Lots of people have hidden agendas, and baser feelings that they wouldn’t like known, especially attached to their names… and elections and politics have a way of bringing them out, sometimes openly, and sometimes anonymously.
Immigration is one of those issues. While Donald Trump and many of his supporters have expressed violent anti-immigrant statements and proposed punitive and often impractical if not impossible anti-immigrant proposals, this isn’t a new phenomenon in the United States.
The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 restricted the rights of immigrants. Then, in the early 1850s, immigration to the United States quintupled, an increase fueled by poor Irish and German peasants, the majority of whom were Catholic, and urban crime increased dramatically. The high crime rate and the rising fear that the increasing number of Catholics would turn the U.S. into a “Papist” nation controlled by the Pope inspired the creation of the American Party, whose members were also called “Know Nothings,” and who espoused an anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant political philosophy, while paradoxically also opposing slavery. In the Congressional elections of 1854, the American Party actually won 22% of the seats in the U.S. House, and captured the legislature in Massachusetts, but failed to gain further ground and largely faded away after the election of 1860. Later movements opposing immigration were the Immigration Restriction League of the early 20th Century and the anti-Asian movements in the American west, which resulted in the Chinese Exclusion Act and an agreement with Japan to restrict Japanese immigrants. The 1920s saw the imposition of immigration quotas and other restrictions, many of which remain in effect.
All of this ignores, of course, the basic fact that every single individual living in the United States is either an immigrant or the descendent of immigrants. Does this mean that only “our” ancestors were the worthy immigrants? The virulent anti-immigrant agenda not only denies our heritage, but also implies an unfounded elitism, yet generation after generation, it persists, and often some of those of the present generation who are most violent in their attacks on immigrants are the very ones whose ancestors were denigrated.
Another issue is that of women’s rights and gender equality, not so much a hidden issue, but one where the Trump campaign is appealing to another set of prejudices that many people don’t want to acknowledge. Although Abigail Adams wrote her husband in 1776, begging him “not to forget the ladies” and not to put unlimited power in hands of their husbands, women didn’t receive the right to vote until a hundred and forty-four years after her letter. Even today, the fight for gender-equal pay and rights continues, and not just in the Presidential campaign, but even on the local levels, as in supposedly progressive Seattle, where earlier this year, a highly sexist and vicious barrage of letters and emails bombarded the five female members of the Seattle City Council who voted against selling a city street to make way for a new sports arena, and outvoted the four male members of the council. The comments ranged from suggesting that all five women commit suicide in highly graphic ways to brutal comments on their appearance, the sort of personal comments that are seldom if ever applied to male politicians. These sorts of comments have become even more common this year, possibly as a result of the misogynistic comments of Trump himself, and just indicate, again, the fact that more than a few men do not want women exerting power, let alone having equal pay and rights. Trump’s rhetoric, the bumper stickers proclaiming “Trump the Bitch,” as well as even more obscene and graphic pins and stickers, polling data, and the clearly sexist (and successful) appeal to “traditional” male supremacy make it clear that Trump is making an appeal to the sexist male, and I find that approach offensive. Obviously, a lot of Trump supporters don’t.
That’s certainly not to say that all men who oppose Hillary Clinton are sexist, but I’d wager that a high percentage are. I’d also bet that some of those are unconsciously sexist, who will protest to their dying day that they’re not, that they’d vote for the “right woman” in an instant, except for them no woman will ever be the “right woman” … because they still believe, deep inside and hidden from scrutiny or self-examination, that politics, business, and government should be a man’s world.
And the funny thing about all this is that it still is and has been largely a man’s world, even in the U.S., and pretty much all of the problems have been caused by men. So… why are so many men, and even quite a few women, so convinced that a man, particularly one like Trump, can do so much better than a woman, especially when his personal record suggests otherwise, and when so much of his appeal is based on anger and issues unworthy of the country we’re supposed to be?