The topic of illegal immigration and Donald Trump’s preposition of adding a wall to our southern border have been wildly discussed and argued on media outlets throughout the United States. Although Trump says that his one greatest policy idea and talking point is focused around illegal immigration, the writers of The Economist argue in their article Diversity and Its Discontents that he is, rather, attempting to fight the “vast, unstoppable increase in diversity” that is happening in this country. If this is indeed the case, there is a lot of support behind this increasing discontent. In this blog post, I will be referencing various articles and data by political theorists to explain what is happening and why tensions are growing to the height they are. It is my belief that these theories, which apply to average American citizens, also apply to Trump and are the reason why he thinks and speaks the way he does: because they are his own beliefs and because he is trying to pull as much support from his base as possible.
According to the theories of Inglehart & Norris, there are two groups of Americans: the Materialists and the Post-Materialists. The Materialists encompass the older generation, and were born in a time in which survival was much more necessary. Like the societies of early humanity, Materialists stick to “tribes” in order to maintain their survival, working for their people, and avoiding helping all others for the sake of themselves. Outsiders are seen as a threat to the survival of the “tribe”. The newest generations are relatively removed from this time of hardship and survival. Not needing to worry as much about getting food on the table, they have the ability to focus on other things such as creative self-expression and promoting the wellbeing of others that are not a part themselves. They are the Post-Materialists. In the modern era, tensions are high between these two groups: the Post-Materialists welcoming change and an increasingly diverse world; the Materialists lashing back at this rapid demographic change. In this theory, it is clear that is much more than immigration that is causing an uproar, but rather the change of America itself that the older generation, the Materialists, Trump, and Trump’s supporters fear.
With this increasing change of demographics comes a decline in the original majority: the white working-class. Teixeira and Abramowitz note this decline in their theory, saying that the white working-class will diminish 30%-50% in the upcoming years. Combining with the theory above, this causes the white working-class to huddle together like a pack of starving wolves against the changing world, causing them to switch party alignments, if they have not already, and gradually move to the Republican party.
Mutz further supports this in her article on the 2016 presidential election, saying that the white population knows that they will not be the majority for much longer and views this change in demographics as a status threat.
In an effort to see this conflict from the direct point of view of this white working-class, Materialist population, Hochschild travelled to the deep Cajun south of Louisiana and spent five years living with and communicating with the locals. Her conclusion was that the people felt they were being “cut in line” by immigrants in the line to the American Dream. All of their lives they have been working hard, like they are supposed to, with the expectation that they will make it to the top of the hill. Then, with the addition of laws increasing the equality of the citizens of all races and creeds of the nation, and with the influx of minority immigrants, the white working-class feels as though those groups are getting a pass to jump forward in the line while they are still stuck in place.
All of these theories help to explain who the conflicts are truly between and why it occurs, but what happens as a result of this, that further supports that illegal immigration is not the only issue at play, is astounding. In a report by Aguirre on Arizona’s launching of SB1070, he explains how the bill, which was created to help reduce the number illegal of immigrants in Arizona, is actually being used as a catalyst for stereotyping and racism and to target Hispanic citizens. Under the bill, law enforcement officials can pull aside any individual that looks like they might be an illegal citizen and ask for identification. If the person cannot provide identification at that moment, then they can be taken into custody. In its extreme, law enforcement could hypothetically pull aside a Hispanic woman walking her dog, simply on account of her race, and because people do not typically carry identification when walking a dog, arrest her. This is a serious issue and goes well beyond the concept of stopping illegal immigration and shows the clear anger toward this existence of diversity.
Now for Trump’s end. One final point to tie together why he might be promoting this language of anti-diversity. Frey, Teixeira, and Griffin conducted a study to determine how an increase in minority citizens and voters, if it is to continue to increase at the current rate, would affect the Republican Party. In five out of six mathematical models, Democrats gain voters and Republicans begin to fall behind. The only model in which the Republican Party benefits requires the party to modify its ideology. The Republican Party, and Trump in particular, need this white majority in order to take and maintain power, and they will do anything they can for this power.
Through all of the evidence presented here, I think it is pretty easy to verify The Economist’s claim that Trump’s border wall and immigration policy is about much more than just illegal immigration. It is a policy of intolerance toward the citizens of this country and any other minority immigrants who would wish to be a part of the United States.