A Blow to the American Dream

Trump keeps his bigoted promises but shifts the problem to Congress.

The American dream is one of the most attractive democratic myths of our time. It’s the dream of an open, multicultural, forward-facing country built by immigrants. People of all different backgrounds coming in various waves, following in the footsteps of the early settlers: The pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 fleeing religious persecution in England. Thanks to a society in which equality and merit are valued above all else, with hard work and effort, everything is possible and there are no limits to anyone’s progress as a citizen. It’s even possible for the son of a Kenyan man and American woman to become president, as was the case of Barack Obama.

Trump has now dealt the American dream a blow. That’s part of what he was elected to do: destroy Obama’s entire legacy. A blow to Obama’s health care law, a universal health care system. A blow to free trade. Blows to immigration, with the Muslim entry ban and the dogged attempts to build the wall with Mexico. Even a blow to 70 years of pacts and international alliances.

Of all Trump’s blows, the one he dealt the “Dreamers” — those 800,000 young people who arrived illegally as children and who can now be deported — is the one that stings the most. First off, because it comes in response to the extremist ideas of the bigoted and racist right-wing faction that’s settled into the White House, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. This is the faction that’s still insulted by Obama’s presidency. Next, because these young people are human assets who even have economic value, as the biggest businesses in the country have pointed out. Sessions’ decision is so harsh that it’s given Trump, a merciless boor, the opportunity to play “centrist” and “moderate” by asking Congress to find a legal solution for a generation teeming with intelligence and skilled labor. These are exactly the kind of immigrants that developed countries — including European countries, usually so demographically weak — need in order to ensure their future.

The blow to the “Dreamers” will be a decisive moment for Trump in his relations with the Republican Party and with Congress. He’s pleasing his most extremist supporters, but shifting the responsibility for the future of 800,000 young people over to Congress. In reality, he doesn’t dare go through with the deportation orders dictated to him by members of the far right in power, convinced as they are that Obama’s program is a “backdoor” for the “Dreamers’” relatives and creating a “pull effect” for more immigrants to keep trying to settle in the country. This is one more step toward the lost importance of Trump’s presidency. He’s excellent at the art of destruction but unable to govern from a chaotic and divided White House. Of course, this latest move is in keeping with the perverse meaning of the slogan “America First,” which means “white Americans first.” As with Trump’s foreign policy, it contributes to the weakening of a superpower and the tarnishing of the Statue of Liberty as a beacon of progress and equality that attracts citizens from all over the world.

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