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Trump’s demands sound new because they’re being raised outside of a historical context, says US Politics expert

Dr Ben Margulies, Research Fellow in the Politics and International Studies department comments on Donald Trump's latest demands:

"Trump’s demands sound new because they’re being raised outside of a historical context. Actually, we have a long history of excluding immigrants on ideological and racial grounds. The Chinese Exclusion Act became law in 1882; the first law barring anarchists was passed in 1903, and most 20th-century immigration law allowed excluding Communists and Communist sympathizers (usually on the grounds they advocated the violent overthrow of the government). Quite a few British citizens were denied entry as Communists.

"A lot of these immigration restrictions related to preserving the white identity of the country, reflecting the same sort of white-majority insecurity that powers Trump’s campaign. The 1924 Immigration Act coincided with the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan.

"Again, Trump has a sort of populist rhetoric with a racial tinge and an authoritarian mindset. He appeals to people who see the nation as a body or a house or some sort of homogenous bastion that needs to be protected. He conveniently isolates the threat and excludes it from the nation’s skin or body or what have you. That’s not very different from European radical-right politicians. Neither is the demand that immigrants prove their loyalty to liberal values; I’ve written about how right-wing politicians “nationalize” liberal values as a way of saying that their people are better or more evolved than the threatening other (http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2015/12/11/how-the-european-far-right-discovered-the-dark-side-of-the-liberal-tradition/). Ditto the olive branch to Putin; much of the appeal there is that Putin’s conservative, authoritarian and nationalist regime, with its muscular and masculine aspect, appeals to people who vote Trump (or Le Pen, or Alternative for Germany) as a model of the sort of politics they favour at home.

"Trump’s scheme won’t really work, and probably isn’t intended to. Imagining that there are differences between Muslims means regarding them as human equals; the idea is to exclude most of them, and probably not to trust most of the rest. The rhetoric of exclusion is more important at this stage than whatever specific bureaucratic measures Trump talks about."