In 2016, Trump used a strategy in his campaign against Hillary Clinton that cinched his hold on just enough white middle-class voters in swing states to win the Presidency. With his racist rhetoric about immigrants and minorities, he baited Hillary to pervasively talk about immigrants and under talked about white America issues. She didn’t visit some of the states populated mainly by white Americans in the swing states and didn’t sufficiently celebrate our cultural identity in her agenda while constantly celebrating immigrant culture and immigrant struggles. This gave Trump the opening that his racist appetite needed. He preyed on the fears that many white Americans have about becoming a forgotten minority.
I wrote to Hillary’s campaign in 2016 and suggested that she could both defend immigrant rights and at the same time speak more about the concerns and issues facing white Middle America. By not doing this, many white Americans felt that their American identity was being minimized by the Democrats, overshadowed by our celebration of and advocacy for immigrants. Trump exploited the fear of the potential extinction of American culture and thus became the savior of white Americans in Middle America.
This election cycle we have to talk about and celebrate American culture and encourage immigrants to not only to seek the American rights and laws that benefit them but to learn about and embrace American cultural history. Democrats must talk about American cultures such as our literature, music, folk heroes, baseball, artists, county fairs or anything else engenders pride in our unique American identity.
There is a real fear within Trump’s base about becoming a marginalized, minority group in our society. The fear is so great that it has enabled Trump to exploit their vulnerability and to generate hate and bigotry.
Democrats should be aware that the more Trump creates controversy around immigration and baits us to pervasively defend immigrants, the easier it becomes for him to alienate us from the white American voter. Trump, with his racist, divisive rhetoric and policies, has taken the country down a divided path based on a white vs non-white narrative.
It is imperative that the 2020 Democratic candidates find a way to talk to immigrants about embracing the cultural traditions that Americans identify with and are proud of. White Americans have expressed resentment about being urged by Democratic candidates to celebrate and welcome foreign cultural traditions while not hearing discussions about the immigrant population embracing our culture.
A balance must be found between assimilation and immigrant retention of their country of origin traditions. However, it is clear that if Trump is successful in negatively branding Democrats as anti-American simply due to their support of legal immigration and asylum-seeking, then he could very well win another term and further damage and humiliate America.