By Arthur Z. Schwartz
When Donald Trump launched his campaign with a diatribe against Mexicans, the media treated him like the pariah he is. His TV show was cancelled, and Univision cancelled its coverage of the Miss Universe pageant because Trump owned it. But Trump caught the ear of the most backwards, racist segment of the Republican primary electorate, and as his positions in the polls rose, and the TV ratings skyrocketed when he appeared in debates, the media decided to treat him as legitimate.
Adolph Hitler was legitimate. He first came to attention as a candidate for German Chancellor. He ran a campaign addressed to the impoverished population in Germany, which hadn’t fully recovered from World War I, followed by the Depression, and blamed the woes on enemies within—the millions of Jews who populated Germany, many of whom had come there to escape persecution in Bolshevick USSR. One would have thought we had learned from Hitler and those like him. They are shunned and denounced from the outset.
Trump has not only taken on immigrants. He announced in a recent Tweet that 81% of Whites who were murdered in the U.S. were killed by Blacks, when the number was the opposite. He announced that he “saw” Muslim Americans, by the thousands, celebrating in Jersey City as the World Trade Center fell in 2001. He has called for a national registry of people who choose to practice the Muslim religion, some 6.67 million people, similar to Hitler’s registry of Jews. And the media, by broadcasting his hate filled rants as though they were legitimate news, has popularized him more, resulting in the whole Republican presidential candidate field trying to outdo him. It has even seeped over to the Democratic side, with the Mayor of Roanoke, Virginia praising the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and 55 House Democrats voting in favor of making it even harder for a Syrian to get refugee status in the U.S.
In the wake of Paris, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called for the total exclusion and deportation of Syrian refugees – people guilty of nothing other than being Syrians seeking refuge from a devastating civil war. Christie’s call to action was in response to New Jersey having to accept eight Syrian refugees under President Barack Obama’s resettlement effort.
So intense is the anti-immigrant turn to the right in our body politic spurred by Trump that fundamental Constitutional rights are now under serious attack. Even Senator Marco Rubio, who is only eligible to run for President because of birth-right citizenship, now says he is “open to exploring ways of not allowing people who are coming here deliberately for that purpose to acquire citizenship.” Neither of Rubio’s parents were citizens when he was born in Miami in 1971. Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father, and was a Canadian citizen, rails against “outsiders” as well, and wants the US to admit only “Christian immigrants.”
Not since the Anti-Jewish Nuremburg Laws of Nazi Germany has a country suddenly stripped a large number of its people of their right and the right of their children to be a citizen. In so doing Nazi Germany quantified who among their population enjoyed citizenship which varied based on their status and the status of their parents and grandparents. Two years after the Nazi party gained power in Germany through a democratic election, the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor were passed at a special session of the Reichstag held in Nuremberg as part of a large Nazi Party Rally. These laws categorized people into being German, of mixed race, or Jewish. So called “German blooded” people – those who could prove their two parents and four grandparents were not Jewish – were considered German and therefore eligible for citizenship. If you had only one Jewish grandparent you were also considered German blooded and eligible for citizenship. But, if you were three quarters or more Jewish you were ineligible for citizenship. For people whose genetic heritage fell in between, that is to say more than one eighth and less than three quarters Jewish, as time went on, a series of supplemental laws were enacted making them less and less eligible for citizenship. Eventually they and the “three quarter or more” Jews were all put into death camps.
If you think it overly hyperbolic to put the current debate about birth-right status and mass deportation of undocumented immigrants into a context that also includes Adolph Hitler’s removal of German citizenship from Jews, consider that the Republican and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore has called Trump “a fascist” for his ideas on immigration and the creation of a “domestic force” to round up 11 million people for deportation. The reality is, that Trump is appealing to the same base instincts of the poor Whites in America whom the economy has left behind, and the results of the legitimization of his rhetoric will be felt for many years to come – even if he loses. Trump has got to be called out for what he is – not a joke, but a dark force who is a disgrace to the America we have promised our children.
Arthur Z. Schwartz is the Democratic District Leader for Greenwich Village.