Trump and the Invasion

I wrote this piece in December 2015, nearly a year before the election.

Donald Trump, as heavy-footed and inarticulate as he is, has shows himself time after time to be a man of superb political instincts.  Cut off, for most of his life, from contact with ordinary Americans, he manages, nonetheless, to display old-fashioned common sense in statements guaranteed both to delight what is fast becoming the Silent Minority and to outrage the cowards, liars, and flunkeys who dominate politics and the press.

Donald’s latest stunt—and we can only hope that it is not just a stunt—is to call for a moratorium on Islamic immigration into the United States.  Of course, most sensible people would like to make a ban on Muslims both permanent and retroactive, but we cannot, I suppose, have everything.  The President’s creatures in both parties—none of them could be called either men or women—all leaped up to protest, first by misrepresenting Trump’s actual proposal as a permanent ban—and then by condemning it as both unconstitutional and unAmerican.

A few conservative Republicans have actually had the nerve to recall precedents, such as Jimmy Carter’s proposed moratorium on Iranian immigration during the Iranian hostage crisis.   However most of Trump’s rival Republican candidates—the President’s truly loyal opposition—have joined the chorus crying shame.  In fairness, we should concede that Ted Cruz, who has continued to play his prudent game—if you love Donald, who is impossible, you can at least settle for someone who is not—is content to express polite disagreement.

What is mildly surprising about leftwing Republicans like Bush and Rubio is their open contempt for the party faithful, two thirds of whom tell pollsters they agree with Trump.  Why don’t they just come out and say it:  “You Republicans are unAmerican bigots, and I wouldn’t take your votes each one of them came wrapped in a thousand dollar campaign contribution.  I’d rather be left than President.”

The most cogent precedent for Trump’s proposal is not President Carter or even the McCarran Act of 1950—cited frequently by Srdja Trifkovic—which restricted entry into the US by known and potential subversives,  but one of the first pieces of Congressional legislation under the Constitution:  the Alien and Sedition Acts of of 1798, passed during the French Revolution.  The specific purpose was to make it harder for French radicals and their friends to enter the country, acquire citizenship, and agitate on behalf of their very French and unAmerican principles of atheism, class warfare, national unity, confiscation of property, and mass murder.

The Enemy Aliens Act is the most relevant to Trump’s cal for excluding Muslims.  The key provisions include:

1)  Authorizing the President “‘to order all such aliens as he shall judge dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States, or shall have reasonable grounds to suspect are concerned in any treasonable or secret machinations against the government thereof, to depart out of the territory of the United Slates.”

2) Innocent aliens were required to get permission to remain in the country, but if they stayed without permission, they were to be imprisoned. There was no nonsense about the rights of aliens:  They were presumed guilty and had to prove their innocence before they could receive a permit to remain.

The Acts were popular with Federalists, including George Washington, and unpopular with Jeffersonians, who saw them as aimed at their friends and supporters (which to some extent they were.)  While other parts of Sedition Act was ignored by the President Jefferson, who pardoned those who had been convicted under it,  the Enemies Alien Act  remained in force to be used in WW II by FDR, who deported foreign nationals from Axis countries.   Does that mean John Adams and George Washington were unAmerican?

Trump’s critics would immediately try to argue that the Alien Enemies Act excluded aliens on the basis of ideology and nationality.  In the same vein, the highly debunkable tries vainly to distinguish Carter's temporary obstruction of Iranian visas from Trump's proposal:  "Clearly, Carter's fourth sanction pertaining to visas for Iranian nationals was in no way a security measure. Sanctions by definition are a tactic short of direct military conflict to elicit cooperation by other nations, issued to achieve compliance through discomfort or inconvenience."

How's that again?  Has this poor child ever looked at the cruelly destructive effects of "sanctions"--a kindler, gentler term for an embargo, which is illegal except as an act of war--on Yugoslavia and, especially, Iraq?  What matters for such people is what a politician says, and not what he does or the principles that underly his action.  Of course, Trump's proposal is different from Carter's.  The two crises were also quite different.  The question at issue is whether or not a government may legitimately target a group of people for exclusion.

The Trump-mockers are in something of a bind:   They could hardly want to defend any law that excluded Zimbabwean black supremacists.  Besides, it is not always easy to separate religious faith from political ideology.  Ask an ultramontane Catholic about his right to resist the ruler or his obedience to the Pope, or discuss the proper framework of a godly commonwealth with a serious Calvinist or abortion rights with a member of the President’s United Church of Ch- - - t—it is blasphemous to associate the Lord’s name with such a degraded body.  When it comes to a religion that has preached mass murder, genocide, persecution of non-members, and world conquest, it is hard not to lump it in with other pernicious ideologies like Marxism and National Socialism.

Trump’s critics in both parties do have a point.  The America of both Adams and Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, only exists in the minds of Americans who have not entirely succumbed to the ideology of the New America, which criminalizes patriotism along with Christian faith and adherence to the traditional manners, morals, and culture of the generations who carved this country out of the wilderness and made it wealthy, powerful, and stable.

This is the basic fact of American life that conservatives refuse to understand.  The American ruling elite and the poor chumps who emulate them hate everything this country ever was.  For 40 years high school history teachers have regaled their classes with attacks on white men who enslaved negroes, oppressed women, massacred Indians, and insulted Jews.  The same line is handed out by political and academic leaders and the employees of the great media barons.  The atmosphere has become so stifling that a left-liberal media outlet like Fox News is now regarded as a breath of wholesome conservative air.

But still the conservatives go on droning and whining:  This is still a good country, a Christian nation.  We just need to put the right leaders in office and Constitution-thumping judges on the Supreme Court.  On and on till the end of time.  They hate Trump, because he seems for the moment to understand that the revolutionary left has been digging a line in the sand, deeper and wider than the Rio Grande.  All decent people are on the left of the line, and anyone else who even quotes, as Justice Scalia did recently, a dissonant point of view on affirmative action,  is denounced as an enemy.

What Trump, which rhymes with chump, is beginning to realize, probably for the first time in his life, is that there is no parleying with this enemy.  One by one our children and grandchildren are being converted to their inhumane and hated-driven ideology of equality and servility.  It may be too late to do anything about it, but the unlovely Donald Trump is the first ray of hope since a would-be assassin’s bullet took George Wallace out of the political picture and paved the way for the reelection of a stalwart Republican.

Avatar photo

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina