Come on, America. What more evidence do you need?
Let me be overly generous here. Suppose you agree that Haiti is a “shithole.” It’s not one of your high-functioning nations, that is true. Of course, if you bother even to go to Wikipedia to read up for 10 minutes, you’ll find that the mess that is Haiti was partly made by these United States of America, with our ironclad support over three decades of the Duvaliers, father and son, brutal dictators and murderers and thieves, to whose crimes our governments turned many blind eyes. If you look around a bit more, you’ll see that Haitian soldiers fought in our Revolutionary War, in a battle in Savannah, Georgia. And if you’re really intellectually adventurous, you’ll read about how Haiti was a slave colony in the late 1700s, remorselessly brutalized by Napoleon, and how Toussaint L’Ouverture, the leader of Haitian independence, has inspired artists from William Wordsworth to Jacob Lawrence to Ralph Ellison to Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Jean-Michel, a great American artist of the 1980s, was born to a Haitian father. A powerful artist—but, to the president of the United States, just another shithole kid.
But what I’m saying is this: Even if you agree with Donald Trump’s assessment of Haiti, I hope you surely agree that a president of the United States should not be talking that way about countries, no matter what the country is. Because in every country, even in Somalia, by every measure the world’s most dysfunctional country, there are innocent, decent people who have none of the dysfunction on their hands; who are indeed history’s most unfortunate victims, people who are just trying to work and raise their kids and who happened to draw the short straw in the global lottery and be born in this place, and who want out.
And for many decades, many of the people across the globe who wanted out wanted to come here, to America, to make a better life. Now I ask you: Who wants to come to Donald Trump’s America? Who?
Not the good people of Norway, to whom Trump opened the door with his comments Thursday. Why would they? They have health care, they have free college, they have many weeks of family leave and vacation. They want to visit, sure, because who doesn’t want to visit? But move here?
We used to think everyone from everywhere wanted to move here. Of course. We’re America! We’re the beacon. But not anymore. With the President of the United States making racist comments like this — and proposing policies to match — the only people who’d be really excited about moving here are other racists.
America, it’s time. It’s time to start demanding, bluntly and daily and with a dignity that is completely alien to our president, that he should not be the president of the United States. I am in one sense happy to report that Americans don’t need to be persuaded of this. As it happens, just Wednesday, Quinnipiac released a poll. In it, 57 percent of respondents said he was not fit to serve as president, to 40 percent who said he was.
This is a moment. Remember it. January 11, 2018. For one thing, it’s the first time I ever remember mainstream news outlets all saying the word “shit.” The word “shithole” actually appeared in a Washington Post headline. The New York Times couldn’t quite bring itself to put the word in the headline. Okay. It’s the Times. But it did put in the first graf of the story. On CNN, White House correspondent Jim Acosta used the word on air. He was right to do it. And he was right to say that “the President seems to harbor racist feelings” toward those who are, well, you know, not white. That “seems” looks soft in print. It wasn’t on TV, trust me.
As the Q-poll shows, a majority of Americans agree. In a democracy, Congress would pay attention to public opinion—as expressed in that Q-poll but also in many others—and would begin proceedings on whether the president was fit to be president. Believe it or not, that’s what the founders wanted to happen. They wanted a Congress that would see a president say something like this, something so aggressively at odds with our national creed, and put party aside and debate the matter on the merits.
Of course, we have no such Congress. And if we have no such Congress, we have no democracy. We have a joke on democracy. And as long as the congressional majority thwarts the will and sense of the American majority, I’m afraid the joke is on us. But we have to hope it won’t be for much longer.