The Wizard of Oz came to Duluth last Wednesday and it wasn’t a pretty sight. Hiding behind a curtain of presidential power, he pulled all the usual levers and set his supporters roaring “Build that wall!” and “USA!”
Like the Wizard of Oz, Donald Trump is a small man with a big voice and loud lies. Lots of lies.
On Wednesday in Duluth, he lied about his achievements, his opponents, the economy, trade, and one of his favorite targets: immigrants.
Trump conjured up a scary vision of open borders with floods of immigrants pouring across. That’s a creation of smoke and mirrors, not anywhere close to facts. The number of unauthorized immigrants crossing the border has been falling for years. We now have the lowest level of unauthorized immigration since the Nixon administration. That’s one reason his administration focuses on deporting people who have lived in this country for decades, who have worked, paid taxes, and raised families here.
Pulling the levers of fear, Trump also railed against immigrant criminals and gangs. It’s a crowd-pleasing lie, but a lie nonetheless. Trump repeatedly cites phony statistics from Iowa Representative Steve King, which have no basis in fact. Study after study shows that immigrants living in the United States commit less crime than native-born U.S. citizens. They are also employed at a higher rate than U.S. citizens, and pay taxes. Undocumented immigrants contribute billions of dollars to a social security program they will never be able to claim.
MS-13 makes a particularly ferocious bogeyman for the president. Over and over, he says that unaccompanied minors crossing the border are building MS-13. In fact, the opposite is true: many of those youth are fleeing MS-13 threats in their own countries. Politifact noted the testimony of the acting head of the Border Patrol:
“According to June 2017 written testimony from U.S. Border Patrol Acting Chief Carla Provost, since fiscal year 2012 U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 159 unaccompanied alien children with confirmed or suspected gang affiliations. Of the 159 children, 56 were suspected or confirmed to be affiliated with MS-13, according to Provost.
That’s 56 “suspected or confirmed” MS-13 members out of more than a quarter of a million unaccompanied children.
Even MS-13 is not anywhere near as powerful or pervasive as Trump says. On Wednesday, he said the gang controls entire communities within the United States, and singled out Long Island as one of those communities. In the past, he has called Long Island a “killing field.” In fact, as the Washington Post reported earlier this year:
“[T]here were 37 homicides in all of Nassau and Suffolk counties in 2017 — the entirety of Long Island east of New York City. That total was down from 59 the year before. The counties are home to 2.8 million people.”
According to Suffolk County police commissioner Geraldine Hart, one of the speakers at a Trump/Fox roundtable, “There has not been an MS-13 murder in Suffolk County since April of 2017.”
We do not need a border wall to stop a rising flood of immigrants—that flood does not exist. We do not need a border wall to stop drugs coming into the United States—most drugs that cross the border come in vehicles entering through official border checkpoints. We do not need a wall to keep out terrorized parents and children fleeing violence in Central American countries. We should welcome them. The courage and perseverance in protecting their families will strengthen, not weaken, America
Trump repeats his lies over and over, completely disregarding all fact checking and debunking. The little man behind the curtain is revealed, but he doesn’t care and neither do his fervent followers. His rhetorical repetition, ignoring all proof that he is wrong, resembles the Big Lie theory propounded by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf:
““In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.”
“It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.”
During Trump’s speech in Duluth, he called out a protester, in a style reminiscent of high school bullies:
“Go home to your mom, darling. Go home. Get him out of here, out. Was that a man or a woman, because he needs a haircut more than I do. I couldn’t tell! He needs a haircut.”
Trump said there was only a single protester, and the crowd loved it. Neither he nor they acknowledged the larger protests, kept far enough away so the president and his people did not have to see or hear them. The president and his adoring crowd may believe that opposition is minimal, but that is another big lie. About a thousand protesters in Duluth represented millions of us across the country.
Pulling back the curtain and revealing the little, lying man behind is necessary, but not enough to get Dorothy back to Kansas and not enough to get any of us forward to the kinder, stronger, more just, more welcoming country we fight to build. That will take our hard work, every day from now to November and beyond..
The big truth: working together, we can move mountains.