[In the Lone Star State, a preview of the political battle to
come.] [https://portside.org/] 

 SHOWDOWN IN EL PASO: TRUMP AND BETO’S DUELING RALLIES AND THE
UNCERTAIN FUTURE OF THE WALL  
[https://portside.org/2019-02-12/showdown-el-paso-trump-and-betos-dueling-rallies-and-uncertain-future-wall]


 

 Ruth Coniff 
 February 12, 2019
The Progressive
[https://progressive.org/dispatches/el-paso-trump-and-betos-dueling-rallies-border-wall-conniff-19212/]


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 _ In the Lone Star State, a preview of the political battle to come.
_ 

 , 

 

On Monday night, while Donald Trump was holding his campaign rally at
the El Paso County stadium to tout his plan for a border wall, about
7,000 citizens in the diverse, Democratic-leaning city marched in the
streets, holding an ebullient celebration of the diversity, cultural
richness, and, yes, safety, of their border town.

Former Congressman and progressive rock star Beto O’Rourke made a
speech at the end of the march, which CBS broadcast live, apparently
straight from someone’s shaky iPhone camera. O’Rourke extolled the
virtues of his diverse community and denounced the cruelty and
senselessness of the Trump Administration’s attacks on migrants and
refugees.

“In El Paso, we are secure because we treat one another with dignity
and respect,” O’Rourke said at the event. “We know that walls do
not save lives. Walls end lives.”

The dueling events set up the political battle for the coming campaign
season.

The O’Rourke rally was clearly a grassroots event. Despite the
breathless TV coverage by reporters who caught up with him during the
march to ask about his 2020 presidential ambitions, the handmade signs
and linked arms made it clear that this was not a ready-for-prime-time
campaign spectacle.

Trump’s speech, in contrast, was carefully choreographed, complete
with treacly intro music (“Proud to be an American”), a
diverse-looking group of cheering supporters visible behind the stage,
and a podium bearing the presidential seal. Still, some of the
unpredictable energy of the streets crept into the El Paso County
stadium as well. Protesters repeatedly interrupted the President, who
looked unnerved as he waited long minutes to resume his speech.

The speech itself was a bit of a bust. After all the build-up about
taking a stand on the border, Trump merely delivered a rehash of the
State of the Union, along with a few plaudits for himself, his
approval ratings, his amazing diplomacy with North Korea (“some day
they’re going to appreciate us”), some quickly refuted
[https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/the-latest-orourke-leads-march-ahead-of-trump-visit/2019/02/11/ab065148-2e64-11e9-8781-763619f12cb4_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0257fff2a2f0]claims
about the crowd size at his event versus the counter-rally.

News about an “agreement in principle
[https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/top-lawmakers-meet-to-revive-stalled-border-talks-with-shutdown-days-away/2019/02/11/3cd0fc1a-2dff-11e9-813a-0ab2f17e305b_story.html?utm_term=.ec35ebdb0bde]”
between the White House and Democrats, which would avert a government
shutdown before the deadline on Friday by giving Trump about one-fifth
of the money he requested for expanding fencing on the border, and
limit detention beds in ICE facilities, might have taken some of the
wind out of Trump’s sails.

He was well into the speech before he even mentioned immigration.
Trump attacked the “fake news” media for fact-checking
[https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/06/19/two-charts-demolish-the-notion-that-immigrants-here-illegally-commit-more-crime/]
his claims about violent criminals pouring across the border. And he
declared the Republican mayor of El Paso “full of crap” for
denying
[https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/11/politics/el-paso-mayor-trump-cnntv/index.html]
that his city was a cesspool of crime before the border wall went up
to keep the Mexicans out.

He doubled down on his lurid claims that immigrants are responsible
for thousands of rapes, murders, kidnappings, and drug crimes, and
boldly told the citizens of El Paso that their own city is far more
dangerous than the mainstream media, local officials, or even their
own experience tells them.

The Trump supporters in the stadium went along with it.

After all, as Trump explained, rich liberals who favor open borders
are hypocrites who “live their entire lives behind walls and gates
and have guards all over the place. Me, too,” he added. “I want to
be safe. And I want to make America safe, if you don’t mind.”

The crowd cheered.

Maybe the Trump supporters in the stadium also live in gated
communities, and have an exaggerated notion of how dangerous their
city really is. But the rest of El Paso, and the rest of America, does
not seem to be persuaded by Trump’s demagoguery.

According to recent Pew research
[http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/16/how-americans-see-illegal-immigration-the-border-wall-and-political-compromise/],
a majority of Americans still oppose substantially expanding the wall
on the U.S.-Mexico border. And the closer to the border people live,
the less likely they are to support the wall.

As Trump struggled to regain control during multiple interruptions in
his speech, and as marchers in El Paso jammed the streets chanting
“no more lies!” it began to look as though reality was creeping up
on Fort Trump.

The crowd chanted “USA! USA!” to drown out the disruptions, but by
the third time, Trump looked shaken. He may go home to declare victory
in his diminished deal with the Democrats. Or he may double down on
the phony border crisis—clearly his campaign theme for 2020—and
shut down the government.

Either way, the wolves are at the gates. Chants of “USA! USA!” and
“fake news!” can only keep them out for so long.

 Ruth Conniff [https://progressive.org/topics/ruth-conniff/]
Editor-at-large for The Progressive magazine.

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