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De-Trumping America: A few lessons from my ride with Muhammad

Donald Trump cartoonThe Uber driver—let’s call him Muhammad—was from Afghanistan.

“So,” I asked, “how do you feel about Donald Trump?”

I wasn’t going to take anything for granted.

The Aryan in the White House might not like Muhammad’s skin color and his probable Muslim faith. But earlier I’d run across a religious African immigrant who cherished Trump for—gasp—the President’s professions of piety.

“I love him,” Muhammad said of Trump without the least irony. “He plays by the rules. He’s President, he’s strong and he puts America first.”

“Do you know about Trump’s days in New York?” I asked. “He stiffed a lot of working people. Craftsmen, carpenters, painters, others. He just didn’t pay them.” So allege countless lawsuits, at least. In fact, as shown by the filing of at least sixty suits as of two years ago, the problem has gone far beyond New York. Trump at times has even refused to pay his lawyers. See USA Today.

“No,” Muhammad said.

“Where do get your news?” I asked

“Fox,” he said.

“Where else?”

“Nowhere.”

“You don’t read the newspapers?”

Muhammad said he didn’t.

I gently suggested that Muhammad read the Washington Post and at least consider tuning in MSNBC. CNN-watching might also help.

Now—here’s the kicker. Muhammad is no dummy. He says he’s an IT student at a Maryland university. And guess what he did for U.S. forces in Afghanistan? He analyzed news stories in the local media.

“You don’t have to believe the Post and MSNBC automatically,” I said. “Just try comparing different news sources against the others and seeing who’s right. Pretend you’re back in Afghanistan analyzing stories there.”

Likewise frustrating is that Muhammad isn’t isolated in a rural hamlet. He lives in a Maryland suburb.

As if that isn’t enough, Trump’s record on immigration from Afghanistan is hardly sterling, even in regard to locals like Muhammad who helped the U.S.

Perhaps Muhammad thought I was a well-connected Trumpist or at least one with ICE friends. But that explanation seems rather far-fetched.

So what can Democrats and others learn from my ride with Muhammad?

1. Yes, nonHispanic whites will be a minority in America by mid-century, but one should never take demographics for granted. Muhammad’s political views certainly didn’t fit the stereotypes.

Democrats shouldn’t just make nice noises about diversity. Campaigning, they should try harder in immigrant communities while remembering that although ethnic identity is important, it is far from the only show—whether the immigrants are Afghans or otherwise.

Running for re-election in Texas, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz carried more Hispanic voters than expected, and likely not just because Cruz’s father came from Cuba. Many Hispanics are socially conservative and may hate abortion enough for such sentiments to count even more than immigration matters do.

The Democrats shouldn’t sell out on issues like abortion just to appeal to immigrants and others, but again and again, they can emphasize how anti-family are Trump and the Republicans—on matters ranging from healthcare to childhood nutrition, maternal leave and minimum wages and tax policies.

Even more important, they can come up with better alternatives. This approach worked well in the last election in regard to healthcare. It needs to be expanded.

2. Encourage immigrants and others to watch, listen to and read major media outlets without Fox-style ideological agendas—and otherwise gain a better understanding of the issues.

Civics education in K-12 is a praiseworthy cause but can go only so far. Muhammad is already a voting-age U.S. citizen.

Meaningful U.S. history courses should be required of IT and other technical students like Muhammad, even in college. Let’s think of tech types as citizens, too, not just future workers. Just like liberal arts majors, many will vote.

3. Regardless of advice to the contrary, Democrats can zero in on Donald Trump’s flaws as an individual—in germane ways. Notice how Muhammad thought Trump played by the rules? Muhammad didn’t even know Trump had stiffed carpenters and painters. You won’t hear news like that on right-wing outlets as often as elsewhere. Generalities will go only so far, but specifics could help—including facts about Trump’s use of immigrants without proper papers on his private properties.

Note: I’ve changed minor details here and there to protect Muhammad’s identity.

Image credit: Donald Trump cartoon from Pixabay. Creative Commons licensed.

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