When President Donald Trump announced his plan to send national guard troops to the U.S-Mexican border, it unsurprisingly garnered outrage. The New York Times called it irrational and The Washington Post accused his plan of abusing the military. I fully agree with these assessments – militarizing the border is a dangerous process, and I support any governor who says they will not send their state’s troops to the border. However, throughout all the controversy, I could not help but wonder why previous administrations weren’t criticized for similar political moves. I don’t blame younger activists (those who hadn’t graduated college at the time) for not talking about the Bush and Obama administrations. I was only nine years old when former President George W. Bush brought the national guard to the border and, of course, didn’t have any opinion on the subject. (I was brilliant at that age, but not that brilliant.) However, there seems to be a trend among some of the established political class to think that something is only bad when Trump does it.
In May 2010, former President Barack Obama deployed 1,200 members of the National Guard to the border, following the tradition of Bush, his predecessor. The only outrage in response to this came from activist groups who dedicated themselves to the plight of undocumented immigrants. This isn’t the only similarity between Trump and Obama that hasn’t garnered enough controversy, in my opinion. But because of the political polarization of our time, there is a trend among politicians and pundits to seemingly only care about bad acts if it’s the “other side” committing them.
There’s a reason why Obama was called “the Deporter in Chief.” More undocumented immigrants were deported under Obama than any other president in American history. According to Politico, deportations are lower now than they were under the Obama administration. In 2014, Obama deported 414,481 people – in comparison, there were 200,000 deportations in 2002. At the current rate of deportation, federal officials will have removed fewer people by Sept. 30 (the end of the fiscal year) than they did during the slowest years of Obama’s presidency. I’m incredibly happy that, due to this administration, people care more about deportations, but it’s important to make sure we’re against all deporters and not only those we don’t like for non-immigration reasons.
Deportations are not the only issue where both Democratic and Republican leaders (this example being between Obama and Trump) share similarities. War also follows this rule. Obama is a Nobel Peace Prize winner who, by the end of his term, was bombing seven countries. In 2016 alone, the United States dropped 26,171 bombs in foreign countries. That’s three bombs per every hour for the entire year. Trump (rightfully) gets criticism for his strategies in Syria and for continuing the war in Yemen. But that war started with Obama. Just like the Iraq war started with George W. Bush, Obama cleared through his own wars without much fight from his party, and I’m assuming that Trump will start wars for the next president. If we want to truly have peace in the world, we have to make sure that we won’t just turn the other cheek from the actions of the next Democratic president just because of their political affiliation.
I think the reason why there’s been a disparity in criticism between the administrations is that Trump has a unique personality. Trump’s biggest strength and weakness is how loud he is. There are many cases where it’s not what he’s doing that’s controversial, but the way he phrases it. For example, a U.S. president saying they’re going to be tough on North Korea is not a particularly novel occurrence. However, Trump tweeting that he’s going to rain down “fire and fury” is a unique phrase. If both lead to war, is there any meaningful difference between the two? Because Trump is such a uniquely obnoxious person, everything in the media becomes about his language rather than about his actions. Don’t be fooled. Presidents before Trump have been guilty of the same policies we give him so much shade for. To truly advocate against these policies, we need to be aware of this and push back on all politicians supporting war and deportations, not just the ones “on the other side.”
I often get asked why I’m so critical of the Democrats in the era of Trump. I always give the same answer: because the Democrats are my party. I already know that Republicans will almost always be pro-war, pro-rich and anti-immigrants. However, I don’t want to only vote for a political party because they’re not as bad as the other guy.