Deacon Ian Punnett –
In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s recent primary victory in South Carolina a new narrative is developing: Trump actually could be the Republican nominee for president of the United States. Now, some people are concerned that if Trump were elected, he would inflame Islamophobia and follow through on his promise of December 2015 to enact a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S.
Like any politician, of course, although it makes for a meaty sound bite, Mr. Trump is short on details on how this would be accomplished. Currently, there is no “religion box” on the application form to enter the U.S. Theoretically, “President” Trump would have to order that a space be made for the would-be visitor to declare his or her religion, and then deny them on that basis if they wrote “Muslim.” It goes without saying that even anybody who is stupid enough to follow a jihadist’s call to terrorism would be smart enough to write “Methodist” on the form and not get themselves disqualified. The plan is as dumb as the comment, not to mention unconstitutional.
But that’s not the only good news for people who fear a Trump presidency. The best news is contained in the long history of presidential promises.
For example, in 1916, as World War I wreaked havoc across Europe, incumbent President Woodrow Wilson used the slogan, “He kept us out of war,” in his victory over Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes (when was the last time that happened?). Five months later, U.S. doughboys were very much in the war.
In 1928, Herbert Hoover promised unprecedented prosperity with the phrase, “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” Within 24 months, the country was in the midst of the Great Depression.
In 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt assured the American electorate, “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.” By 1942, U.S. troops were dying in the Pacific, Europe and Africa.
Running against Arizona Republican challenger Barry Goldwater in 1964, incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson declared that his administration would not send ground troops into Vietnam, despite the fact that Johnson had already drawn up plans to escalate the war. Within five months of being elected . . .
Once again, in 1968 Richard Nixon’s campaign leaked a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War. Nixon expanded the Vietnam War into surrounding countries over his two terms and kept that secret to himself.
The pattern just repeats itself. Anti-big government conservative Ronald Reagan’s first-term, four-year budget deficit was larger than those of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter combined. In 1988, George H.W. Bush famously promised “Read my lips: No new taxes”—yeah, right. When Bill Clinton took office in 1992, health care was on his agenda and 37 million Americans were without any form of health insurance. By the time Clinton left office, there were at least 3 million more people uninsured in the U.S.
Not to be outdone, in 2000, George W. Bush campaigned on his commitment to making health insurance affordable for hard-working, low-income families. In his first two years in office alone, the uninsured increased by another four million. Bush also promised that the U.S. would not engage in any more “nation building” around the world on his watch. I think we all remember how that worked out.
Saying, “It is not who we are,” Barack Obama pledged to close the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay on the campaign trail in 2007 and after being sworn in as president. Then again in 2009, 2010, 2011 . . . Sigh. The neon sign over “Gitmo” is still flashing “Open.”
So, if the past is prologue, and it usually is, if Trump were elected president, not only would he not go through with a ban on Muslims coming to the U.S., very likely, somehow, the opposite would happen. Mark my words, if history is any indication, the number of Muslims entering the U.S. under President Trump would become “yuge.”