Donald Trump

Donald Trump's Rise Shows That Immigrants Are Not the Big Threat to Limited Government

If Hispanic immigrants had backed a strongman, conservatives would have declared them a threat to freedom.


Given the love affair that many Americans are having with Donald Trump, conservatives need to retire the notion

Donald Trump
Todd Krainin

that America needs to clamp down on Hispanic immigration because Hispanics are welfare queens who erode America's commitment to limited government principles. Trump's stunning popularity shows that native-born Americans are perfectly capable of selling out these very principles on their own — without any help from immigrants.

Polls show that Hispanics are much more likely than non-Hispanics to say that the government should do more to improve standards of living for the needy (39 percent to 26 percent). They are also 12 percentage points more likely than non-Hispanics to say the government gives "too little assistance to the poor" (74 percent to 62 percent). Conversely, Hispanics are far less likely to support tax increases over spending cuts in welfare programs to balance the budget.

Conservative restrictionists such as Rush Limbaugh, National Review writers, and Manhattan Institute's Heather Mac Donald have seized on such attitudes to argue that more Hispanics means more voters for tax-and-spend Democrats and more government. But Trump's rise should forever put to bed the notion that without Hispanics, America would remain a mecca of free enterprise and individual self-reliance. Trump himself very clearly wants to massively expand the government — and his ethno-nationalist supporters seem downright eager to let him do it.

Trump's promise to round up and eject 11 million undocumented immigrants would require a massive expansion of the police state. And similarly, much of the rest of his plan to Make America Great Again requires bending private businesses and foreign governments to his will.

Trump harrumphs that America is going down the tubes because American companies are leaving. "We don't make anything anymore in this country," he froths. Demonizing companies such as Nabisco and Ford for moving their operations to Mexico and allegedly killing American jobs has become a ritual sport with him.

But what exactly is his plan to stop them from relocating besides "never eating another Oreo again"?

The answer is punitive taxes.

He has threatened to slap Ford with a 35 percent tax on all cars and auto parts imported from Mexico — and he hasn't ruled out a cookie tax on Nabisco! In other words, he'd use the strong arm of the government not only to prevent foreigners from coming in, but also American companies from moving out, never mind how much this might undermine their global competitiveness or raise prices for American consumers.

Likewise, he has threatened retaliatory tariffs to the tune of 45 percent against China for allegedly devaluing its currency to boost exports even if it means a trade war beggaring both sides. "I don't mind trade wars," he smirks. That makes sense for a man who retweets quotes by Italian fascist and warmonger Benito Mussolini.

But what's truly frightening is Trump's contempt for constitutional checks and balances — even as he (hilariously) lambasts President Obama for overusing his executive authority. It is widely known that he has no problem with government playing reverse-Robin Hood and using its eminent domain powers to take away property from poor owners and give it to rich developers like himself. However, recently he has even threatened to "open up libel laws" and apparently make it easier for miffed politicos like himself to sue news organizations that criticize them.

So long as the First Amendment exists, he'd never get away with that. But that's not the point. The point is that this is the kind of blustery authoritarianism that passes for leadership in backward Third World countries, not an advanced civilization with 200-plus years of democracy under its belt. Yet half of GOP primary voters are ready to follow Trump's lead and

Trump is their man not despite his authoritarian streak, but because of it. University of Massachusetts's Matthew MacWilliams has discovered that the biggest predictor of support for Trump isn't income, education, age, religion, or even party identification. It's voter score on the authoritarianism scale.

Clearly, pockets of the American polity have an innate need to believe in strongmen with magical powers to defy the laws of economics and make everything better. If Hispanics had been backing a strongman promising to use the muscle of the state to give them free goodies, conservatives would have declared them unfit for democracy. So the added irony here is that by trying to minimize the dangers that immigrants pose to limited government ideals, the conservative commentariat may have maximized the danger that Americans themselves pose. It has stirred up populist fears and pushed Americans into the arms of an autocrat who has only disdain for their ideals.

But if Trump loses in the general election, it will be in no small part because Hispanics will vote against him — and save America from "real" Americans.

 A version of this column originally appeared in The Week.