“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” These are the famous words of Franklin D. Roosevelt during his 1933 inaugural address. They spoke volumes when first delivered, but they’re even more relevant today. The presidential race of 2016 became a new take on an old argument—Whom should Americans fear now? Donald Trump was at the center of this with roughly half the nation viewing him as the problem and the other half seeing him as the solution. The rise of Donald Trump is due to America’s fear of the unknown and more particularly the fear that outsiders will ruin the great American way of life. But if America is so great, why is it so scared?
The fear of immigrants and refugees isn’t new; in fact, America has a record of overall disdain for these groups. During the late 19th century, America developed a fear of the Chinese. In an unsteady economy, Americans living on the west coast especially were quick to blame job losses on this group. In response, Congress passed The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to protect native-born Americans from Chinese laborers who had the potential to “affect the interests” and “endanger the good order” of the United States. This was the first significant law restricting immigration to the United States. Even though Chinese immigrants only made up .002% of the nation’s population at the time, Congress passed the act to quell the fears of the American people. This isn’t the only time America has turned its back on immigrants….
When it comes to illegal immigrants in the U.S. today, Trump has said, “We will build a great wall along the southern border. And Mexico will pay for the wall.” This is a man promising a real, tangible barrier between the U.S. and Mexico. This along with his other promises have persuaded the minds of the American people. When fear kicks in, people are willing to follow whatever stokes it. In this case, it is Donald Trump.
On September 11th, 2001, a terrorist attack occurred on American soil. People from around the world watched as the twin towers collapsed into rubble and smoke, but when those towers fell so did America’s trust in Muslims. In 2000, a Gallup poll revealed that only 24% of Americans were either very or somewhat worried about someone they knew being a victim of a terrorist attack. The number jumped to 58% after the 9/11 attacks and then shrunk over time, but in 2015 Gallup showed that fear was on the rise with 51% of people saying they fear for their own or someone else’s safety. This fear was a key component in Trump’s victory. At one of his rallies he promised a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” comparing his plan to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II….
Even Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America great again” sparks fear that America isn’t great already. Trump has managed to win over millions of American voters who say they love their country, a country founded on the idea of freedom and which was built by immigrants. By keeping Americans scared, Trump can continue to rule through fear.