American history told from the vantage of immigration politics
It is often said that with the election of Donald Trump nativism was
raised from the dead. After all, here was a president who organized
his campaign around a rhetoric of unvarnished racism and xenophobia.
Among his first acts on taking office was to block foreign nationals
from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United
States. But although his actions may often seem unprecedented, they
are not as unusual as many people believe. This story doesn’t begin
with Trump. For decades, Republicans and Democrats alike have
employed xenophobic ideas and policies, declaring time and again that
“illegal immigration” is a threat to the nation’s security,
wellbeing, and future.
The profound forces
of all-American nativism have, in fact, been pushing politics so far
to the right over the last forty years that, for many people, Trump
began to look reasonable. As Daniel Denvir argues, issues as diverse
as austerity economics, free trade, mass incarceration, the drug war,
the contours of the post 9/11 security state, and, yes, Donald Trump
and the Alt-Right movement are united by the ideology of nativism,
which binds together assorted anxieties and concerns into a ruthless
Nativism provides a powerful and impressively researched account
of the long but often forgotten history that gave us Donald Trump.