If at First You Can’t Explain; Try, Try Again

Mark Olmsted
6 min readFeb 6, 2018

This recent article from the Washington Post about how much more bothered white Republicans are when they hear a foreign language in public was very in line with this piece I wrote last year.

In 2016, I thought there was no way voters wouldn’t reward the party that pulled us out of the Great Recession. I truly believed that the reminder-motto of the first Clinton campaign, “It’s the economy, stupid,” would apply just as much, perhaps even more, when times were booming. But instead voters punished the candidate who promised to continue the very policies of a very popular President in favor of a megalomaniacal and incoherent carnival-barker. They chose stupid, quite literally, over the economy. Why?

I’ve come up with a host of competing theories this past year to explain the Trumpectorate’s irrationality, and after the past few months, I’ve finally concluded the only explanation that eclipses all the others centers on immigration. It crops up more consistently than any other topic during those interviews in the heartland conducted by intrepid European reporters (particularly the French) trying to explain to mystified viewers back home how exactly les Etats-Unis went batshit fou. In my opinion, the claims from these voters that immigrants take jobs from Americans or terrorize our streets are straw men — narrative tropes to make the wall-cheerers feel that they are only reacting rationally to a real threat. Any easily googleable study will confirm that the immigrants add far more to the economy than they subtract, contributing markedly to the very prosperity of those who are denouncing them. In fact, this general understanding was so well accepted in 1986 that Ronald Reagan, a saint to the Conservative movement, suffered no discernible political blowback from granting amnesty to millions of undocumented.

Back then, however, immigrants — both legal and illegal — hadn’t spread in significant numbers to red-state America. Now they are not only found in every corner of the country, but also in high enough concentrations that it is common to see an entire district of Latino-owned businesses in a small city where even a decade ago, there might have been a sole Mexican restaurant, if that. Given the fact these Hispanic residents are as overwhelmingly employed and law-abiding as they were three decades ago…

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Mark Olmsted

Author, "Ink from the Pen: A Prison Memoir" about my time behind bars. See GQ dot com “Curious Cons of the Man Who Wouldn’t Die” for story of how I got there.