time, a small group of conservatives was theorizing its way to the same conclusion, rejecting the conventional wisdom in Republican circles that the party could grow only if it increased its appeal among nonwhite voters. “It’s entirely possible that as our nation becomes more diverse, our political coalitions will increasingly fracture along racial/ethnic lines rather than ideological ones,” wrote the conservative analyst Sean Trende. “Democrats liked to mock the GOP as the ‘Party of White People’ after the 2012 elections. But from a purely electoral perspective, that’s not a terrible thing to be.” In the Deep South, the Republican share of the white vote approached 90 percent. Appalachia was trending in that direction. If the same dynamic spread into the upper Midwest, Trende argued, Republicans could claim upwards of 70 percent of the white vote.

Trende expressed reservations about the moral implications of his findings, namely, a country that would break into partisan racial blocs. Not everybody on the right was as queasy. Indeed, a handful interpreted Trende’s analysis as a blueprint, even salvation. Bannon, Senator Jeff Sessions, and Sessions’s brainy aide Stephen Miller, all of whom bitterly fought their party’s leadership over its attempts to reform immigration in 2013, met early that year and discussed Trende’s findings and its explosive implications. They agreed that the path to Republican dominance lay not in tamping down racial polarization but in ramping it up. To achieve this, they would need to capture the party, decapitate its leadership, and reverse its strategy of outreach to racial minorities. At first, they had trouble finding a plausible candidate to champion their strategy. (Sessions himself clearly lacked the necessary charisma.) But by 2015, all three of them quickly recognized the candidate they were looking for when he descended the escalator of Trump Tower.

It is far from clear that the Bannon-Sessions-Miller strategy is what elected Trump — as opposed to such factors as liberal complacency after two terms of Democratic power; missteps and buckraking by Hillary Clinton; and the combined efforts of Russian intelligence, the FBI, and much of the mainstream media to depict her as a crook. The important thing is that they believed their strategy worked. And they have turned it into a blueprint for governance.

Fittingly, Sessions, who helped Trumpism conquer the party, has had a crucial role in its implementation. The Department of Justice sat at the center of the racial grievances that preoccupied Trump’s supporters. It is of more than symbolic power that the first two African-American attorneys general were succeeded by a white Alabamian whose reactionary racial outlook disqualified him for a federal judgeship 30 years before.

Sessions inherited from the Obama administration an ambitious effort to bridge the divide between urban police forces and minority communities that, with ample reason, viewed them suspiciously. That project was prototypically Obama-esque: exhaustive, empirically grounded, cautious, and based on consensus. Obama’s Justice Department produced detailed reports on policing in Ferguson and Chicago, which chronicled patterns of harassment and abuse. The reports suggested that if police could win the trust of minority communities, they would get better cooperation, helping them solve crimes and thus keeping both the streets and officers safer. Justice’s report on Ferguson was so persuasive that several conservative writers for such outlets as National Review and RedState praised it. RedState’s Leon Wolf concluded that “the evidence of at least subconscious racial bias, based solely on statistics reported by the [Ferguson Police Department], is overwhelming and cannot be dismissed.”

On February 27, Sessions met with the National Association of Attorneys General and promised that the U.S. Department of Justice would no longer work to reform policing. Nor would it proceed from the assumption that excessive force was a social problem of any kind. “Law enforcement as a whole has been unfairly maligned and blamed for the unacceptable deeds of a few bad actors,” he said, making it clear that such bad actors did not merit federal oversight. “Rather than dictating to local police how to do their jobs — or spending scarce federal resources to sue them in court — we should use our money, research, and expertise to help them figure out what is happening and determine the best ways to fight crime.” Reporters asked Sessions if he had read reports detailing systematic abuse by police in Ferguson and Chicago. Sessions said he had not and dismissed them, absurdly, as “pretty anecdotal, and not so scientifically based.”

On April 3, the Department of Justice officially subjected to review every previous police-reform agreement that the Obama-era DOJ had reached with local law enforcement. Hours after, Sessions postponed a hearing on a previously agreed-upon plan to reform policing in Baltimore, where a report in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death in 2015 uncovered a culture of systematic abuse.

Sessions has not only withdrawn the Justice Department from the business of monitoring police abuse; he and the president have effectively encouraged it, granting municipal police departments permission to conduct their business as they see fit and suppress the “inner cities” with maximal violence. In his speech to a joint session of Congress, Trump presented the solution to crime as a unilateral obligation by society to offer police unconditional, blanket support. One passage that began sounding on the surface like a call for reconciliation — “We must build bridges of cooperation and trust, not drive the wedge of disunity” — immediately proceeded, in the next sentence, to define cooperation and trust as something given to the police without reciprocity: “Police and sheriffs are members of our community. They are friends and neighbors, they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters — and they leave behind loved ones every day who worry whether or not they’ll come home safe and sound. We must support the incredible men and women of law enforcement.”

The past few years saw a spate of viral videos of police abuse against blacks, many of which generated protests, some of which led to carefully conciliated efforts at reform. That a new video has yet to surface during the Trump administration is a stretch of good luck that cannot possibly last. A cycle of police abuse, enraged protest, and bloody crackdowns seems not only probable but — from Trump’s point of view — desirable.

The power of ethnonationalism lies in its ability to easily activate the most primitive and powerful human impulses. People do not need to follow politics closely to grasp elemental concepts like which ethnic group enjoys the support of a party or of a government. The stream of images of the president surrounded entirely by white men communicates a potent message. So, too, do the messages Trump sends when he condemns the University of California at Berkeley on free-speech grounds for failing to adequately protect a flamboyantly racist speaker, then refuses to condemn the NFL for blacklisting Colin Kaepernick, who has silently protested the national anthem. (Trump even boasted that he is enforcing the blacklist: Owners won’t sign the quarterback to a contract, he said at a rally in Kentucky, for fear that Trump will attack them on Twitter.) Everybody understands which group is in and which groups are out in Trump’s America.

That is a dangerous formula. Race has unique power to tear apart the bonds that hold together even an apparently harmonious society. In democratic India in 2002, Hindu nationalists slaughtered more than 2,000 Muslims, and Narendra Modi, the nationalist political figure linked to the murders, was elected prime minister in 2014. Serbian nationalists turned once-peaceful, multiethnic Sarajevo into a tribal bloodbath. If these comparisons sounds inconceivably dark, you may not fully appreciate the darkness of the vision animating the minds surrounding the president.

A preview of what might unfold in America’s cities has already taken place in its airports. The Trump administration’s travel ban follows the same basic method as its crime policy. It defines the threat in the broadest, most hysterical terms. It openly disregards empiricism. Presented with reports by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI finding that the countries of origin identified by Trump were “unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity,” thus demolishing the basis for its policies, the administration dismissed the evidence and proceeded with a travel ban based on terms its own experts insisted had no bearing on security. Trump’s travel ban has been struck down twice, but the policy itself is minor next to the message it sends about who is welcome in this country.

Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer proclaimed that the president would “take the shackles off” the officers at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Customs and Border Patrol. A wave of raids across the country has terrified immigrant communities, leaving children unsure when they return home from school if their parents will be there or in custody. And the unshackling has meant, in practice, much uglier stuff. Henry Rousso, an Egyptian-born French historian, was detained for ten hours at the Houston airport; Muhammad Ali Jr. was held after international flights on two separate occasions and questioned about his religion; the British documentary filmmaker Benjamin Zand was pulled out for questioning about his “Iranian roots”; Alia Ghandi, an Iranian architect, was sent to jail overnight by customs agents and then put on a plane to Europe, despite having a valid tourist visa to visit her sister. These kinds of incidents did not happen very often before Trump’s election. They were carried out by people who, in one form or another, heard his message and acted upon it.

The same can be said of a wave of hate crimes directed against Muslims, or people who appear to be Muslims. A man in Kansas was arrested for shooting two immigrants from India after telling them to “get out of my country”; another in suburban Seattle shot a Sikh man after demanding he go back to his country; a man from Virginia posted videos of Indian families in Ohio, claiming they had “ravished the Midwest.” A passenger at Kennedy airport was charged with kicking and harassing a Muslim airport worker, yelling, “Trump is here now! He will get rid of all of you!”

To be sure, these men, unlike Immigration officers, received no explicit permission from the White House. But there is a clear defensiveness in the administration’s response to such acts of hate that betrays a sense of kinship. “Obviously, any loss of life is tragic, but I’m not going to get into, like, that kind of — to suggest that there’s any correlation I think is a bit absurd. So I’m not going to go any further than that,” Spicer told reporters after the Kansas attack. When pressed repeatedly by journalist Anand Giridharadas, a White House press staffer finally emitted this tepid statement: “The president condemns all acts of violence against the American people.”

When it comes to violence by people who belong to the official list of state enemies, Trump’s administration is loquacious. Trump has insisted upon identifying the enemy as “radical Islamic terrorism,” rather than the narrow terms preferred by the previous two presidents. He directed the DHS program dedicated to countering domestic terrorism to halt all efforts to combat white terrorists (like the ones who blew up a government office in Oklahoma City in 1995) and focus exclusively on Muslim ones. Trump announced a special new program to tabulate and publicize crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. Three of the six guests sitting with the First Lady at his speech before Congress were families of people killed by undocumented immigrants. Breitbart, Bannon’s former publication and current propaganda outlet on Trump’s behalf, has a tagline on its site for news about “black crime.”

In the Trumpist view, the foremost question hovering over any act of violence is the ethnicity of the perpetrator. In this context, the administration’s sterile language about hate crimes committed by racist whites against foreign (or foreign-looking) brown-skinned men is a statement via omission. White nativist violence is implicitly identified as pro-Trump. If you’re against them, you are for us.

Trump’s bureaucratic ineptitude and disdain for expertise may cripple large swaths of his policymaking. But it is important to recognize that ethnonationalist politics has a way of turning failure into success. He has already authorized a failed raid in Yemen and reportedly loosened terms of engagement for the military in Iraq, which will very likely increase the number of civilian deaths in the war on terrorism. That, along with his war-of-civilizations rhetoric, will almost certainly produce more terrorist attacks. In Mexico, the left-wing populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador has used a backlash against Trump to surge to the lead in the presidential election. As the message of Trumpism ripples across the world, the roiling backlash of anti-Americanism, or even mass-casualty terrorist attacks, will serve to confirm his view of the country and the need for a strong leader to protect it.

It is easy to overstate the ideological impact Trump has had upon his party, and many people have. Parties consist of large groups of people and evolve slowly over long periods of time. The most accurate way to think about the changes Trump has wrought is to imagine a clump of people and ideas lurching slowly in one direction. The ideas and individuals that lay outside its boundaries before are now within it, albeit at the margins. Those who were once at its margins are now closer to its center.

For instance, Representative Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, has long distinguished himself from his colleagues by his willingness to openly denigrate minorities or to articulate his ideas in offensive terms. In 2013, when he mocked children of undocumented immigrants as having “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” Republicans considered him a source of embarrassment. Former House Speaker John Boehner called his wild attacks on Dreamers “deeply offensive and wrong.” Last year, when King tried to block Harriet Tubman from the $20 bill, his proposal went nowhere.

But Breitbart has showered King with positive attention. In a November 2015 interview rediscovered by Sarah Posner in the Washington Post, Bannon called King “a great mentor to all of us and a great friend of the site, and a true warrior.” And Trump’s electoral victory has changed King from a barely tolerated oddball to a cutting-edge thought leader. One indication of his elevated standing within the Republican Party came recently when he tweeted in support of Geert Wilders, the right-wing nationalist Dutch candidate. “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny,” King wrote. “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” This time, King received a mild rebuke from Ryan (“I disagree with that statement”) and no loss of his committee rank. In a series of almost-giddy interviews with reporters, he said he had been greeted warmly by his colleagues. He reiterated his beliefs, in one instance lashing out at Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, and concluded by recommending The Camp of the Saints, a 1973 novel by the French author Jean Raspail.

That novel turns out to be a kind of intellectual touchstone of the Trump-era party. It depicts a race war for the salvation of white Christian civilization, with nonwhite hordes portrayed as grotesque and even subhuman. A character in the novel explicating the author’s view makes a call to arms: “That scorn of a people for other races, the knowledge that one’s own is best, the triumphant joy at feeling oneself to be part of humanity’s finest.” Bannon has publicly touted The Camp of the Saints at least four times as a prophecy of the threat posed by Muslim migrants to Europe.

Trump’s racial obsession has likewise drawn his party closer to various strands of right-wing politics that, not long ago, had no connection to the GOP at all. The first is outright Nazism. Trump’s emergence on the national stage has activated Nazis in a way no other mainstream party leader ever has. During the campaign, Trump retweeted white-supremacist memes hyperbolically blaming African-Americans for murdering white people and using a Jewish star to illustrate the notion that Hillary Clinton was controlled by Jewish wealth.

The generous interpretation of these actions, that Trump approvingly amplified supportive messages without understanding their full nature, is probably the correct one. But this same explanation implicitly concedes that Nazis thrilled to Trump because they detected recognizable themes in his rhetoric. Trump has depicted inner cities as crime-riddled wastelands unfit for normal human existence and reflexively invoked this image as a stand-in for the African-American condition as a whole. (When criticized by Representative John Lewis, for instance, Trump charged that the former civil-rights hero should instead look after his “crime-infested” district.) His denunciations of “global special interests” that have purposely immiserated the American people closely echo anti-Semitic paranoia about international Jewish control of the economy. Voices of unapologetically white-supremacist thought, like Richard Spencer, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer treat Trump like a hero. Trump is not a Nazi, but by closing the ideological chasm between mainstream conservatism and white supremacy, he has encouraged their engagement in partisan politics.

Somewhat more directly, Trump has inspired a coterie of intellectuals who form a kind of connective tissue between conservatism and Nazism. One of them is Milo Yiannopoulos, the openly racialist contributor to Breitbart, whose speaking engagements were funded by Robert Mercer. Michael Anton, a former Republican staffer who wrote an influential polemic advocating Trump’s election as the last chance to save traditional America from “the ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty,” now works in Trump’s State Department. Bannon has gushed, “I think Michael is one of the most significant intellects in this nationalist movement.”

Before Trump, Republicans rarely looked to Europe for ideological solidarity, and when they did, they usually took inspiration from Margaret Thatcher and other British Tories. Bannon has forged an alliance with European nationalists like Wilders and Nigel Farage (both of whom attended the Republican convention in Cleveland) and Marine Le Pen. Michael Flynn, the close Trump adviser during the campaign and short-lived appointee as national-security adviser, met with the leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, which was founded after World War II by former Nazis. Sebastian Gorka, one of Trump’s national-security advisers, was reported to be a member of Vitézi Rend, a right-wing Hungarian party that collaborated with the Nazis.

The line of transatlantic influence runs from east to west. Bannon, in particular, invokes the European experience so frequently he seems unable to discern any material differences between conditions in the two places. Trump’s aides have defended their Muslim ban on the blunt grounds that it is needed to prevent the growth of large, cloistered Muslim neighborhoods like those that exist in many parts of Europe. “The assimilation has been very, very hard. It’s been a very, very difficult process,” Trump asserted recently. “If you look at Germany, what’s happened. If you look at Sweden, what’s happened. If you look at Brussels, take a look at Brussels.” In fact, in terms of percentage of overall population, the number of Muslims living in Germany (5.8 percent), Sweden (4.6), and Belgium (5.9) dwarfs that of the United States, which hovers under one percent. A wide array of evidence suggests American Muslims are also far better assimilated than Muslims in Europe into mainstream life economically, socially, and politically.

European right-wing nationalism may not be a rational or humane response to conditions, but it is a response to conditions—conditions that do not exist on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. It is ironic that, for all his nationalist bluster, Trump has imported a foreign ideology.

In 1990, former president Ronald Reagan gave a speech commemorating the end of the Cold War. At its conclusion, he delivered a few lines of mom-and-apple-pie pabulum that if said today would come across as pointed defiance of the president. “I wonder yet if you’ve appreciated how unusual — terribly unusual — this country of ours is?” Reagan said. “I received a letter just before I left office from a man. I don’t know why he chose to write it, but I’m glad he did. He wrote that you can go to live in France, but you can’t become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Italy, but you can’t become a German, an Italian. He went through Turkey, Greece, Japan, and other countries. But he said anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in the United States and become an American.”

Reagan’s notion of American identity was hardly a matter of unanimity throughout American history. (Ask the Know-Nothings.) But over the course of the 20th century, America’s identity as a uniquely permeable culture settled into the consciousness of the country and the world. That is the idea Trump has set out to change.

And to a significant degree, he has already accomplished his goal. For all his legislative struggles, Trump has always had a talent for loudly communicating simple concepts. His ethnonationalist redefinition of American identity has broken through. Travel companies have reported a drop in interest in international tourism to the U.S. Applications to American colleges from overseas have also dropped. Jaganmohan Reddy, the father of one of the men murdered in Kansas, told the Washington Post, “The situation seems to be pretty bad after Trump took over as the U.S. president. I appeal to all the parents in India not to send their children to the United States in the present circumstances.” In ways that are impossible to quantify, the message has been heard: by law enforcement, by people defacing Jewish cemeteries and shouting slurs at minorities, by people around the world. These are all straws in the wind that is emanating from President Trump’s mouth.

*This article appears in the April 3, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.

Trump Is Failing at Policy, But Winning His Race Wars