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Trump's Agenda: Racism, Misogyny, and Xenophobia


If one is willing to take a closer look, Trump’s actions look less like an incoherent grab-bag and more like a calculated attack on this country’s most vulnerable.

Trump’s campaign platform revolved around the narrative that there exists a vast, ignored swath of Americans who have fallen behind–who have seen the economy take off and the country move forward without them. This group has been characterized many ways: as “deplorables,” as the white working class, as people tired of “political correctness,” as “real Americans” who feel persecuted for their religion, their skin color, or their lack of sophistication.

This struggle is often framed in economic terms, but the bottom line is that it’s cultural: this is a fundamentally reactionary grasp for power and relevance by a demographic bloc which has seen its relative power fade from what was once a near-absolute stranglehold. Now that they have obtained enough executive and legislative power to enact a specific agenda, we are going to see that agenda play out.

There are identifiable planks to this agenda, as well. Far from a disparate mishmash of unrelated policy ideas, Trump’s executive agenda is shaping up to go after the very people he and his supporters blamed for America’s implicit lack of greatness suggested by the “Make America Great Again” slogan. These planks include:

  * [Three executive orders]( signed immediately after Jeff Sessions was confirmed as Attorney General, aimed at implementing his touted "law and order" policies. They a) set up a task force with a mandate to reduce crime, classifying illegal immigration as one of the high-priority crimes, b) put in place an initiative to develop a top-to-bottom strategy for combating and punishing crimes against police officers, and c) integrate functions of the Justice Department, Homeland Security, and intelligence agencies combat international drug trafficking. Taken as a whole, these policies endorse a hyperaggressive police posture and turn certain types of crimes into national security concerns. In practice, this is likely to facilitate more of the very police abuses that gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement in the first place.
  * The so-called "Muslim ban" which, while suspended for the moment, was far-reaching and clearly extended well beyond addressing credible terroristic threats. It ensnared over a hundred thousand people, including noncitizen permanent residents, green card holders, and individuals with worker or student visas. Its targeting on the basis of national origin, coupled with a religious exception for Christians facing persecution, effectively makes it a blunt tool for keeping (and kicking) Muslims out of the country.
  * The handing over of executive power to Cabinet officials who disagree with the missions of their departments amounts to perhaps the most naked bout of regulatory capture in US history. An example I've not discussed is Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder, a restaurant executive who oversees the parent company that owns the Carl's Jr./Hardee's chains. Puzder works in an industry that cannot survive without the labor of undocumented immigrants, routinely abuses employees, seeks to keep minimum wages low (or abolish them altogether if possible), and benefits disproportionately from taxpayer assistance as so many fast food employees rely on food stamps and other taxpayer-funded programs in order to survive. Puzder himself [has a horrifying record ]( it comes to how women are treated and presented, as well, and it's likely not a coincidence that the Carl's Jr./Hardee's chains have [higher than average rates of sexual harassment](
  * [A massive crackdown on undocumented immigrants]( is also unfolding. People who have not presented any danger to the public are being aggressively rounded up and deported. Here, we can see the true cruelty of these policies: undocumented immigrants are an oft-ignored but integral part of our workforce, and efforts to remove them from the country must always be half-hearted, at best. The more humanely the government treats undocumented immigrants, the most likely it is those people will stand up for their rights, meaning they will demand better pay and working conditions. By cracking down on them, deporting completely harmless, nonviolent people, a message is sent to the rest: don't speak up, or you'll be next. It drives undocumented immigrants underground, where they can be more easily abused and exploited by the industries which depend on them.

All of this constitutes an anti-worker, anti-human, pro-corporate agenda. The tools of government, rather than enhancing the lives of people who live and work here, are instead turned toward crushing dissent, marginalizing the vulnerable, and enabling their abuse and mistreatment. Crucially, the issues these policies are meant to address don’t really exist–or at least, don’t exist at the level the Trump administration contends. Instead, they are a direct message to everyone in this country who isn’t straight, white, cisgender male: don’t speak up, don’t expect anything from the government, but keep your head down or you’ll be made to suffer, too. Republicans still fully intend to defund Planned Parenthood and attack the right to abortion more generally. They are also determined to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” which would take health insurance away from millions of Americans, most of them working-class or poor, and many of them people of color.

It would be a mistake to think these are all disconnected moves motivated by different people with different ideas in mind. Different politicians and Cabinet officials will have their own pet policies they want to see adopted, of course, but all of these anti-human policies work in tandem to reassert white Christian male supremacy over everyone else in America. They also strip away government oversight from the private sector, essentially allowing companies to regulate themselves–which is no regulation at all. Again, this permits further abuse and exploitation, primarily of women, people of color, and immigrants, both documented and undocumented. It’s a pattern.

These measures must be fought at every level, and they will be. Individuals, families, towns, cities, counties, states, and whole regions are called on to resist and block Trump’s agenda. I feel like I say this a lot, but it’s still true: the fight is only just beginning.