The unlikely scene: a drinking establishment somewhere in the Dominican Republic. Two American men are perched on stools at the bar, watching a satellite TV report from Long Island, of all places, showing footage of multiple American protests about President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban.
One of the Americans had said: “He sure is stirring up a lot of s—.” His drinking buddy, as noted, is undaunted. (I, meanwhile, am listening, pretending to be waiting for a drink for my wife that has already been delivered.)
The indifferent one shrugs and pulls on his beer. He grunts. “I don’t have a problem with it.”
Neither, as it turns out, do the majority of Americans.
When I returned to my thirsty spouse, I checked the Internet. You can do likewise and this is what you’ll find.
• Reuters/Ipsos: The two firms polled a bunch of Americans right after the un-president attached his signature to the now-infamous executive order banning travel from seven Muslim countries. Half – 49 per cent – agreed or strongly agreed with what Trump had done. Only 41 per cent disagreed. A third said it actually made them feel “more safe.” And get this: 52 per cent of self-identified Democrats agreed with Trump’s move.
• Quinnipiac University: From this Hamden, Conn., campus we get the same sort of depressing results: 48 per cent with Trump, 42 per cent against. Said the pollsters: “American voters support suspending immigration from ‘terror prone’ regions, even if it means turning away refugees from those regions.”
• Rasmussen: In this one, Trump did even better. In the wake of the decision, the polling company Rasmussen Reports found that a whopping 57 per cent of Americans agreed, some strongly, with what the groper-in-chief had done. Only 33 per cent were against it. The Daily Express in Britain headlined that the Rasmussen results were “a shock.”
But they’re not – not to anyone who has been paying attention, anyway.
Anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment isn’t just popular, it’s sweeping the planet. It’s why Brexit happened last June. It’s why Trump happened last November. And it’s why up here in little old Canada – the now-aptly-monikered Great White North – the likes of Kellie Leitch and Kevin O’Leary have stubbornly stuck to their Trump-lite guns.
As Leitch’s campaign manager keeps telling everyone – and said winning campaign manager has multiple members of his immediate family who are practising Muslims, is married to an immigrant, is the son of immigrants and belongs to a family that’s working to sponsor Syrian refugees, by the by – two-thirds of Canadians are onside.
No less than the Toronto Star, never a paragon of conservative ideals, says so.
“Two-thirds of Canadians want prospective immigrants to be screened for ‘anti-Canadian’ values, a new poll reveals, lending support to an idea that is stirring controversy in political circles,” the Star reported in September. “Sixty-seven per cent [say] immigrants should indeed be screened for ‘anti-Canadian values’.”
And Liberals and New Democrats? Among them, 57 and 59 per cent, respectively, agreed with what Leitch has been saying about screening immigrants and refugees.
Apologies, here, for the myriad numbers. Apologies, too, for thoroughly depressing my already-discouraged progressive friends.
But the facts are becoming undeniable. Sure, Trump is a racist, sexist, fascistic creep. But he won the election precisely by being the anti-immigrant candidate.
And it’s not necessarily racist to want a debate about immigration and refugee policy.
That’s what I wrote more than 20 years ago in my book about racism, Web of Hate. It’s not wrong to have an objective, fact-based debate about how to deal in the West with a massive influx of dispossessed people.
What’s wrong, however, is to do it as Trump has done in the space of just a few days: by pledging to put up walls, and by dislocating taxpaying, law-abiding American citizens who happen to have been born somewhere else. It’s wrong, too, to play dog-whistle politics, promising to keep out those with values we dislike.
And it’s wrong, of course, to pepper a pro-refugee Facebook page with racist bile – and then, when that isn’t enough, to go pick up a restricted assault rifle and gun down six innocent people at prayer in Quebec City.
Citizens everywhere clearly want to have a debate about immigrants and refugees. Some are worried, some are scared. Some are racists but some actually aren’t.
We in Canada can certainly have such a debate. Not the way Trump is doing it, of course, or the way Leitch and O’Leary want to do it. And not, particularly, because we in any way agree with the Brexit and Trump cabal.
Because we want to keep them from taking over here, too.
Troy Media columnist Warren Kinsella is a Canadian journalist, political adviser and commentator.