President Trump's recent, highly-criticized comments about third world countries like Haiti have garnered responses from every corner of our countries' media. Friend of the Transpartisan Voice (and advisor & contributor to our own Transpartisan Review project), Ralph Benko explores the potential silver lining of the president's controversial remarks in his latest column at Forbes .com:
"President Trump’s recently reported vulgar slur on the places of origin of certain people long residing in the United States in the wake of national disasters under Temporary Protected Status may have the unexpected consequence of making their protection permanent. One hopes so."
But the curious part of this story is the possibility that Florida's Haitian community may have played a significant role in electing President Trump. Benko shares a passage from a New York Sun article, by former Haitian envoy Raymond Joseph, where we are told:
During the 2016 presidential election in the United States, Candidate Donald Trump went to Little Haiti in Miami, Florida, in search of the Haitian-American vote. That visit got him a major article in the Miami Herald by Jacqueline Charles, a Haitian-American on the staff of the daily.
Mr. Trump told his audience he had come to “listen and learn” and build a new relationship with the community. He made a pledge: “Whether you vote for me or not, I really want to be your biggest champion.” The Miami Herald understood what the candidate wanted to say and corrected it in the headline: “Donald Trump to Haitian voters: I want to be your greatest champion.”
Could Florida's significant Haitian population, nearly 300,000 strong, have played a role in Trump's success in light of this supportive headline? And what does his betrayal of them suggest for the 2020 election?
In reliable Benko fashion, the author goes on to explore the historical context of this situation, going so far as to point out founding father Ben Franklin's (in hindsight) ironic observations of President Trump's immigrant ancestors (in a letter to Peter Collinson):
"Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant Stupid Sort of their own Nation, and as Ignorance is often attended with Credulity when Knavery would mislead it, and with Suspicion when Honesty would set it right; and as few of the English understand the German Language, and so cannot address them either from the Press or Pulpit, ’tis almost impossible to remove any prejudices they once entertain."
Benko ends his piece by quoting Trump's inaugural speech (adding his own thoughts, which I've contributed to):
“And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska,” -- or Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, Somalia [or even 18th century Germany] -- “they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.”
It's rarely valuable to share the over-used aphorism "history repeats itself" with those doing the repeating, but perhaps the backlash to this situation -- and the embarrassment that follows -- will lead the administration towards better decisions. At the very least, repairing the damage caused by Trump's thoughtless comments offers transpartisan opportunities to engage with immigrant communities.