In recent weeks, as high profile Republicans from Senator Susan Collins of Maine to a bunch of right-leaning national security types have expressed reservations about Donald Trump, it has become fashionable to ponder the possibility that Trump might still bow out of the race, or even be forced out. And perhaps that will happen.
But this conveniently ignores something important. Even with some bad poll numbers coming out about Trump, in light of yet another string of dumb, stupid things the mogul said, a sizable chunk of the electorate still supports him.
Trump himself has become something of a punching bag, even for those who normally stay neutral. And while I personally believe a Trump presidency would be a disaster, it’s also become too easy to make this about Trump himself.
Sooner or later, Trump’s supporters -- and certainly the Irish Catholic ones -- have to be called out for backing a candidate whose entire campaign seems to be based on scapegoating and seeking simple solutions to complex problems.
Central to that, of course, is immigration, which may well be the central issue rallying Trump’s supporters. Why?
Because it touches upon so many other sensitive issues ranging from terrorism and religion to income and patriotism.
Trump supporters who are looking for one more beach read might want to pick up Irish American author Jack Kelly’s new book Heaven’s Ditch: God, Gold and Murder on the Erie Canal. Kelly writes about Alfred Hovey, a key supervisor on the Erie Canal which opened in 1825 and transformed American business. You know, the kind of thing politicians of all stripes claim they want to do.
At one point, “Hovey found there were not enough stonemasons and laborers to keep the work going at the pace he wanted,” Kelly writes. So Hovey “ordered more Irish immigrants to be recruited from New York City.”
Were they greeted with open arms back when America was “great”?
Kelly writes, “Townspeople wrinkled their noses at these filthy and smelly vassals, some of whom spoke no English, only a guttural Gaelic.”
Kelly adds, “The immigrants knew how to work though…Irish workmen were increasingly filling the canal workforce as the project moved westward into sparsely settled regions.” This even though they were “scorned as aliens and Catholics,” Kelly notes.
Look, there is a complex debate to be had about the impact immigrants have on the American way of life, whether it is on the languages spoken by people who live here, or their income.
But let’s not pretend that what we are experiencing right now is somehow so debilitating that it may permanently drag the country into an abyss from whence it will never return. This seems to be the apocalyptic narrative Trump -- and his millions of supporters -- want to believe.
It is also what some of the townsfolk watching the Irish on the Erie Canal thought when they saw those smelly, “alien,” foreign-speaking laborers, who worshipped the anti-Christ in Rome.
In the end, didn’t this help make America great?
The real problem with Trump’s supporters isn’t that they want to make America great. They apparently believe America was never actually great in the first place. Which is kind of weird coming from a bunch of people who love to talk so much about how patriotic they are.
Earlier this month, the New York Daily News ran an editorial entitled “They Built N.Y., Mr. Trump.” The editorial took Trump to task for “canonizing himself as New York’s savior” and vowing “to do for the country what [Trump] claimed to have done for the city.”
But as the News noted, “Trump’s egotism prevents him from seeing that immigrants immensely helped New York City to succeed and that he succeeded because New York City succeeded, and not the other way around.”
At this point, of course, a guy like Trump is not going to grasp this. And besides, there’s a more important group that needs to think long and hard about this stuff -- the millions still proudly displaying Trump lawn signs and bumper stickers.