Up until now, Trumpism has been a largely victimless crime. Or, to be exact, one whose victims were largely speculative and unnamed.
President Trump has been doing great damage to the fabric of our democracy with his venomous attacks on the free press (“Our Country’s biggest enemy”), the FBI (a “den of thieves and lowlifes”), people of color (who hail from “shithole countries” and “maybe shouldn’t be in the country” if they don’t stand for the national anthem), the political opposition (traitors who don’t “seem to love our country very much”) and other favorite targets. He has been doing just as much damage to America’s international standing by attacking our allies (e.g., calling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “very dishonest & weak”) and praising our enemies (e.g., calling North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “tough,” “smart,” “talented,” “funny”) while launching trade wars and tearing up international agreements.
Many have warned that this country will pay a heavy cost in the long run for Trump’s destructive acts. But it has been hard to point to individuals who have already suffered. Trump’s trade wars, for example, have begun to bite mostly only for Iowa farmers and Michigan autoworkers — and much of the impact will be so dissipated for consumers that it may not be immediately noticeable.
But with his barbarous policy of separating the children of undocumented immigrants from their parents, Trump has finally provided vivid, camera-ready examples of how his policies are destroying the lives of ordinary people. This goes beyond previously reported cases of undocumented immigrants deported after decades of contributing to this country. The suffering of adults — and adult men at that — doesn’t pique popular sympathy the way that the mistreatment of children does.
The almost 2,000 kids taken from their families over a six-week period and warehoused in detention facilities that some compare to Nazi concentration camps are not speculative, theoretical victims. They are all too real, and their plight is heart-rending. Finally the impact of Trumpism has a face: that of a 2-year-old Honduran girl who is seen bawling in a photo splashed across the front page of the New York Daily News under the headline: “Callous. Soulless. Craven. Trump.”
And it is not only the Daily News — a regular critic of Trump — that finds the family-separation policy repugnant. So does its rival, the New York Post, one of Trump’s biggest cheerleaders and reportedly his favorite newspaper. It editorialized: “Stop breaking up families at the border.” The same message was delivered by the normally apolitical former first lady Laura Bush, who compared the detention of immigrant children to the detention of Japanese Americans in World War II. Also speaking up is evangelical leader Franklin Graham, normally an apologist for Trump, who called this policy “disgraceful” and “terrible.” Even current first lady Melania Trump has condemned the family separations.
This policy is so awful that Trump and his minions feel compelled to lie by claiming that they are simply carrying out legislation that Democrats refuse to repeal – even though these sadistic edicts are entirely the result of an executive-branch policy decision. Why would Trump do something so evil? Because he is desperate.
His No. 1 policy priority has been to stop the arrival of migrants at the border. But May saw the arrest of more than 50,000 people crossing the U.S. border with Mexico for the third month in a row. That’s nearly three times the number detained in May 2017, showing that for all of Trump’s “fire and fury,” he has not managed to secure the border. Failing at his top task, he is lashing out at defenseless mothers and children in the hope that his inhumanity will scare other immigrants from coming.
Given the widespread outrage that his diabolical policy has generated, you might think that the president has finally gone too far. Except for one thing: The sheep in Republican clothing are refusing to break with him even over something so wicked. Forty-nine senators support Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Keep Families Together Act – but not a single Republican has signed on. Even Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the most liberal member of the Senate GOP caucus, is willing to criticize the family-separations policy but won’t support the effort to repeal it.
I can only speculate that Republicans, seeing the fate of Trump critics such as Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) — who was just defeated in his primary after the president tweeted an endorsement of his opponent — are so petrified of crossing the vengeful strongman in the White House that they are voluntarily separating themselves from their sense of right and wrong.
So it may not make any difference that Trump’s victims are finally visible — and pitifully young. His GOP enablers are so craven, so soulless, so abject in their dishonor that they will allow any amount of human suffering rather than risk suffering the wrath of Trump. The president may finally decide to end the family-separation policy simply to stem the deluge of calamitous publicity, but he won’t be forced to act by Congress. If only we could keep the hard-working Latin American newcomers and deport the contemptible Republican cowards — that would truly enhance America’s greatness.