President Trump has recently looked into limiting asylum at the United States border, and will be asking for more border wall funding come 2020. In roughly the same period of time, Trump also issued an executive order demanding that colleges and universities respect the First Amendment. Essentially, to ensure that free speech on campuses is made a priority by the institutions, or they run the risk of losing their federal funding. Both issues, based on legal precedent, represent a legitimate use of federal power. However, with some analysis and supporting examples, they can also arguably represent Trump’s attempt to appeal to his supporter base prior to his 2020 re-election campaign.
In an attempt to make asylum more difficult, Trump has proposed giving more power to border agents, andrequiring stronger evidence for asylum-seekers “real” fear of entering back into their home countries. Of course, to what extent one can truly prove their fear or emotional distress in the eyes of the law poses itself as an unreasonable task. Therefore, it is not far-fetched to say that requirement would leave a lot of discretion in the hands of the border patrol agents. Nevertheless, his push for border security and his continued verbal onslaught of the “bad people” pouring through our borders certainly appeals to his supporter base.
Arlie Hochschild would likely agree that Trump’s increasingly voiced stance on immigration is a tactic that directly appeals to the disenfranchised blue collar American, or their “deep story”. Additionally, it can be said that through his rhetoric, he is using these “gangsters” and “drug-traffickers” as scapegoats to instill paranoia and fear into the American people. Whether or not one considers the fears legitimate is another debate, but recognizing that his actions do fit into these categories is revealing. Hofstadter, in The Paranoid Style in American Politicshighlights right-wing thought in the 1950s-early 60’s, regarding their outlook on communist encroachment of free-market capitalism. He also highlighted the fear and anger that the “right” had towards programs that aided minorities or directed their tax dollars toward welfare programs. President Trump’s actions at the border not only appeal to the way in which his supporters want to feel, but they are telling them how to feel. It is for this reason that both Hochschild and Hofstader’s pieces coalesce well together when discussing Trump’s obsession with immigration at the border.
Free speech in the United States has been front and center in many debates for quite some time. However, it is the general consensus amongst the right that their voices are being blocked out on college campuses that tend to favor liberal and inclusive thought. This is truthfully a real phenomena, however it is hard to argue that there is direct free speech limitations. Nevertheless, Trump recognizes this and made his opinion heard by signing an executive order. His order, although considered to be obsolete given everyone is bound by the Constitution, can also be viewed as an even further appeal to his supporter base on the right. So, I suppose in conclusion this post should highlight that irrespective of the legitimacy or legality of Trump’s actions (enforcing border security, and making free speech an executive order) that they can clearly be attached to politically motivated incentives that lend themselves into highly persuasive and tactical moves.
Hochschild, Arlie Russell. 2016. Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. New York: The New Press. Chapters 1, 9,and 15.
Hofstadter, Richard J. 1964. The Paranoid Style in American Politics. Chapter 1.
Svrluga, Susan. “Trump Signs Executive Order on Free Speech on College Campuses.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 21 Mar. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/03/21/trump-expected-sign-executive-order-free-speech/?utm_term=.336326c6088b.
“Trump Team Wants to Make Asylum Harder by Putting CBP Agents in Charge.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/trump-admin-wants-make-asylum-harder-putting-border-agents-charge-n992436.