Gender and Trump

This post is part of a series on the possible impacts of Trump’s election on a variety of social justice issues. Click here to read more.

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by Carol C. Mukhopadhyay*

The 2016 election truly set a precedent for gender politics. The Democratic Party became the first major US political party to select a woman, Hillary Clinton, as its presidential candidate.  As is now well-known, she won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes but lost in the Electoral College. Among the multiple factors responsible for her defeat, gender played a major—though under-analyzed—role. The failure of (mainly male) political consultants and pollsters to recognize how gender issues and misogyny permeated this campaign may be one reason they miscalculated Trump’s appeal and the election results. Yet post-election discussions, often by these same pundits, continue to downplay gender, or simply draw upon long-standing cultural and religious models that blame women for personal and societal failures. So we blame Hillary for being such a “weak” candidate (by what standards?), or “white” (Euro-American) women for “abandoning” Hillary Clinton, despite evidence to the contrary relative to previous elections.

Therefore, as we assess the likely impacts of a Trump/Republican presidency, we must not ignore gender, especially since the progressive Left has often prioritized other “isms” and injustices over gender justice. In what follows, I will sketch some of the ways this election has affected and will continue to affect gender issues in the United States.

Women on the US Political Leadership Stage

In 2016, for the first time, two women participated in televised presidential primary debates. Millions, including children, saw articulate and accomplished women competing with men for the title of Commander-in-Chief. In three presidential debates, millions watched Hillary Clinton successfully handle the prototypic Alpha male, Donald Trump, as he alternatively bragged, growled, interrupted, smirked, insulted, even stalked, and in other ways tried to dominate and intimidate his presidential opponent. Untold numbers of women decided they, too, were “nasty women,” and proud of it! The positive role-modeling impacts were incalculable… But how long will they last, now?

The Gendered White House Family

The 2016 presidential campaign challenged, at least momentarily, the traditional gendered institution of the White House’s First Family. If the president’s spouse were to be male, what would happen to the First Lady role? Who would be “help mate” and “listener,” handle “domestic affairs,” and organize important social occasions? Had Hillary Clinton become president, gender would have come to the forefront as the “First Gentleman” role evolved. Certainly no one expected Bill Clinton to choose China patterns, redecorate, or become a fashion setter.  

The First Family and First Lady who will inhabit Trump’s White House symbolize a retrograde, pre-feminist vision of gender and family. News reports already show Donald Trump surrounded by and conversing with men… except for the strikingly dressed, heavily made-up, spike heels–wearing, visually present but silent and voiceless future First Lady. What role model does Melania Trump represent for US girls? And for girls (and boys) globally? It is a model of womanhood where looks are more important than having something to say, and physical appearance rather than educational or professional accomplishments is the route to success, wealth, and power.

Consensual Sexual Interactions

The Presidential campaign stimulated a discussion of often-ignored gender-related topics.  Despite some progress, sexual harassment and sexual assault, including rape, remain widespread at work and colleges (see the Stanford case), as well as the pressure on women—and institutions—to remain silent. The backlash against women willing to share their Trump stories during the campaign illustrates why women are reluctant to come forth; but it also inspired thousands of other women to go public with their own experiences.

The ability of the Trump campaign to deflect—and of voters to ignore—Trump’s brazen bragging about sexual assault, the multiple well-researched cases of Trump’s unwanted sexual aggressions, and his denials and threats of retaliation against accusers do not bode well for the future. Voter reactions indicate that “locker room talk” and unwanted sexual “advances” are still considered normal and acceptable by some, perhaps many. After all, “boys will be boys”… just like our president!

Double Standards and Patriarchal Stereotypes

The 2016 presidential campaign reflected a double standard for women vs. male candidates. Hillary Clinton’s competence and stamina were subjected to scrutiny and criticism not applied to male candidates. Additional gender-specific criteria were imposed: likeability, smiling, warmth, and appearance—she did not look” “presidential.” But had she been 6’1” ft. tall, with large biceps, and “tough,” she would most likely have been disqualified from the start!

Acceptable male traits—being ambitious, goal-focused, strategic, and wanting the Presidency—became part of a “power-hungry” critique of Hillary Clinton, and many voters perceived her as less trustworthy and truthful than Donald Trump. At Republicans rallies, shouts of “lock her up” bore a frightening resemblance to mob violence against African Americans, or Jews, gays, and socialists in Nazi Germany; or to the violence that fueled Medieval European witch-burnings of women.

Reproductive Rights

One of the most troubling consequences of Trump’s election concerns reproductive rights. For women who grew up without access to birth control or legal abortion, and for feminists who have studied gender systems, reproductive rights are essential for achieving gender equality. Under a Trump/Republican administration, we can expect assaults on and attempts to criminalize abortion, and increases in forced pregnancy and forced motherhood.

Any Supreme Court justice nominee must pass an anti-abortion, anti–Roe v. Wade litmus test with profound consequences for court decisions. States will increasingly pass restrictive laws requiring abortion clinics to have hospital-level facilities, or defining a fertilized cell (sperm-egg fusion) as a person, with any pregnancy termination constituting “murder.” Even if abortion remains legal, we can expect other burdensome regulations, such as parental or spousal consent, invasive vaginal probes, long waiting periods, or requirements that physicians provide biased, often false abortion “information.”

The virulent anti-abortion rhetoric of the Republican primaries and Trump’s electoral win will embolden anti-abortion activists to intensify protests and intimidation tactics. Some Planned Parenthood clinics have reported more verbally aggressive protestors, harassing clients with shouts of “Don’t kill your baby.” We may see challenges to laws restricting protestors (e.g., blocking clinic access), as well as clinic bombings and murders of physicians and other abortion providers. Fewer medical schools will teach abortion procedures, and even fewer physicians will take the risks (physical and financial) of providing abortions. Today, with Roe v. Wade intact, less than 15% of all US counties have a legal abortion provider. That percentage will decline.

The war on Planned Parenthood will intensify. Planned Parenthood, under current law, cannot use public funds for abortions. Defunding Planned Parenthood essentially means making it ineligible to receive Medicaid reimbursement for other health-related services like cancer screenings, pregnancy, family planning, or genital infections. This affects poor women the most, and millions could lose access to basic health care and contraception. Planned Parenthood will survive; but its resources, ability to serve current clinics and populations, will decline. And all reproductive rights organizations will have to expend resources to challenge restrictive laws or defend against new attacks (e.g., accusations of fetal tissue “sales”).

Under the lead of conservative religious Republicans, comprehensive sex education programs may be replaced by abstinence-only programs that only advocate sex within heterosexual marriage (despite their documented failure). Even if contraception coverage should survive new attacks of the American Family Foundation, more private businesses, like Hobby Lobby, will probably refuse to cover employees on grounds of their personal religious beliefs.

Recent declines in unplanned teen pregnancies will likely be reversed as comprehensive sex education is defunded. Female fertility rates will increase, most among younger, poorer, less educated women from conservative religions. If history repeats itself, we can expect negative impacts on girls schooling and on education-dependent jobs and careers. Women and families will struggle to feed, care for, and educate additional unplanned children; and local and state governments will strain to provide education and other services for a growing population. Less contraception access leads to more pregnancies… and to more abortions, legal or not. Currently, an estimated 22 million women experience unsafe abortion worldwide, causing approximately 47,000 deaths each year. Those numbers will go up.


Trump’s election in many ways represented the reemergence, indeed the triumph, of hyper-masculine, hyper-sexualized, hyper-aggressive, tough-guise masculinity… and a successful assault on the models of gender and gender relationships represented by Hillary Clinton and many of her supporters. Some younger professional women were apparently shocked at the level of sexism and misogyny revealed by this election. They had naively assumed that they were living in a post-feminist, post-sexist, post-misogyny world.

Perhaps one positive impact of Trump’s victory will be to awaken these young women (and men), to stir them to action and into taking ownership of the next wave of feminism. The fear is that it might take several years to recover from the damages of a Trump/Pence/Republican administration.

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Additional Resources and Links
Center for American Women and Politics
Pew Research Institute (US and International Data)
Presidential Gender Watch

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*Dr. Carol C. Mukhopadhyay (website) is Professor Emerita in the Department of Anthropology at San Jose State University. She specializes in gender, family, sexuality, race/ethnicity, methodology, and comparative education, and has conducted field research on gendered activities in domestic, political, and public life in India and the United States. Recent publications include How Real is Race? A Sourcebook on Race, Culture and Biology (with R. Henze and Y. Moses, 2014) and several articles and chapters in edited books.

Header image (left): “Keep Abortion Safe, Legal & Accessible” by Debra Sweet, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cropped and modified.

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Latin America vs. Trump

This post is part of a series on the possible impacts of Trump’s election on a variety of social justice issues. Click here to read more.

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by Clifford Welch*

The new year had barely begun when the sting of a yet-to-be-installed president Trump rocked Latin America with Tweets supporting the Ford Motor Company’s decision to abandon construction of a car plant in Mexico. This one event, coupled with Trump’s reported attempts to cause Toyota and General Motors (GM) to downscale their operations in the region, seemed to confirm the troubled future a variety of Latin American pundits have projected for US–Latin American relations once Trump is inaugurated.

During the campaign, Latin America was rarely mentioned. Since voters elected Trump, however, discussion around the region has hovered like a drone over uncertain targets: What will the future bring? How will access to the United States change—for tourists, immigrants, investors, and products? What will the new hemispheric security arrangement be? How can the region benefit from Trump’s presidency? These questions and more have been debated in the media and the academy since Trump became the GOP presidential candidate.

Most readers know that US–Latin American relations have often been tense. The United States generally supported movements to end Spanish colonialism in the 19th century but gradually sought hegemony over the region with new forms of commercial and ideological domination in the 20th century. A few periods were marked by closer relationships. One of these occurred during the Great Depression and World War II, when the United States needed resources and security assistance from Latin America; another came after the Cuban Revolution culminated in 1959, when the United States allied with diverse authoritarian governments to operate counter-insurgency programs in the region. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, counter-insurgency operations morphed into counter-narcotics and counter-terrorist initiatives, and trade agreements grew in importance. To some extent, relations improved with the ongoing Middle East crisis in the 21st century, because it caused the United States to pay less attention to the region, allowing increased autonomy so long as the region presented neither security nor commercial threats. As a result, the region lessened its dependency on the United States by increasing its relations with other countries, especially China.

Trump’s election called into question these more recent security and commercial arrangements. As the former Mexican diplomat Jorge Castañeda wrote about the advent of Trump, “one thing seems certain, the international order that emerged after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1989 will change.” In the context of Ford’s announcement, Mexico’s La Jornada reported that Trump threatened Toyota, too, for its plans to build a factory in Mexico. Trump similarly threatened GM with an import tax on any Mexican-made vehicle it attempted to sell in the United States The threats and pull-out, which was said to be motivated by reasons other than Trump’s tweets, angered Mexicans and sent shock waves as far away as Argentina, where the Clarin news organization associated the threats with Trump’s “protectionist, antiglobalization policies” aimed at generating industrial jobs in the “depressed Mid-West.”

The irony is that NAFTA, the free trade treaty constructed between Mexico, the United States, and Canada nearly a quarter-century ago, has benefited the United States much more than Mexico. Millions of peasant farmers lost their land and livelihoods when NAFTA allowed US farmers to export their corn to Mexico and transnational agribusinesses to grow produce for export to the United States without fear of tariffs. In fact, the US agricultural trade with Mexico tripled under NAFTA, and the destruction of suddenly unprotected traditional agriculture sent millions in search of jobs. The economy failed to absorb the flood of new jobseekers, whose presence also depressed wages. Thus, Mexico’s poverty rate has not improved since NAFTA’s launch. As a consequence, one of NAFTA’s main goals—discouraging illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States—failed to materialize. In fact, Central American and Caribbean countries that have also signed free trade agreements with the United States join Mexico as major sources of undocumented immigrants to the United States. Trump’s interventions, which already eliminated hundreds of Ford construction jobs and a planned 2,800 factory jobs, only worsen prospects for improvement.

The lesson of the Ford case for La Jornada is recognition that the end of the development model based on free trade agreements is close at hand and that Mexico must “urgently reconfigure” its economy around “el mercado interno y … la diversificación commercial.” The intellectual and campesíndio activist Armando Bartra had made these points a month earlier in the same newspaper, anticipating that Trump’s neoprotectionist and migrant-expulsion plans would make 2017 a “catastrophic” year. He saw in Bernie Sanders’s phenomenal electoral appeal hope for a leftist victory in Mexico and called on voters to support candidates who represent indigenous Mexico and “un programa consensuado de salvación nacional.”

The inward turn represented by Trump and somewhat by Bartra and La Jornada’s editorial writers is present in other responses to Trump’s election. In sum, both Trump’s pro-US discourse and his actions have stimulated nationalism in Latin America. They have restored relevance to the nation-state in the context of globalization’s celebration of internationalism. Humberto Vacaflor, writing in the venerable El Diário, emphasized similarities between Bolivian president Evo Morales and Trump, noting that Morales shares the American magnate’s suspicion of trade agreements, since they “take advantage” of countries like Bolivia. Trump says he wants foreign states to pay more for the presence of US armed forces, but Morales does not want US military support. In the war on drugs, Trump’s nationalism may help Bolivia avoid pressure to cooperate with the US military, since Bolivia’s cocaine is sold in Brazil, Argentina, and Europe, not the United States. In a tweet congratulating Trump, Morales defiantly expressed his hopes to work jointly against racism, machismo, and xenophobia.

In the case of Cuba, the story is somewhat inverted, as the country has struggled bravely against US-imposed isolation ever since the Soviet Union collapsed. President Obama helped change the situation by negotiating to normalize relations with Cuban president Raul Castro. However, nearly all of his initiatives took the form of executive orders that Trump has threatened to revoke, demanding sweeping changes in Cuba in exchange for normalization. Trump’s plans to restore the old order provoked Cuba to react traditionally to the United States’ threats: a few days after the US election, Castro ordered four days of strategic military exercises.

Venezuela is another country searching for a silver lining in Trump’s triumph. Undermined by low oil prices, president Nicolás Maduro’s government also faces fierce political opposition. Part of his strategy for maintaining power has included representing the United States as a threat. By insulting the United States, Maduro may stoke Trump’s wrath, Vacaflor suggests. With the stroke of a pen, he could cut off oil exports to Venezuela, provoking further economic havoc. This would hand Maduro’s enemies one more weapon. For them, Trump’s victory is an example of the dramatic electoral change they have longed for since Hugo Chavez was elected president in 1999, initiating close to 15 years of radical change in the country. For his part, Maduro congratulated Trump on his election and expressed his admiration of the president-elect’s defense of national sovereignty and self-determination.

In covering Ford’s reneging on the car plant in Mexico, the Argentine press followed some distinct lines of argument that held out hope for US investments. They gave special attention to reports claiming that the company’s decision was related not to Trump’s tweets but to changes in forecasts for the auto industry, especially to increased interest in self-driving vehicles. According to this perspective, Ford abandoned expansion plans in Mexico because they envisioned slow sales for the cars they planned to build in the plant and little chance of reorienting production toward self-driving cars because such a high-tech operation “necesita personal que tenga conocimientos de informática, más graduados de la universidade que de la escuela secundaria, mano de obra altamente calificada, más fácil de conseguir en Estados Unidos que en México”—as the Argentinian Infobae news outlet polemized. Since Argentines infamously see themselves as more European than Latin American, the subtext of this story is that such a pull-out would not have occurred in Argentina.

With the recent election of neoliberal Mauricio Macri as president, Argentina quickly became the new model for Latin America’s future. Last March, Obama visited the country to “affirm Argentina’s shift to the center.” Whereas Trump cancelled planned talks on construction projects in Argentina as part of his response to concerns about conflict of interest, his son Eric visited the region early in 2017 and commented on how Argentina had changed under Macri to become “un mercado mucho más receptivo para las inversiones.” In fact, Donald and Mauricio have known each other for more than 30 years. Macri’s father was a real estate developer in New York who fell afoul of the mafia that controlled construction and trucking. Trump played the senior Macri like a puppet, selling him five mansions for a high price and buying them back from him for a low price once Macri gave up on the project. Macri just didn’t have the connections Trump enjoyed.

If Trump really does break the free trade treaties that govern many multinational and binational relations between the United States and Latin America, the region’s leaders will have to be careful not to be taken advantage of like Macri’s father. The first to pay for such errors are the poor and the needy and the state institutions designed to further social justice. Although Morales will soon be replaced as president, voters in Bolivia and other Latin American countries may find in Trump stimulus to support politicians who, as Bartra indicated, will place questions of social justice ahead of economic growth schemes that seem to backfire.

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*Clifford Welch is a former San Francisco longshoreman, ranchhand, reporter, and cofounder of the National Writers Union. He teaches contemporary Brazilian history at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP).

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Some Aspects of the Trump Administration’s Foreign Policy

This post is part of a series on the possible impacts of Trump’s election on a variety of social justice issues. Click here to read more.

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by Gregory Shank*

In 2016, Donald Trump’s right-wing populism splintered the coalition constituting the Republican Party and coopted issues that set apart the most vibrant wing of the Democratic Party, the supporters of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. That platform suggested movement toward a noninterventionist approach in foreign policy, opposition to globalization strategies and multilateral agreements favoring liberal internationalists within the corporate elite, and, implicitly, a condemnation of the harmful effects of post-2007 austerity (caused by the excesses of financialization) on the increasingly marginalized middle and working classes of the United States (and Europe, perhaps with the exception of Germany).

The core of Trump’s foreign policy is outlined in his campaign speeches before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPEC) Conference in March 2016, before the Center for the National Interest in April, and in his September national security address in Philadelphia. Further evidence comes from the post-election appointments to key positions in the national security apparatus and the cabinet portfolios responsible for foreign policy. Finally, although the chief executive may enjoy the greatest freedom of action in the foreign policy arena, all options are severely constrained by the wars and crises handed off by the previous administration, a reality President Obama also confronted.


Trump’s address before 18,000 people at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC, sought to bring his candidacy into the mainstream and to lay out policies that might smooth over relations with the Jewish community. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kurshner (a Trump senior advisor on domestic and foreign policy), Haaretz newspaper reported, wrote the speech. He consulted with Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer (a longtime Trump admirer, who defended Trump strategist Steve Bannon against charges of anti-Semitism), on matters relating to Israeli diplomatic and security policy. Kurshner, a real estate investor, AIPAC donor, and Orthodox Jew with connections to Israel’s Likud party, also enlisted the help of Ken Kurson, the editor of the New York Observer (a Kurshner property). Kurson offered expertise and experience as a speechwriter and close collaborator in advancing Rudolph Giuliani’s presidential aspirations.

The content of the speech is derived from materials provided by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It highlights vintage global war on terror threats concerning “rogue states” and terror networks emanating from Iran (and its “puppet states”) intent on destabilizing and dominating the region, while dismissing Palestinian claims to sovereignty and freedom from occupation because their schools and mosques produce a “culture of hatred” and indiscriminate death, again thanks to Iranian funding. Trump reiterates that Israel will remain a strategic ally; his intention to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, “the eternal capital of the Jewish people” (a hot-button issue fortified by David Friedman, Trump’s designated ambassador to Israel); his opposition to United Nations (UN) resolutions that condition an eventual agreement between Israel and Palestine; and his ambivalent plan to either dismantle the Iran nuclear accord or simply “enforce the terms of the previous deal to hold Iran totally accountable.”


Given the primacy of Israel, plus the March 2016 naming of militarist foreign policy advisors and the incorporation of Iraq War hawks James Woolsey and John Bolton as Trump national security and foreign affairs advisors in August and September, early critics understandably concluded that the incoming administration’s international initiatives would differ little from the dominant neoconservative practices of the Bush and Obama presidencies. Worse yet, human rights would probably be downplayed internationally, including unabashed Ronald Reagan-style support for foreign dictators. Yet that view overlooks a novel element in the Trump victory: the probable ouster of the entire foreign policy establishment serving George H.W. Bush onward and the demotion of covert regime change initiatives organized primarily by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the Middle East. If personnel choices translate into policy, this could portend a significant shift. It would account for much of the Never Trump movement among Republicans and some of the bipartisan post-election fury surrounding Russia, which aims to undermine Trump’s amorphous but stubborn moves toward détente.

The repudiation of neoconservative interventionists in the Democratic and Republican parties had multiple sources during the 2016 campaign. Rand Paul libertarians, along with personnel from the Charles Koch Institute and the Koch-funded Cato Institute, launched a think tank called the Defense Priorities Foundation and an advocacy arm, the Defense Priorities Initiative, to lobby for a less militaristic foreign policy (the Kochs did not finance these new entities). The Trump campaign outflanked this initiative on the right, with differences centering on the purported security threat posed by immigration and unconditional support for Israel. Each campaign and set of institutions called for an end to perpetual war, arguing that the lethal military power pursued over the past fifteen years in the Middle East, including the expanded use of drones, had failed to protect the United States. Each buttressed the case with respected military officers, veterans of the string of limited wars and counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

In a March interview with the Washington Post, Trump signaled his intention to take a noninterventionist approach in world affairs or at least to lighten the US footprint worldwide. Despite unrest abroad, especially in the Middle East, Trump said the United States must look inward and steer its resources toward rebuilding domestic infrastructure. These themes were flushed out in two critical speeches, one on “America First” at the Mayflower Hotel and the other on “Peace Through Strength” at the Union League of Philadelphia. The central message is that Trump’s foreign policy will be tempered by realism and will dispense with the long-dominant foreign policy wing of the Republican Party. After the struggle against German and Japanese imperialism and the succeeding Cold War, Trump told his audiences, the United States has been on a downward arc for lack of a new vision. An arrogant democratizing and nation-building mission in the Middle East and elsewhere has produced chaos and genocide, while overextending national resources. With war-fighting generals at his side, he will avoid endless wars and no longer topple regimes, a policy that has created power vacuums and immigration insecurity across Europe and the United States. Supposedly temporary post-World Way II security structures such as NATO and the nuclear umbrella have become an outdated, unaffordable luxury, and countries that have enjoyed American largess (especially Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia) must assume more of the burden to defend themselves.

US military strength, Trump says, must be bolstered by expanding the capacities of all branches of the service and updating the arsenal of nuclear weapons, to match Russian and Chinese efforts. US economic strength must be leveraged to gain more cooperation from China in terms of North Korea and the South China Sea; and the American technological lead must grow in terms of artificial intelligence and cyber warfare. These tools, plus financial and ideological warfare, will be used against terrorist threats. Resort to military force may be necessary, but the emphasis is on restoring stability, peace, and prosperity, not war and destruction. Russia and China share interests with the United States and need not be adversaries (unlike Iran). The nation-state is paramount, and globalism in the form of international unions is unnecessarily constricting. For instance, the NAFTA agreement has hollowed out the nation’s manufacturing capacity and eliminated jobs. Reversing these agreements, and investing in military modernization and cybersecurity, will provide jobs for young Americans—including in the inner cities.

This hybrid set of goals derives from several conflicting political currents. The more visionary dimension is reflected in the host of the April 27 speech: the Center for the National Interest (CNI). Jared Kushner facilitated the choice of CNI, which publishes the National Interest. Its editor, Jacob Heilbrunn, promotes the “realist” school of foreign policy, which advocates balance-of-power geopolitics, careful circumspection about intervention abroad, and the need for the United States to husband its resources. Layne’s “Graceful Decline,” published in The American Conservative (owned by Silicon Valley software developer Ron Unz) systematically sets out in polished form the key concepts that Trump refers to elliptically in his speeches. After describing why the United States has declined internationally, Layne argues that the current era of globalization is ending, with Pax Americana to be replaced by an international order that reflects the interests, values, and norms of emerging powers, such as China, India, and Russia. In this multipolar world, the United States must coexist with rising powers, especially China.

The new US global posture would involve strategic retrenchment, burden shifting (which rolls back current security commitments to NATO, Japan, and South Korea, while providing advanced weapons and military technology to friendly states in Europe and Asia), and abandonment of the global counterinsurgency campaign in the Middle East. The default US foreign policy of intervention must end, meaning the sidelining of the counterinsurgency lobby in both major political parties, including their respective private think tanks. In short, the emerging strategy reduces the importance of nonstate terrorists or minor powers, because great powers can only be defeated by other great powers.

The European Right

Another policy current consists of Trump advisors who identify with European right-wing movements. Some coalesced around the anti-immigrant focus of Jeff Sessions’ congressional office, others drew support from Mercer-funded entities that are now involved in the upcoming French and German elections (using Breitbart, just as Cambridge Analytica was in the pro-Brexit Leave.EU effort, to Trump’s delight), along with denizens of the national security apparatus (such as national security adviser Michael T. Flynn), with concerns over the spread of “radical Islam.” Steve Bannon views in Trump the possibility of restoring true American capitalism, assisted by the right-wing populist uprisings in Europe to “undo the global power structure—the banks, the government, the media, the guardians of secular culture.” Symptomatic of this insistence on the menace of immigration, notably absent from Trump’s speeches was any notion that the continent of Africa (except Libya) exists or that below Mexico the hemisphere includes Central and Latin American nations. Most realists take offense at this, as do Silicon Valley companies that rely on an international pool of skilled coders, engineers, and entrepreneurs.

Trump’s unique turn of phrase, the “folly of globalism,” may originate in the writings of Garet Garrett, an Old Right luminary and part of the generation behind the 1940s isolationist America First mass movement (see Raimondo 2008). The phrase also figures prominently in the lexicon of the European far Right, such as in Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front National, where globalism (mondialisme, not globalization) refers to the homogenizing influence of world markets on peoples and cultures, promoted by open borders, massive immigration, and the transference of sovereignty to a supranational European Union (see Zúquete 2015). In Trump’s “Declaring American Economic Independence” speech, his stances on trade and supranational agreements such as NAFTA align him with that position, but also with critics like Joseph E. Stiglitz (2016), who argues that “Americans are economically worse off than they were a quarter-century ago” and that trade and financial liberalization have not delivered the general prosperity promised.

Although Layne’s realism calls for deep reductions in defense expenditures, Trump’s “Peace through Strength” speech is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s duplicitous missile-gap message. The term often signifies peace through war and an overreliance on force over political and diplomatic solutions, but Trump has stated that resort to force is a sign of weakness. Why, then, field an army of 540,000 troops (the size of George W. Bush’s full-scale invasion forces in Iraq and Afghanistan)? Military Keynesianism would appeal to defense contractors and a planned reversal of sequestration of military spending for all the services would help to defuse opposition by the civilian neoliberal counterinsurgency lobby. Yet, increasing the defense budget by 55 to 80 billion dollars per year cannot be offset by better controls on fraud or by policing procurement inefficiencies. This will necessitate cuts in the domestic safety net. As an employment strategy, military spending creates far fewer jobs than the same dollars do when invested in education, clean energy, or health care.

Anti-Sanctions Internationalists

Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson personifies another foreign policy current within the Trump administration. Attention has focused primarily on ExxonMobil’s pent-up Russian holdings, but the interests (wealth and power) of the US-based anti-sanctions corporate wing are constrained more broadly by international regulatory structures in the form of coercive sanctions on Russia, Iran, and elsewhere. In practice, the profit-rich and internally stable Iranian market became available to European firms after sanctions were lifted by the Iranian nuclear accord, and the Russian market will gradually become available to the Europeans as sanctions over the Ukraine and Crimea expire. German firms, in particular, would willingly partner in a Russian initiative to strengthen multipolarity and to push for a continent-wide European-Russian common industrial and energy zone. Trump suggested lifting US sanctions on Russia as part of a nuclear weapons reduction deal and centered criticism on the European Union as an instrument of German domination. A US-Russian tactical alliance could accelerate the stabilization of the Middle East. It would enhance control over world energy markets (with Saudi Arabia, the two nations rank among the world’s top three oil producers). Trump has threatened to end all US oil purchases from Saudi Arabia, likely to curtail its financial support of Salafist jihadist forces. A growing Israeli-Russian alliance draws on Israeli strengths in policing the pacification stage in Middle East conflicts. Russia’s negotiated Syrian settlement included Iran, Turkey, and later the Trump administration. This configuration creates uncertainties for Palestinian and Kurdish hopes for national sovereignty, while asserting and constraining Iranian regional aspirations.

Preliminary Conclusions

Unlike initiatives in the domestic policy arena, some of Trump’s foreign policy proposals, such as a reduced role in the Middle East, détente, and a scaling down of the post-World War II global security architecture, may not be unreasonable. However, there is no guarantee that the Trump coalition will accomplish this realignment. In the past, a civil war over foreign policy was waged in the shadows, and then openly, by opponents of Richard Nixon’s policies of détente with the USSR, rapprochement with China, and a negotiated end to the Vietnam War. That group coalesced as the neoconservatives, who sabotaged Nixon’s foreign policy agenda and his presidency (Colodny & Shachtman 2010). Today, those neoconservatives are joined in their counterattacks by Clinton Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Democrats engaged in post-election autopsy sessions should look hard at the yawning gap between the hawkish candidate they offered and the consistent popular sentiment against US military involvement abroad.

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Barrett, W. 2016. Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention. New York: Regan Arts.
Colodny, L., and T. Shachtman. 2010. The Forty Years War. New York: Harper Perennial.
Raimondo, J. 2008. Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement. Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
Stiglitz, J.E. 2016. “How Trump Happened.” Project Syndicate, October 14.
Zúquete, J.P. 2015. “‘Free the People’: The Search for ‘True Democracy’ in Western Europe’s Far-Right Political Culture.” In The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, edited by Carlos de la Torre, pp. 231–64. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

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Gregory Shank is the Co-managing Editor of Social Justice and lives in San Francisco.

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Death by a Thousand Budget Cuts: The Need for a New Fight for Poor People’s Rights

This post is part of a series on the possible impacts of Trump’s election on a variety of social justice issues. Click here to read more.

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by Tina Sacks*

You’re living in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed—what the hell do you have to lose?
—Donald J. Trump on the presidential campaign trail, August 2016

As of January 2017 it appears that, we, indeed, have everything to lose. Donald J. Trump’s rhetorical exhortation to urban—i.e., Black—voters during the 2016 presidential campaign seems all too real now that he has ascended to the US presidency. Much has been made of the looming threats Trump poses to the safety net, including the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s flawed but remarkable piece of legislation that has expanded health insurance to 22 million Americans, protected people with preexisting conditions, and allowed young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26. Although the dismantling of the ACA is a horrifying prospect, particularly for people who have benefited from the Medicaid expansion, Trump’s deadliest actions may be felt by our fellow Americans living in poverty.

The most vulnerable Americans depend on the United States’ rather meager social safety net, which Trump seems hell bent on dismantling. Although Trump has been described as non-ideological, his unholy alliance with Speaker of the US House of Representatives Paul Ryan must certainly be characterized as deeply dogmatic. Ryan, a devout Roman Catholic, is almost without peer in his open hostility to the poor, and Trump has no better angels to call upon to resist him. Ryan has previously outlined plans to gut school lunches, food stamps, and Medicaid. Not even children, once held harmless like motherhood and apple pie, are off limits for the Ryan (and now Trump-Ryan) juggernaut. Given that we spend less than 10% percent of the federal budget on all safety net programs combined, it seems unlikely that insisting that millions of poor kids forego a turkey sandwich at lunchtime will really balance the budget. Instead, it seems Ryan is determined to shame, control, and penalize the poor, and he seems to have found a new ally in Trump, a man who extolls the virtues of being rich as evidence of superior moral character.

A Trump-Ryan alliance should be terrifying for anyone who cares about how little separates the American poor from abject misery. In fact, the official US poverty line is just under $12,000 ($11,880) for a single person or just over $24,000 a year for a family of four. In 2015, 43.1 million Americans were officially classified as poor, and yet little was made of their material deprivation during the election. If four people living on less than $25,000 is already an undeniable hardship, Ryan’s radical approach to government indicates he intends to further disembowel our measly safety net. Programs that were previously considered sacrosanct—such as Social Security, the holy grail of the welfare state developed during Roosevelt’s New Deal, and Medicare and Medicaid, developed during Johnson’s Great Society period—are now likely under threat. Ryan has repeatedly called for block granting or privatization schemes that will fundamentally alter these programs, leaving them vulnerable to the vagaries of the market instead of being a shelter from them. Under almost any presidential administration, Republican or Democrat, this would be unthinkable. Tinkering with Social Security and Medicare has long been the third rail of American politics, largely because these are programs with broad, i.e., white and elderly, constituencies. But, as many others have noted, nothing about this election or Trump has been normal.

Ironically, the national media has coalesced around the vulnerability of the white working class while omitting the very real and persistent condition of Black, Brown, and white people who are poor or extremely poor. In 2011, poverty scholars Shafer and Edin found that approximately 1.55 million US households were raising 3.55 million children on less than $2 per person per day. Almost 4 million children: that’s almost as many people as the city of Chicago and its suburbs who subsist on less than $2 a day. For these families, who are often working in very low-paying, precarious jobs, the high-end manufacturing work we heard so much about during the election must seem like a relic from a different century. In other words, for the minority poor who are often last hired and first fired, high-quality jobs have never seemed like an entitlement.

And yet, although everything about Trump brings a chill to my bones, Ryan may be the most wicked of them all. In contrast to chief strategist Steve Bannon, Ryan casts himself as the suited up, scrubbed clean Midwestern everyman, ready to decimate everything we’ve fought so hard for. Where Bannon uses his media platform to spew white supremacy, Ryan uses the indiscernible tool of block granting to codify institutional racism and economic exploitation. Under Trump-Ryan’s dystopian vision, Black, Brown and poor white people will suffer death by a thousand budget cuts.

But we cannot let that happen. The long fight for poor people’s rights, and anti-oppressive struggles in general, predates the Trump-Ryan impending apocalypse (see Davis 2014). Poor people’s movements, like other social movements, have long emerged in the face of repression and exploitation (see Piven and Cloward 1979). One such movement, the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO), developed in the 1960s, led primarily by Black women sick and tired of toiling in the low-wage labor market. These women developed a broad national coalition that fought for minimum income floors, adequate food, and minimum standards for furniture and clothing. The women of NWRO coalesced during a period of great social upheaval, and they successfully (for a time) reclaimed the idea that society had a social and fiscal responsibility to poor and non-white women raising our nation’s children.

I am not naïve enough to suggest that this historical moment mirrors the 1960s. Yet, we have much to learn from the history of anti-racist, anti-colonial, worker’s, feminist, and anti-capitalist movements. Now is the time to look to collective action movements for substantive lessons in vigilance and solidarity. As austerity and authoritarianism are reemerging across the globe, it is clear that the United States is vulnerable to these modes of governance. As Trump and Ryan lead this wave stateside, we are called upon to resist the metaphorical tyranny of allowing children to go to school hungry. Collective action and social movements can, and always have, push back against the plunder of social institutions and social programs. Fighting for the most vulnerable is indeed a fight for our way of life, because democracy cannot function without a safe harbor from the vicissitudes of capitalism. If we are to reclaim our republic, we must pay attention to our neighbors with too little food, medicine, or shelter.

The Trump-Ryan alliance is ready to ransack what remains of our system of social security. As people of conscience, we must be one step ahead of them.

• • •

References and Further Readings
Davis, A. 2014. Freedom is a Constant Struggle. Chicago: Haymarket Books.
Piven, F.F. and R.A. Cloward. 1979. Poor People’s Movements. New York: Vintage Books.

• • •

*Tina Sacks is Assistant Professor at the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. Her fields of special interest include racial disparities in health; social determinants of health; race, class and gender; and poverty and inequality.

Header image (left): Poor People’s March at Lafayette Park, Washington, DC (1968) (edited). From Wikicommons.

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The End of Welfare?

This post is part of a series on the possible impacts of Trump’s election on a variety of social justice issues. Click here to read more.

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by Gwendolyn Mink*

The war on welfare was won long before Donald Trump’s election. The celebrated bipartisan welfare overhaul of the mid-1990s began a two-decade process of federal disengagement from the well-being of poor people, especially single mothers raising children alone. By 2016, the welfare system that once provided a modicum of income support for families in poverty was unrecognizable, in good measure because the federal government had changed the terms of support for individuals and had broadened the states’ flexibility in spending block-granted welfare money. By the time Donald Trump was elected, many states had decided to spend their block grants on services rather than cash assistance: services—such as marriage promotion—that sometimes have been aimed as much at non-poor heads of families as at poor ones.

The key accomplishment of the 1996 welfare reform has been the end of the guarantee of welfare assistance to all who needed it. Additional provisions of the 1996 welfare law compounded the brutal effects of cancelling poor families’ entitlement to aid, most notably: the imposition of a lifetime time limit on welfare eligibility, regardless of continuing poverty; strict work requirements for those who did manage to receive welfare aid; and incentives for states to substitute hortatory and disciplinary services for income support.

Because the war on welfare succeeded, the long-standing political strategy to win white majorities by demonizing racialized welfare mothers was not foregrounded during Donald Trump’s racist and misogynist 2016 presidential campaign. But the elements of that strategy—mobilizing white voters through race-baiting appeals—were deployed shamelessly throughout the Republican campaign. One consequence of Trump’s electoral college victory is the Republican claim of a mandate to do as Trump promised in the campaign: ban Muslims, deport undocumented immigrants, return to “law and order,” and more.

Trump’s social policy agenda is unclear: he had little to say about welfare, poverty, or income security during the campaign. But other Republicans have explicit plans to unravel policies that help Americans cope with the economic effects of inequality, weather economic vicissitudes, or navigate life circumstances such as old age or single motherhood. Those Republicans, led by Speaker Paul Ryan, have been chomping at the bit to impose the welfare reform model on all programs conceived to help struggling individuals and families make ends meet. To be borrowed from the welfare reform model and deployed more generally against the safety net are work requirements, block grants, and further withdrawals of economic assistance guarantees.

The current leader of the crusade against the New Deal social contract, Paul Ryan, has been advancing ideas to defund safety net programs for at least 10 years. As member of the Simpson-Bowles Commission in 2010, House Budget Committee Chair from 2011 to 2015, and as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ryan has argued for tax-cutting the path toward deficit reduction by gutting spending for the poor and economically insecure. He is not merely a deficit hawk; his ideas are fleshed out by an Ayn Randian anti-government ethic tying social improvement to individualized self-help.

Ryan’s agenda cohabits with Trump’s proposed tax cuts for the rich, as Ryan’s plans would cut social spending considerably. For starters, Ryan would like to consolidate important safety net programs—food stamps, housing vouchers, and child care, for example—into a single block grant to states. The defining feature of block grants is capped spending: each state receives a fixed sum to spend toward designated goals, with a few strings attached (such as work requirements) but no elastic for when funds are tapped out.

Correspondingly, Ryan aims to drastically slash direct assistance to individuals. For example, he would like to roll back Pell grants and phase out Head Start. He would also achieve cuts by imposing conditions on benefits: hence Republican calls to intensify work requirements for (block-granted) food stamps and to tie work requirements to (block-granted) Medicaid and federal rental assistance. Ryan’s idea that work participation must be the goal of poverty assistance does not leave any population untouched: the Ryan plan calls for diverting the focus of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for low-income disabled children from cash assistance to work preparation.

Although welfare policy provides a model for dismantling the welfare state, Ryan’s plan does not leave it undisturbed. The very first set of recommendations in his 2016 poverty white paper, A Better Way, concerns the need to strengthen work requirements for individuals in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and to reduce state flexibility to exempt recipients from work engagement. With Republicans in control of all branches of government, the question for TANF reauthorization will be just how fast and how far the federal government will go to make poverty assistance unattainable or its terms untenable for poor families.

The Republican takeover of the federal government forecloses immediate debates about how to fix the current welfare system to make it work for low income families, especially families helmed by single mothers, disproportionately of color. For the next little while, poor people and their allies will have to fight to preserve the status quo ante—to maintain such assistance as is currently provided by the tattered safety net. But a sizable majority of Americans did vote against the Republican way, and for a presidential candidate and party that advanced an intersectional understanding of inequality and poverty. The popular majority that voted for the Democratic candidate voted for equal pay, a higher minimum wage, paid sick days and accessible child care—all policy goals that would mitigate the economic vulnerability of low-income single mothers and their children.

Democrats did not articulate a platform for restoring the safety net in 2016. Nor did they look beyond the labor market as they strategized mechanisms to attenuate economic insecurity. But the outsize rate of single mother poverty (36% in 2015) commands our attention not only to the labor market, but also to the role played by the distinctive tension between full-time care-giving and full-time wage-earning for mothers who are parenting alone. We must center the ways in which caregiving and the lack of social support for it distort our economy and society and expose millions to the kind of vulnerability that undermines women’s self-sovereignty and the well-being of families.

One bright spot in the Democratic conversation in 2016 was unabashed support from both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton for imputing economic value to family caregiving in the algebra of social security benefits calculations: both candidates wanted to credit workers who take time out of the labor market to care for a child or sick adult so that they are not punished for, as Clinton put it, “taking on the vital role of caregiver.” This powerful acknowledgement of the irreducible importance of family care work should smooth the way to future policies that build upon the principle that poor mothers (and fathers) care, too.

In the meantime, however, we need to resist in order to move forward. We need to defend access to social supports, however meager, and preserve funding levels, however inadequate. As we work to defend against further broadsides against social provision, we must do so in a way that broadens both the feminism and the economic egalitarianism that popular majorities support, but that have been trammeled by the Electoral College. Centering a poverty agenda on the multiple inequalities endured by the worst-off women—poor single mothers, disproportionately of color—would do just that, while also keeping alive the goals of reversing the damages wrought by the 1996 welfare law and improving social supports for families in poverty.

• • •

*Gwendolyn Mink is an independent scholar. She is the author of several books, including The Wages of Motherhood (Cornell University Press, 1995) and Welfare’s End (Cornell University Press, 1998). With coauthor Felicia Kornbluh, she is completing a new book titled Ensuring Poverty: Welfare Reform after Twenty Years.

Header image (left): Poor People’s March at Lafayette Park, Washington, DC (1968) (edited). From Wikicommons.

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The “Immigrant Problem”: A Historical Review and the New Impacts under Trump

This post is part of a series on the possible impacts of Trump’s election on a variety of social justice issues. Click here to read more.

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by Marla A. Ramírez*

Despite the widespread rhetoric that depicts the United States as a country of immigrants and a land of opportunity for all, and despite the fact that people from all over the world have made the United States their home since the nation’s infancy, immigrants have not been easily accepted in the country. Since the nineteenth century, different ethnic and racial immigrant groups—Southern and Eastern European, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Mexican immigrants—have been classified as irreducible “others” and as a threat to the nation’s safety, racial purity, and cultural values. In many cases, laws have been enacted to deport specific ethnic and racial groups and prevent future immigration from certain regions. For instance, the Act of 1881 required federal inspectors to examine immigrants—who at the time were mainly Europeans arriving though Ellis Island—and deny entry to “undesirables.” Immigrants who were diseased, morally objectionable, or whose immigration fares were paid by someone else were denied admission into the United States. Only a year later, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was renewed in 1892 and made permanent in 1902, effectively banning Chinese immigrants and making them ineligible for US citizenship for 61 years. This law was finally overturned in 1943. Filipino and Mexican immigrants have also been labeled as “inassimilable”: during the Great Depression, Mexicans and later Filipinos were perceived as highly dependent on public assistance, blamed for the economic ills of the country, and removed in mass regardless of their legal status.

Fear of immigrants and the insistence to scapegoat them for the problems of the country is nothing new. In this sense, Trump’s immigration discourse resembles and recycles weary immigration narratives that date back to the early twentieth century. In 1931, for instance, Jane Perry Clark, a political scientist and immigration consultant to the U.S. Federal Government, conducted a study on the mass deportations during the years leading up to the Great Depression and concluded that:

Deportation of aliens whose presence in the United State is believed to be undesirable is not new, but it has become increasingly emphasized as a panacea for our economic difficulties, particularly unemployment. “Send them unnaturalized aliens out of the country!” is the cry. “Let them go home so that our citizens can have their jobs!” (Clark 1931, 119)

Donald Trump delivered an almost identical anti-immigrant message to his supporters during his presidential campaign by promising to “establish new immigration controls to boost wages and to ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first.” This rhetoric continues to create a hierarchy of “valued” citizens based on whiteness as well as gender, race, and class backgrounds.

Historically, anti-immigrant narratives have resulted in “good vs. bad” immigrant models. The “good” or “ideal” immigrants are those who immerse themselves in US culture, are not dependent on public assistance, have no criminal record, and have secured upper socioeconomic mobility. However, as several immigration scholars have argued (see further readings below), the “ideal immigrant” image is unrealistic given the structural barriers of inequality and racism that prevent immigrant minority groups from achieving upper mobility and inclusion. The “bad” or “undesired” immigrant, by contrast, is the opposite of the mythical ideal immigrant, and often categorized as criminal. As a result of such discourses, historically the imagined “ideal” immigrant has been welcomed, whereas the real “undesired” immigrant has been denigrated and deported.

It is in this respect that Trump’s presidency might signal the emergence of something new. Trump, indeed, has taken this anti-immigrant discourse to a new level by targeting both the socially constructed “good” and “bad” immigrants. He promised that if elected president, he would immediately terminate President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA grants deferred action (low priority for deportation) and a temporary work permit that is renewable every two years to eligible applicants. DACA recipients represent “ideal” immigrants because they are mostly undocumented immigrants who arrived to the United States as children, have good moral character, value US culture, and in many cases hold college and advanced degrees. At the same time, Trump has also targeted the perceived “undesired, criminal” immigrant by promising to deport 3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal records. The concept of criminal records has been broadly defined in this area, and people with traffic violations, for instance, have been placed on deportation under the Secured Communities program that Trump promises to enforce nationwide.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign popularized a narrative that vilifies all immigrants, specifically targeting Mexicans and Latinas/Latinos, and makes little or no difference between the socially and historically constructed “ideal” and “undesired” immigrants. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he stated on June 16, 2015, during his now infamous presidential candidacy speech in which he also classified Mexican immigrants as a threat to US society and blamed them for bringing drugs, crime, and rape into the country: “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” His proposed solution, as is well known, is the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants.

Moreover, Trump’s immigration discourse, while not new, is not entirely consistent with historical approaches to immigration. Trump has scapegoated immigrants not only for the economic ills of the nation, as seen in the past, but also for most, if not all, the nation’s problems. “We will enforce all of our immigration laws,” emphasized Donald Trump on August 31, 2016 during his step-by-step immigration plan speech in Phoenix, Arizona—a speech that was delivered only a few hours after a surprise meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. In his immigration speech, Trump outlined 10 steps to fix what he referred to as a “terrible, terrible, problem,” and justified his proposal by stating: “We’re in the middle of a jobs crisis, a border crisis, and a terrorism crisis like never before. All energies of the federal government and the legislative process must now be focused on immigration security.” The promise that unemployment, drug trafficking, and terrorism will be solved by mass deportations is not only false and unrealistic, but also dangerous, as it incites Trump supporters to physically and verbally attack people who are perceived as undocumented immigrants. Such attacks have already been reported and documented (see, for example, here and here).

We will not know exactly what effects Trump’s presidency will have on immigrant communities until he is in office, and probably not until some years after his term is over. What we already know is that so far Trump has backed up on some of his immigration promises. For example, Trump initially promised to build an impenetrable wall along the US–Mexico border to be paid by the Mexican government; as of January 6, 2017, however, he is proposing that the U.S. Congress, and by extension all taxpayers, including undocumented immigrants who do pay federal income taxes, pay for the wall. After public criticism, he retracted in a tweet by stating that Congress will pay for the wall first and then Mexico will reimburse the U.S. government for the expenses (though he has not explained how the Mexican government will be made to reimburse the United States for these expenses).

Trump Twitter

What we also do know is that immigrant communities and allies have historically fought—and will continue to organize and resist against—oppression, hate, and exclusion. The constitutional rights and protections guaranteed by the US constitution to all people living in the United States, regardless of immigration status, income, race, ethnicity, gender, age, or sexual orientation, have been fought for by different generations; today, we must continue to strategize to protect equal rights for all. Immigrant organizers and allies have fought (and we should continue to fight) to:

  1. Demand due process in deportation proceedings.
  2. Launch “know your rights” workshops nationwide to inform people about their rights when interacting with immigration officials.
  3. Establish sanctuaries for immigrant, queer, and Muslim peoples. The more cities and college campuses become sanctuaries, the harder it will be for Trump to follow through with his campaign promise to block funding for sanctuary cities.
  4. Organize congressional visits, meetings with representatives’ local offices, and phone banks to push against exclusionary legislation.
  5. Educate others in the workplace, school, and through social media about our country’s immigration history and the myths around immigration debates.
  6. Listen to the concerns others face to discuss and propose solutions that center on inclusion and reject hate.

The above is not a comprehensive list, and I am sure that immigrant communities and allies will certainly develop new strategies not included here. As an immigrant myself, I am not fearful of the effects of the Trump administration. I am, instead, inspired by the power of the people who across the history of this country have come together to further inclusivity and respect across differences.

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References and Further Readings
Arredondo, G.F. 2008. Mexican Chicago: Race, Identity, and Nation, 1916–39. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
Clark, J.P. 1931. Deportation of Aliens from the United States to Europe (New York: Columbia University Press.
Ruiz, V.L. 1998. From Out of the Shadow: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America. New York: Oxford University Press.
Suárez-Orozco, M.M. 2000. “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Assimilation but Were Afraid to Ask.” Daedalus 129(4): 1–30.

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* Marla Andrea Ramírez was born in Michoacán, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States at the age of twelve. She joined San Francisco State University in Fall 2016 as an Assistant Professor of Sociology. She specializes in oral history, Mexican migrations, mass forced removals, immigration law and policies since the 20th century, gendered migrations, and the “Mexican Repatriation” Program.

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Donald Trump and Immigration: A Few Predictions

This post is part of a series on the possible impacts of Trump’s election on a variety of social justice issues. Click here to read more.

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by Ray Michalowski*

As the great Yankee’s baseball catcher and American philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “Only a fool would make predictions. Especially about the future.” With that caution in mind, I am going to hazard a few predictions about the likely impact of Donald Trump’s election on immigration policy.

Prediction #1
Shortly after taking office, President Trump will rescind the executive order establishing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), initially issued in 2014 by President Obama.

Why Trump Might Rescind DACA. Trump listed canceling DACA as his number-one priority for his first 100 days in office, a promise that was highly popular with his anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican base (Politifact 2016). Reversing DACA is a low-hanging political fruit. Trump can easily fulfill this campaign promise because DACA was created by an executive order that the new president can rescind with the stroke of a pen (NBC News 2016, Le 2015).

Why Trump Might Not Rescind DACA. Allowing Dreamers to stay in the country, and eventually become citizens, is broadly popular with the American public, if not with Trump supporters. About 66% of the public believes that youth who meet DACA criteria should be allowed to stay in the country (Pew Research Center 2014). At the moment, Trump is a minority president. Wise political advisors (if he has them) might caution him against what would be an unpopular action. On the other hand, if he allowed DACA to continue, he would have to confront an angry base that wants undocumented immigrants out of the country.

Why Rescinding DACA Might Fail. Although rescinding DACA would be easy, removing the three-quarters of a million American-looking and American-acting young people will be a logistical and public relations nightmare for the Trump administration. Efforts to deport those with deferred action will be met with a firestorm of lawsuits that will tie up actual removal of Dreamers in the courts for years. The ACLU has already promised this. Also, many DACA youth are picture-perfect “citizens” who graduated from US high schools and colleges and who are serving in the military, working, building families and so on. They will get a lot of sympathetic coverage from news media, particularly because their undocumented status was not a result of their own actions. In the face of this, Trump may find it politically difficult to deport them.

Prediction #2
Trump will propose suspending immigration from “terror-prone” countries and implementing “extreme vetting” of anyone trying to enter the US from “terror-prone” regions.

Why Trump Will Propose This. This too was one of his promises for the first 100 days in office. He will need to be seen making an attempt to block immigration and visitations from the Middle East to keep the anti-terrorist, anti-Muslim portion of his political base on board.

Why This Will Probably Fail. The U.S. Code section governing entry into the country sets forth a number of highly detailed criteria for refusing visas or immigration status (8 U.S. Code § 1182 – Inadmissible aliens). It does not, however, authorize blanket prohibitions on immigrants or visitors from specific countries or regions, or with particular ethnic backgrounds.

Some have argued that section 8 U.S.C.§ 1182 (C)(i) grants this authority (Swan 2015). However, this section reads that entry can be denied to “an alien whose entry or proposed activities in the United States the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States is inadmissible.”

This section refers to “an alien,” not to a class of people (i.e. people from specific countries or regions or with specific backgrounds). This language would in all likelihood require ICE to establish the “adverse” grounds in each individual case, opening any attempt at a blanket prohibition to a wave of lawsuits.

Also, this section refers to “adverse foreign policy consequences.” In other words, the government would be required to establish that allowing people from countries with large Muslim populations (and make no mistake, that is what Trump is talking about here) would somehow damage US international relations. Actually, the opposite is more likely. Denying Muslims entry is what would have negative foreign policy consequences.

Prediction #3
Trump will make a half-hearted effort to “build the wall” and “have Mexico pay for it.”

Why Trump Will Do This. This was another thing Trump promised to do during his first 100 days as President. It was one of his most popular proposals, as can be seen in many videos with masses of supporters changing “Build the wall, build the wall.”

Why the Effort Will Be Half-Hearted. First of all, walling the US off from Mexico is a fool’s errand, and I don’t think Trump is a fool. History tells us that walls rarely work. Of equal significance, the United States has been trying to build a wall between the US and Mexico for the last 7 years. Currently, about 700 of the 2,000 miles of the border are walled off. Much of the remaining areas pose significant challenges due to terrain, as anyone who has spent time traveling along the US–Mexico border knows. According to the Department of Homeland Security, building a large and solid wall between the US and Mexico on this terrain will likely cost $10 million per mile (Global Security 2016).  This comes to around 13 billion dollars, almost half again as much as the 8 billion dollars Trump quoted for his proposed wall. This is only the cost to build it. The cost of maintaining such a wall would be significant, something that is rarely mentioned by proponents of the wall.

It is my guess that cooler heads in Homeland Security and elsewhere will prevail. There will be some expansion of the current wall to make it appear that the Trump administration is keeping its promise, but the “great, great wall” between Mexico and the United States will not be built on Trump’s watch. It has taken 7 years to wall off the easiest 700 miles. There are 1,300 miles to go. Do the math.

Attempts to extend the wall along the entire border will also be bogged down by lawsuits, since much of that land is either critical habitat or Native American land. I would not be surprised to see activists creating encampments to protect these areas and/or to protest the wall. These will prove another legal and public relations headache for the Trump administration, just as the Dakota Access Pipeline protests proved for the Obama administration.

As for getting Mexico to pay for it, that was campaign bluster. It can’t be done. Mexico is a sovereign nation, and one that is more than a little concerned in protecting itself against US pressure. Mexicans will not pay for the wall unless they are given something of equal or greater value in return, which means US taxpayers will be footing the bill anyway.

Prediction #4
Despite Trump’s promise to deport the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, by the end of his first term the number of undocumented immigrants living in the US will be only slightly smaller or about the same as it is today.

What Will Trump Do? Shortly after taking office, Trump will order ICE to begin mass deportations of undocumented immigrants from the United States. He promised to do this, and risks significant political backlash from many of his supporters if he does not at least appear to be trying.

What Will Happen? Deportations under President Obama were higher than at any time in recent history—nearly 500,000 people a year. About half of those deported had criminal convictions, although the majority of offenders deported had not committed the kind of serious felony offenses the policy was supposed to target (Rosenblum & McCabe 2014).

Obama’s deportation efforts have strained ICE and the immigration courts. Since the majority of undocumented immigrants in the country have been here for more than five years, they are entitled to a hearing in an immigration court. People who have built lives in the United States are not likely to accept deportation easily. They will ask for hearings on their cases. Currently the immigration court backlog in many jurisdictions is running about three years (Human Rights First 2016). The present system simply cannot manage mass deportations without collapsing.

Mass deportation will require either that Congress repeal the right to an immigration hearing or provide significant new funding allocations for a massive expansion of ICE and the immigration court system.

It is my expectation (and hope) that Congress will not eliminate judicial review for immigrants. Doing so would be a fundamental strike against the rule of law and would hopefully not survive significant legal challenges. Whether or not Congress would fund a massive expansion of ICE and immigration courts is an open question, and my crystal ball is rather murky on this.

Dangers. A potential danger lurks behind calls for mass deportation. There is a possibility that emergent vigilante groups or current Three Percenter militias will take it upon themselves to round up undocumented immigrants and turn them over to ICE. This would be illegal. However, given that the Fraternal Order of Police and a union representing immigration officers endorsed Trump’s candidacy, there is the (hopefully remote) possibility that these law enforcement agencies will stand aside and let the vigilantes facilitate mass deportations. This would create a significant divide in the law enforcement community and seriously undermine the rule of law in the United States.

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• Global Security. 2016. US-Mexico Border Fence /Great Wall of Mexico Secure Fence. Viewed online at
• Human Rights First. 2016. “Reducing the Immigration Court Backlog and Delays.” Viewed online at
• Le, Van. 2015. “Snapshot of Polling and Public Opinion on Immigration Executive Action & Larger Debate.” Viewed online at America’s Voice,
• NBC News. 2016. “4 Years Later: Lives Built By DACA at Risk in 2016 Elections.” Viewed online at:
• Pew Research Center. 2014. “5 facts about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.” Viewed online at
• Politifact. 2016. “Donald Trump’s campaign promises for the first 100 days.” Viewed online at:
• Rosenblum, Marc and McCabe, Kristen. Deportation And Discretion: Reviewing the Record and Options for Change. Washington, D.C.: Migration Policy Institute.
• Swan, Ben. 2015. “Reality Check: Trump Right About Legal Authority to Ban Muslim Immigrants.” Truth in Media. Viewed online at:

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* Raymond Michalowski is Regents’ Professor of Criminal Justice at the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northern Arizona University. His research areas include criminological theory, international human rights, immigration and border policy, and corporate, environmental, and political Crime. Recent publications include State Crime in the Global Age (with William Chambliss and Ronald Kramer) and State-Corporate Crime: Wrongdoing at the Intersection of Business and Government (with Ronald Kramer).

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A Queer Exemption? What Trump’s Presidency Means for LGBTQ Politics

This post is part of a series on the possible impacts of Trump’s election on a variety of social justice issues. Click here to read more.

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by Clare Sears*

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was characterized by raging rambling speeches and late-night belligerent tweets that threatened and mocked multiple groups of people. Undocumented immigrants, Muslims, disabled people, and women were frequently targeted—LGBTQ people were not. In a campaign marked by hypermasculine posturing, blatant misogyny, and sexual boasts and accusations, Trump’s decision to pass over a constituency marked by sexual and gender differences is striking. In this post, I reflect on Trump’s queer exemption and consider what his presidency will mean for LGBTQ politics. Specifically, I ask: How can we make sense of Trump’s restrained anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in relation to his persistent anti-LGBTQ actions?

Clearly, Trump’s failure to treat LGBTQ people as a political punching bag does not make him an ally, despite his occasional claims to the contrary. As presidential candidate and president-elect, Trump has consistently supported people and policies that will devastate queer and trans communities. Two examples will suffice:

  • Mike Pence: Trump’s selection of Mike Pence for vice-president provides a particularly stark indicator of his disregard for LGBTQ issues. It is no secret that Pence is a blatantly homophobic evangelical Christian conservative, who views homosexuality as a choice that undermines God’s will and heralds “societal collapse” (U.S. Congress 2006, p. 14796). As Governor of Indiana, Pence passed a “religious freedom law” that legalized discrimination against LGBTQ people; he also oversaw funding cuts for HIV testing sites and a state ban on needle exchange that led to one of the worst domestic HIV outbreaks in recent times. As a member of Congress, Pence took a similar stand against effective public health interventions by opposing funding for HIV prevention programs that featured queer sex-positive messages. He also opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” supported a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, and advocated “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ people. Trump will likely grant unprecedented decision-making power to Pence, making his virulent anti-LGBTQ agenda all the more terrifying.
  • State-Level Discrimination: Trump also backs state discrimination against LGBTQ people. During his campaign, he announced support for North Carolina’s House Bill 2, a state law that overturns municipal anti-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBTQ people and forces transgender people to use public restrooms that diverge from their gender identity. According to Pence, Trump will also rescind a White House directive that advises public schools to treat transgender students according to their gender identity, rather than the gender assigned at birth, or risk violating federal sex discrimination law. In both cases, Trump paid lip service to the goal of equality but argued that states have the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people as they see fit.

Although Trump invokes limitations on federal power to justify inaction on anti-LGBTQ discrimination, he is more than happy to exert federal muscle in other realms. When it comes to immigration policy, law-and-order politics, and health insurance coverage, for example, Trump proposes significant reforms and rollbacks that pose a deadly threat to millions, including LGBTQ people. Indeed, several of Trump’s signature proposals directly target social movements led by queer people of color.

  • DACA: Throughout his campaign, Trump emphasized his plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides temporary protection to certain undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, allowing them to attend school, obtain work permits, and receive temporary reprieve from deportation. Queer undocumented youth led the movement for this reform, mobilizing within and against mainstream advocacy organizations that often opposed their radical tactics. Their efforts paid off in 2012, when President Obama established DACA by executive order. Over 741,500 young people have signed up for the program, many of them LGBTQ. If Trump’s plans materialize, thousands of undocumented LGBTQ youth will be caught up in the dragnet, facing mass arrest by ICE officials, incarceration in immigration detention facilities, and deportation to countries they barely know.
  • Law and Order: As public awareness of anti-Black police violence reaches new heights, Trump has taken a stand against Black Lives Matter, the social movement founded by three black queer women. Using barely coded racist rhetoric, Trump has vowed to end “the war on our police” and propagated a dystopian vision of US cities wracked by gun-toting criminals and murderous immigrants. Positioning himself as a law-and-order leader who will “make America safe again,” Trump has promised to reinstitute stop-and-frisk policing, increase police access to military-grade weaponry, and destabilize sanctuary cities. These proposals directly threaten LGBTQ people, particularly those who are black or brown, poor, homeless, and/or involved in street economies (sex work, drug sales, unlicensed vending). Multiple studies show that LGBTQ people are overrepresented in street-based populations and suffer police harassment at elevated rates. In particular, transgender women and homeless queer youth of color will bear the brunt of Trump-era militarized policing.
  • Affordable Care Act: Trump has made clear his intention to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which provides healthcare to 20 million individuals, including one million LGBTQ people. If he succeeds, these people will lose health insurance as well as legal protections that are particularly valuable to transgender folks and those living with HIV. These protections prevent insurers from (a) discriminating on the grounds of gender identity, (b) denying coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition (including HIV and “gender dysphoria”), and (c) imposing annual and lifetime caps on coverage that harm people with chronic costly conditions (such as HIV). Under Trump’s presidency, LGBTQ people will face increased discrimination, illness, and death.

Given Trump’s support of politicians and policies that will devastate LGBTQ communities, what are we to make of his decision to exempt LGBTQ people from his trademark rhetorical attacks? Moreover, what are we to make of his occasional pro-gay statements, such as the speech he delivered at the Republican National Convention, where he spoke of LGBTQ people as “wonderful Americans” who deserved to be protected from violence? Some observers applauded Trump’s words, noting that he was the first Republican to speak positively of LGBTQ people while accepting the party’s presidential nomination. A closer look at Trump’s speech, however, reveals a troubling context that sheds light on the relationship between his pro-LGBTQ rhetoric and anti-LGBTQ actions.

During his RNC acceptance speech, Trump spoke of LGBTQ people when addressing the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which had occurred the previous month. The shooter, Omar Mateen, attacked the gay nightclub on its “Latin night” and most of the 49 people killed were queer Latinx clubgoers. In his RNC speech, Trump described the victims as “wonderful Americans [who] were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist” and vowed to “do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” Omar Mateen was not foreign and his connections to terrorism were minimal, but this did not stop Trump from linking his support for LGBTQ people to his anti-Islam nationalist agenda. Clearly, Trump was exploiting the deadliest act of anti-LGBTQ violence in US history for political gain, but he was also testing a particular political formation—pro-gay/anti-Muslim—that will likely resurface throughout his presidency.

In her 2007 book Terrorist Assemblages, Jasbir Puar refers to this formation as homonationalism, denoting the ways that nation-states incorporate certain queer subjects (typically white cisgender men) to mark the border between “gay friendly” Western democracies and “homophobic” Islamic nations. According to Jin Haritaworn (2015), this process is in full swing in European cities such as Berlin, where neoliberal governments adopt punitive policies against Muslim immigrants under the guise of promoting diversity and protecting LGBTQ communities. Far-right political parties in Europe are now following a similar path, promoting “Western values” such as gay rights to win support for their populist agendas rooted in white supremacy, nationalism, and anti-immigrant/anti-Muslim violence. Trump’s strategic mention of LGBTQ people in his acceptance speech suggests a similar development on the US political stage that we need to monitor closely in the months to come.

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References and Further Readings
Haritaworn, J. 2015. Queer Lovers and Hateful Others: Regenerating Violent Times and Places. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Mogul, J.L., A.J. Ritchie, and K. Whitlock. 2011. Queer (In)justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States. Boston: Beacon Press.
Puar, J.K. 2007. Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Spade, D. 2011. Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law. New York: South End Press.
U.S. Congress. 2006. Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 109th Congress, Second Session. Volume 152, Part 11. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.

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*Clare Sears is Associate Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology at San Francisco State University. Her research and teaching interests include critical criminology, queer theory, transgender studies, historical methods, and disability studies. Sears is author of the book Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law and Fascination in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco (Duke University Press, 2015) and coeditor of a special issue of Social Justice on sexuality and criminalization.

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Orange is the New Green: The Environmental Justice Implications of Trump’s EPA

This post is part of a series on the possible impacts of Trump’s election on a variety of social justice issues. Click here to read more.

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by Jordan E. Mazurek*

Let’s start by ripping that big orange band-aid off. This piece will not make you hopeful. The environmental justice movement—that is, the grassroots movement championed by people of color and the poor to address the environmental harms they are disproportionately victims of—is going to face significant challenges under Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency in particular, and his administration more broadly. Trump’s nomination to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, is a global-warming-denying, Big-Oil-loving Oklahoma attorney general who’s made his name off leading the conservative crusade against the EPA and the Obama administration’s environmental policies. Meanwhile Trump’s wider cabinet seems to consist of a Who’s Who of the “Eco-Villains” that Captain Planet fought in the 1990s (not to mention the 1%-ers!).

Faced with such a cabinet, I think we as organizers, activists, and academics must prepare for an almost certain intensification in three key areas across-the-board:

  1. An intensification of what Barnett (1994) describes as “regulatory capture,” or the domination of regulatory agencies by the very industries they are supposed to be regulating. This directly contributes to:
  2. An intensification in the deregulation of private industries and defunding of monitoring agencies. This further exacerbates:
  3. An intensification of the types of harms to communities of color and the poor inherent in historical patterns of racialized capitalism.

I use the term intensification to convey that these are not new conditions coming to bear down under Trump, but merely extensions of preexisting ones. For the sake of space, however, I will limit my analysis to how environmental justice will likely be affected by this intensification in relation to Pruitt’s EPA.

In terms of regulatory capture, the EPA has a long and sordid history of representing and defending the interests of corporate polluters, rather than regulating them; an arrangement that, at the time of writing, Simon (2000, pp. 641–42) found to pay off nicely for “20 high-ranking former EPA administrators that … left the agency [to] become millionaire waste-industry executives.” It is beyond reasonable to hope that Pruitt’s EPA will be much different in tendency given his already well-established capacity for developing secret alliances with oil and gas companies and then serving as literal mouthpieces for them, as revealed by the New York Times in 2014.

Given his cozy relationship with Big Oil and Pruitt’s track record of attacking EPA regulations, which amounted to at least 13 lawsuits against the agency to date with eight still pending, the deregulation or active non-enforcement of existing environmental policy is all but imminent. Let’s first focus on federal environmental justice policy.

The policy ground upon which the EPA and other federal agencies incorporate and address environmental justice concerns remains exceptionally vulnerable. This vulnerability is a consequence of the fact that federal environmental justice policy is based not on congressional law but on Presidential Executive Order 12898, signed by Clinton in 1994 in response to mounting pressures from environmental justice activists. EO 12898 mandated that “each Federal agency make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations,” with this effort to be spearheaded by the EPA.

As is often the case with policy that may positively affect people of color, little tangible progress on addressing environmental justice issues at the federal level manifested itself. For the remainder of Clinton’s presidency, the EPA had little direction on how to actually implement EO 12898, and since it remained only an EO, no following administrations or agency heads were under any legal mandate to actually pursue environmental justice objectives. George W. Bush’s administration took full advantage of this to actively shift the EPA’s focus on “environmental justice” away from minorities and the poor and to essentially ignore the topic for eight years.

Indeed, towards the end of Bush’s administration the United Church of Christ published a 20-year follow-up study on its foundational environmental justice study Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States. The conclusions, after 20 years and EO 12898, remained largely the same: race remained the predominant predictor of where hazardous waste sites would be located, with little to no tangible progress having been made. Neighborhoods hosting hazardous waste facilities were found to be “56% people of color whereas non-host areas are 30% people of color”; meanwhile, 69% of the population living in areas with close clusters of hazardous was of color (Bullard et al. 2007, pp. x–xi).

The Obama administration represented a significant departure from the previous two administrations in terms of making environmental justice an agency priority within the EPA. Under the leadership of Lisa Jackson, in 2010 the agency began developing its first systematic attempt, known as Plan EJ 2014, to incorporate the environmental justice requirements of EO 12898. This effort was greatly expanded with the development and publication of its EJ 2020 Action Agenda in late October of 2016. EJ 2020 is a robust strategic plan leading up to an EPA in 2020 “that integrates environmental justice into everything we do, cultivates strong partnerships to improve on-the-ground results, and charts a path forward for achieving better environmental outcomes and reducing disparities in the nation’s most overburdened communities.” (I would be amiss, in terms of my current organizing efforts with the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, if I did not point out that the EJ 2020 plan completely ignores prisoners as a potentially “overburdened” population worth of environmental justice consideration. This was challenged by the campaign under the banner of the Prison Ecology Project and over 130 other social justice, environmental, and prisoner’s rights organizations that mobilized to influence the drafting of EJ 2020).

Considering that the EJ 2020 plan will just start to take effect as Trump steps into office and Pruitt takes the reins of the EPA, I’m highly skeptical that the agency will meet any of its 2020 goals. Perhaps the best-case scenario for existing environmental justice policy would be if the Trump administration followed in the footsteps of George W. Bush’s administration, that is, if the administration more or less ignored those goals but let the legislation in place for future, possibly friendlier administrations. Given that all the EPA’s environmental justice efforts still rely primarily on EO 12898, however, the worst-case scenario seems likely. Trump could issue an alternate Executive Order overriding EO 12898 and thus completely dismantling, instead of just delaying, what took the entirety of the Obama administration to implement, effectively cutting environmental justice out of the scope of the federal government.

Let’s not forget, however, that since 1994 federal environmental justice policy has remained largely symbolic. That is to say that, although the EPA will certainly be no ally of the environmental justice movement under Trump, this agency has failed under every administration to systematically address the structural causes of environmental injustice. Indeed, at the time of this writing it’s been 21 months since (in April 2015) the EPA Region 5 office became aware of the high lead levels in the Flint, Michigan water supply, poisoning the majority-Black population. Yet the EPA failed to take action until January 2016. Flint STILL has lead in its water. This crisis was precipitated by multiple structural factors, including a history of weak environmental regulation of the local automotive industry, local economic hardships wrought by neoliberal economic policy in the 1990s (i.e., NAFTA), and increasing levels of government defunding. Indeed, from 2010 to 2015 the EPA faced five straight years of budget reductions, losing 21% of its federal funding ($2.2 billion USD) and bringing the number of staff down to its lowest levels since 1989.

These budget cuts to the EPA under the EPA/environmental justice-friendly Obama administration (granted, lead by Republicans) point to what could possibly be the worst-worst-case scenario: that is, the possibility that Trump will hold true to his campaign promises of completely eliminating the EPA, effectively leading to total environmental deregulation at a federal level.

The harms environmental justice activists fight against are inherently spatial and direct consequence of a segregationist racialized capitalism. Pollution, like power, tends to harm the populations deemed most easily exploitable and most readily expendable. Faced with almost total deregulation, whatever little protections communities of color and the poor have built up against the sources of hazardous toxins in their neighborhoods may begin to crumble. The first casualties will most likely be the federal-level victories that grassroots environmental justice activists have achieved only in the last couple years of the Obama administration. For example, activists with the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change were responsible for significant changes to Obama’s Clean Power Plan in terms of protecting air quality for poor and minority communities. However, Trump has vowed to kill the Clean Power Plan, and one of the pending lawsuits that Pruitt is still involved in is a 27-state suit against the Plan. Given Pruitt’s already stated affinity with the oil and gas industry, the recent environmental justice victory of more stringent EPA regulations on petroleum refinery emissions (expected to lower cancer rates for 1.4 million people) will also likely be on the chopping block. In short, Pruitt’s EPA and related deregulation will lead to an intensification of environmental harms in poor communities and communities of color.

I know that all sounds a bit doom-and-gloom, but I warned you, didn’t I? If you want hope, looking from the top-down isn’t the place to find it. The strength and resiliency of the environmental justice movement, and the ability of communities of color and the poor to force governmental structures to meet their needs over corporate interest, have always derived from the bottom-up. Look to the roots, get involved, and I look forward to meeting ya’ll in the streets!

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References and Further Readings
Brook, D. 1998. Environmental genocide: Native Americans and Toxic Waste. American Journal of Economics and Sociology 57(1): 105–13.
Bullard, R.D., Mohai, P., Saha, R. & B. Wright. 2007. Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: 1987-2007. New York: United Church of Christ.
Commission for Racial Justice. 1987. Toxic Waste and Race in the United States: A National Report on the Racial and Socioeconomic Characteristics of Communities with Hazardous Waste Sites. New York: United Church of Christ.
Friedrichs, D.O. 2006. Trusted Criminals: White Collar Crime in Contemporary Society. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Kolinsky, D., ed. 2015. Failed Promises: Evaluating the Federal Government’s Response to Environmental Justice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Pinderhughes, R. 1996. The Impact of Race on Environmental Quality: An Empirical and Theoretical Discussion. Sociological Perspectives, 39(2): 231–48.
Rebovich, D.J. 1992. Dangerous Ground: The World of Hazardous Waste Crime. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
Saha, R. & P. Mohai. 2005. Historical Context and Hazardous Waste Facility Siting: Understanding Temporal Patterns in Michigan. Social Problems 52(4): 618–48.
Simon, D.R. 2000. Corporate environmental crimes and social inequality: New directions for environmental justice research. American Behavioral Scientist 43(4): 633–45.
Szasz, A. 1986. The process and significance of political scandals: A comparison of Watergate and the “Sewergate” episode at the Environmental Protection Agency. Social Problems 33: 200–17.

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*Jordan E. Mazurek is an Erasmus+: Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctoral Fellow pursuing a Doctorate in Cultural and Global Criminology from the University of Kent and the University of Hamburg. His research interests include prison abolition, green criminology, organizing/activism, visual theory, and the photodocumentary tradition. His work can be seen in The Routledge International Handbook of Visual Criminology, The Palgrave Handbook of Prison Tourism, and The Palgrave International Handbook of Animal Abuse Studies. He currently serves on the Steering Committee of the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons.

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Social Justice, Environmental Destruction, and the Trump Presidency: A Criminological View

This post is part of a series on the possible impacts of Trump’s election on a variety of social justice issues. Click here to read more.

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by Michael J. Lynch, Paul B. Stretesky,
Michael A. Long, and Kimberly L. Barrett*

We represent three generations of scholars who study environmental crime, law and justice, and the enforcement of environmental regulations. Our work focuses on how the politico-economic organization of capitalism promotes ecologically destructive behavior by profit-driven corporations, exploits nature and human labor, generates ecological destruction/disorganization, and furthers the unequal distribution of wealth and ecological resources. With respect to how the Trump administration and proposed cabinet selections will affect social and environmental justice and any effort to study environmental crime by corporations, we expect a return to the conditions that existed during the G. W. Bush Administration and that some of us witnessed firsthand.

For starters, under the Bush administration the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reduced publicly available data relevant to the study of environmental crime and the enforcement of environmental regulations. For example, we were often frustrated to learn that environmental crime data that were available under Clinton’s EPA were no longer reported and/or had been removed from the EPA’s website during the Bush administration, and could now only be obtained through a Freedom of Information request. Moreover, the Bush administration’s emphasis on market-based solutions to improve environmental performance pushed environmental regulation research away from examining state interventions, thus curtailing criminology’s potential (albeit generally conservative) contributions to the study of environmental issues.

As we enter the era of the Trump administration, we expect to once again encounter problems gaining access to important environmental data. Notably, we believe we will see EPA budget cuts impact the availability of environment-related crime data. After all, conservative politicians often view data reporting and environmental regulation as pointless burdens for corporations and businesses. Trump has made no secret of his belief that environmental regulation—much of which deals with reporting requirements—is economically harmful to business. Consider for example the following exchange between Donald Trump and Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday (October 15, 2015):

Donald Trump:  Environmental Protection, what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations. They’re making it impossible —

Chris Wallace:  Who’s going to protect the environment?

Donald Trump: They—we’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.

Far from being a disgrace, in our view environmental protection is a necessary part of ensuring that the ecosystem is protected for future generations, and that ecosystem inhabitants—from humans to wildlife—are protected from the ecologically destructive behaviors of corporations. It is no disgrace to take environmental concerns seriously and to pass and enforce regulations that protect public and ecological health. Rather, the disgrace is believing that if left to their own, corporations will protect the ecosystem. In fact, the history of environmental regulation is a demonstration of how the state, as a representative of the people and public health, must force corporations to protect the ecosystem, countering their proven tendency to favor the bottom line over ecosystem health and stability.

Based upon Trump’s first statements on this matter, we believe the Trump administration will do away with important data reporting programs, producing a rupture in the historical record of important environmental data and a significant reduction in the enforcement of environmental regulations. It should also be noted that, even when environmental data are collected, EPA appointees can limit access to those data. One example of this problem was reported by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in their review of mercury emissions rules during the Bush administration.  Citing numerous sources pointing toward “unusual” approaches for crafting mercury pollution regulations during the Bush administration, the UCS noted that “political appointees at the EPA completely bypassed agency professional and scientific staff as well as a federal advisory panel in crafting the proposed new rules.” The Washington Post reported that the “Bush administration’s proposal for regulating mercury pollution from power plants mirrors almost word for word portions of memos written by a law firm representing coal-fired power plants.”

We can certainly expect similar tactics during the Trump administration as Trump appointees, many of whom will push efforts for environmental deregulation as a mechanism to expand economic production, will ignore relevant research on this subject [such as the association between improved environmental corporate performance and increased corporate financial performance demonstrated over a 35 year period (1975–2011) by Elisabeth Albertini (2013)]. We can expect that the ideology of economic growth rather than science will guide the Trump administration’s environmental policies, and furthermore that those policies will benefit the owners of large-capital industries rather than the populace base that supported Trump.

One of the most critical issues we face is the Trump administration’s (already apparent) misperception of science, its indifference to what scientists know about things such as climate change, pollution, and public health, and its insistence on “making America great again” by returning to the conditions of an earlier era—long ago banished by the globalization of corporate capitalism—that relied on reduced environmental regulation and increased fossil fuel production and consumption. Besides Trump himself, his proposed cabinet includes climate skeptics, fossil fuel industry executives, and political leaders from states with strong fossil fuel connections.  This is similar to what happened with G. W. Bush’s cabinet; thus, in contrast to the idea that a Trump presidency will be unique because it is influenced by Washington outsiders, we already see tendencies that have characterized prior administrations. (By the way, for those who think that federal policies are too restrictive, let us remind them that US EPA has failed, through decades of policy, to meet the federally mandated requirements of many federal laws, including, for instance, the provision in the Clean Water Act to make US waters fishable and swimmable by 1985, a provision that has yet to be met since that legislation was passed in 1972.)

Trump’s proposed cabinet includes several officials who will adversely affect environmental policy and enforcement, and therefore the quality of the US ecosystem. As head of EPA, for instance, Trump proposed Scott Pruitt, former attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt’s position on the EPA is similar to Trump’s. For instance, in 2014 Pruitt’s office told the New York Times: “It is the job of the attorney general to defend the interests and well-being of the citizens and state of Oklahoma … This includes protecting Oklahoma’s economy from the perilous effects of federal overreach by agencies like the EPA.” Pruitt denies the existence of climate change (calling it a hoax or fraud), and at one time he announced his intent to force the Obama administration to repeal ALL of its newly imposed environmental regulations. In the pursuit of this goal, Pruitt has sued the EPA on various occasions in an effort to: limit the Regional Haze Rule, which regulated air quality in National Parks; rescind ozone pollution restrictions; cancel EPA coal-fired power plant mercury emission regulations (the Clean Power Plan); and limit the Waters of the United States rules and regulations. None of these suits have been successful, and thus one could argue they have been a waste of taxpayer dollars as Pruitt strived to protect the interests of his wealthy supporters, including the oil lobbies that have funded his political career (e.g., he received funding from Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, a fossil fuel company, and later joined a suit by Continental, Oklahoma Gas & Electric and the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance against climate change regulations). Pruitt has sued the federal government on many other matters, and has also sued California over its caged hen egg-laying rules (California Proposition 2)—an issue that seems hardly related to the governance of Oklahoma. As Kenneth Kimmell, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists has noted, the selection of Pruitt to head EPA should be considered unusual in light of his “clear record of hostility to the EPA’s mission.” For instance, as Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt sent a letter that challenged EPA estimates of air pollution caused by energy companies in Oklahoma; the letter was signed by him but composed by employees of Devon Energy who had donated money to his campaign.

Trump’s choice to head the Department of Energy is Rick Perry, someone who once said he would abolish the agency (in a well-known instance during a presidential debate in which he couldn’t actually identify the agency by name). Perry believes that climate change is an unproven scientific theory—scientifically speaking, of course, theories are proven by testing hypotheses, and a theory emerges when significantly related hypotheses cannot be rejected, but perhaps it is too much to ask that people placed in charge of federal agencies dealing with science should know such things. Perry, who has held the longest term of any former governor of Texas, obviously has deeply embedded connections to the fossil fuel industry (Texas is the foremost producer of fossil fuels in the United States), so one can easily imagine that his energy policies will favor fossil fuels over alternative energy, which is the same condition found in the Department of Energy during the G. W. Bush administration (headed first by Spencer Abraham, who was also part of Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force, and second by Samuel Bodman).

As the proposed head of the Department of the Interior, Trump named Ryan Zinke, a Montana congressional representative. In that role, Zinke will influence national policy related to drilling for oil and gas on federal lands and the construction of national oil and gas pipelines. He has already established a congressional voting record favoring the destruction of federal lands for fossil fuel exploration, supporting the Keystone XL pipeline (vetoed by President Obama), and removing protection for endangered species in order to promote the above policies. At one time a supporter of climate change policy, he now denies the science behind climate change, perhaps, as Tim Murphy implies on Mother Jones, after receiving political contributions from the fossil fuel industry.

Trump has also proposed Rex Tillerson to be the Secretary of State. Tillerson is the former chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil. Tillerson, at least, does not deny climate change and supports a carbon tax. However, his company consistently lobbies against climate change regulation and is being investigated by the State of New York for providing misleading statements about climate change.

Many other Trump’s cabinet nominees also deny climate change but will hold positions where perhaps climate change policies are less vital. One exception here is the nominee for the Department of Human Health and Services. For this office, Trump proposed Tom Price, a climate change skeptic who has signed a pledge from Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Koch Brothers, to oppose climate change legislation.

As green criminologists, our concern is that the changes to federal policy that we can expect from the Trump administration will be deleterious to the majority of Americans, to people in other nations, and to the health of the global ecosystem (not to mention the health of the US ecosystem), and that they will exacerbate environmental racism and environmental injustice in the United States. We anticipate:

  1. an increase in environmental pollution and in exposure to environmental toxics, which may be especially problematic in urban areas;
  2. diminished efforts to enforce environmental regulations against corporate polluters, creating a context in which corporations will increasingly violate pollution permits and regulations that are no longer enforced;
  3. an increase in the unequal distribution of pollution and exposure to environmental pollution in impoverished areas, communities of color, and Native American Indian reservations, which will aggravate the health of residents and will be exacerbated by a reduction in federal health care policy;
  4. reductions in penalties for corporations that violate environmental laws;
  5. a deterioration of air and water quality in the US, generating additional public health problems; and
  6. rising rates of animal extinctions, a trend already of scientific concern.

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References and Further Readings
Albertini, E. 2013. Does Environmental Management Improve Financial Performance: A Meta-Analytical Review. Organization & Environment 26(4): 431–57.
Bullard, R.D. 2000. Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Downey, L. and Hawkins, B. 2008. Race, Income, and Environmental Inequality in the United  States. Sociological Perspectives 51(4): 759–81.
Kosmicki, S. and M.A. Long. 2016. Exploring Environmental Inequality within US Communities Containing Coal and Nuclear Power Plants. In Hazardous Waste and Pollution: Detecting and Preventing Green Crimes, edited by Tanya Watt, pp. 79–100. New York: Springer.
Lynch, M.J., R.G. Burns, and P.B. Stretesky. 2010.  Global Warming as a State-Corporate Crime: The Politicalization of Global Warming during the Bush Administration. Crime, Law and Social Change 54(3): 213–39.
Lynch, M.J., M.A. Long, K.L. Barrett, and P.B. Stretesky. 2013. Is it a Crime to Produce Ecological Disorganization? Why Green Criminology and Political Economy Matter in the Analysis of Global Ecological Harms. British Journal of Criminology  53(6): 997–1016.
Lynch, M.J. and P.B. Stretesky. 2012. Native Americans and Social and Environmental     Justice: Implications for Criminology. Social Justice 38(3): 104–24.
Parenteau, P. 2004. Anything Industry Wants: Environmental Policy under Bush II. Environmental Law and Policy Forum 14(2): 363–404.
Stretesky, P.B., M.A. Long, and M.J. Lynch. 2013. The Treadmill of Crime:                      Political Economy and Green Criminology. Abingdon, UK:  Routledge.

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*Michael J. Lynch is Professor of Criminology in the Department of Criminology at the University of South Florida; Paul B. Stretesky is Professor of Criminology in the Department of Social Sciences at Northumbria University; Michael A. Long is Associate Professor of Social Sciences in the Department of Social Sciences at Northumbria University; and Kimberly L. Barrett is Assistant Professor of Criminology in the Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology Department at Eastern Michigan University.

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