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Will Trump make America white again?

The circus has left town. Donald Trump is away on a golfing, tweet-storming vacation. Congress is off as well. Neither branch of government deserves a break, runs the complaint, because they haven't accomplished anything.

President Trump and company would beg to differ. A key to his hostile takeover of the politics of his party and the country was – to paraphrase just a bit – making America white again.

In his first half-year in power, he has been making strides in carrying out that offensive mandate. In his policy making and rhetoric, a white bias is amply clear. Diversity Canadian-style, as practised in part by Barack Obama and advocated by Hillary Clinton, is under sustained attack.

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Republicans had a strong case to make with the pitch that the identity politics of the Democrats – bending over backward for every minority group and cause – had gone too far. As if, for example, efforts to limit immigration were by definition bigoted, this being a sort of knee-jerk view on the left.

The pitch was immeasurably aided by Ms. Clinton's inexcusable calumny "deplorables" to describe Trump nation. The President now attempts a sweeping cultural correction, turning identity politics to white identity politics.

The whitening of America, let us count the ways: Mr. Trump has driven foreigners of colour out and prevented them from coming in. Deportations are way up. There's his unrelenting rhetoric against outsiders taking American jobs, there's his immigration ban against Muslims, there's Haitians (who fear losing their asylum status) pouring into Canada, there's a Mexican wall plan still very much in the works.

Last week, Mr. Trump avidly backed legislation that would sharply reduce immigration, bringing in a new skills-based system. Stephen Miller, one of his America-First policy guys, characterized the bill as one "that protects U.S. workers, protects U.S. taxpayers and protects the U.S. economy, and that prioritizes the needs of our own citizens, our own residents and our own workers."

On judicial appointments, Mr. Trump has been on a tear in appointing hardliners who will shape civil liberties and civil-rights laws. For the Courts of Appeals – the last authority for the vast majority of cases – no president before Mr. Trump named more than three judges whose nominations were approved in his first six months, The Washington Post notes. Mr. Trump has named nine.

The renegade President has appointed a commission to investigate electoral fraud, which experts say is non-existent. It is seen as a move that will lead to measures limiting minorities' voting rights. Former U.S. attorney-general Eric Holder has called the commission "another frightening attempt to suppress the votes of certain Americans."

Mr. Trump wants transgender people kept out of the military – and his base approves. He stokes up the War on Drugs and the suspicion is that there are certain target groups he has in mind. He suggests police shouldn't worry about applying hard muscle in treating suspects and the suspicion is there are certain groups he has in mind – and the hope is it won't lead to racial outbreaks such as the one in Ferguson, Mo.

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His administration is challenging affirmative-action practices. It is reportedly looking into hiring practices targeting alleged reverse discrimination against white applicants on college campuses.

Mr. Trump's views on cultural diversity are long held. He was the tribune of the so-called birther movement, claiming Barack Obama was not American-born. That he suffered much embarrassment when the Obama birth certificate was produced didn't seem to bother him. His birther campaign secured his paramount place among Republicans in white identity politics.

With his support numbers falling off the cliff elsewhere, his work on white nationalism has helped secure the support of his base, although indications are that his approval ratings among the less educated are also shrinking.

A sophisticated, nuanced approach to a reform of the Democrats' identity politics could have worked well for the Republicans. Many Democrats themselves are suggesting they went overboard. But nuance and sophistication have no place in Mr. Trump's approach. He won via the politics of polarization. The country will lose by it.

Video: Trump details plans to overhaul immigration rules (Reuters)
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About the Author
Public affairs columnist

Lawrence Martin is an Ottawa-based public affairs columnist and the author of ten books, including six national best sellers. More

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