In every major speech of his presidency, Donald Trump has insisted that his brand of nationalism is color-blind and all-inclusive. Far from being a force for division, a politics that prioritizes the interests of citizens above domestic aliens and foreign publics would help Americans “rediscover our loyalty to each other,” Trump argued in his inaugural address, because “when you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”
In his first State of the Union last month, the president proclaimed that “all Americans deserve accountability and respect,” and that his immigration policies were designed to “protect our citizens of every background, color, religion, and creed.”
Of course, the idea that Trump’s movement was founded on a color-blind conception of American identity is patently absurd. The man began his career in conservative politics by denying the Americanness of the first black president, and launched his presidential campaign by deriding Mexican-American immigrants as a pack of drug-dealing rapists (with a few good people, he assumed, sprinkled in between). Throughout his campaign, Trump tacitly revealed that he does not consider nonwhite U.S. citizens fully American, as when he referred to a native-born federal judge as a “Mexican.”
And in arguing for restricting family reunification (i.e. “chain migration”), the president has never expressed sympathy for the American citizens who wish to bring their brothers, sisters, or parents to this county through that program (a group of citizens that appears to include his own wife). Instead, in his remarks to Congress last month, Trump implied that the people who benefit from “chain migration” are not Americans at all; baselessly suggested that Americans who came to this country through chain migration are disproportionately terrorists; and argued that such immigrants pose a threat to “our future” — a claim he neither elaborated on nor explained.
Nevertheless, the president has rarely (if ever) explicitly argued that there is a category of American citizens for whom he and his movement do not stand. And the legitimacy of his nationalist ideology (such as it is) rests on the conceit that it is not a racially or ethnically exclusive creed.
But on Friday at Conservative Political Action Conference, the president ripped that conceit to shreds.
Referencing congressional Democrats’ opposition to his administration’s proposed changes to legal immigration, Trump told the crowd of right-wing activists, “They’re willing to give us the wall. But they don’t want to give us any of the laws to keep these people out.”
Here, “these people” are, by definition, a group of U.S. residents and citizens who have entered the country legally, through the existing immigration system (ostensibly, including his own father- and mother-in-law).
Trump then turned his fire on the diversity visa lottery, and declared, in no uncertain terms, that he does not believe that all Americans deserve his respect.
“Lottery, think of the lottery. You have a country, they put names in, you think they’re giving us their good people?” Trump asked rhetorically. “So we pick out people, then they turn out to be horrendous and we don’t understand why.”
This is, of course, not how the diversity visa lottery works. Every year, the United States reserves 50,000 visas for prospective immigrants from nations that have not sent many immigrants to America in the past (in many cases, because those nations were barred from sending immigrants to the U.S. for much of the 20th century, due to explicitly racist immigration laws). Millions of people apply for those slots, and the field is winnowed through a lottery. But these immigrants are self-selected (not appointed by their governments as Trump suggests), and must meet America’s stringent education and work experience requirements for all newcomers, and then undergo vetting by the State Department before entering the country (as opposed to being immediately flown to the United States, no questions asked, as Trump implies).
Anyhow, in these remarks, Trump argues that the winners of the diversity lottery “turn out to be horrendous” – meaning, once they arrive in this country and become American residents or citizens, they reveal themselves to be universally horrible.
Is there a term for the kind of nationalist who regards entire categories of “diverse” Americans to be “horrendous,” by definition, and who tells demagogic lies about said people, promoting fear and loathing of such minorities, so as to build public support for banning their kind from our country — and thereby preserving “our future”?