Donald Trump launched his California campaign with a riot last week.
In Orange County Thursday, thousands of demonstrators — the vast majority of them Hispanic — held a “Fuck Trump” rally outside of Trump’s first campaign event in the Golden State.
Brandishing Mexican flags and signs bearing language unfit for primetime television, activists were whipped into a violent fury over the mere idea of The Donald speaking in southern California. They assaulted Trump supporters, threw rocks at police and destroyed a few cop cars. (RELATED: Anti-Trump Protesters Smash Police Cars, Stop Traffic At California Rally)
On Friday, protesters flying the Mexican flag once again surrounded the location of the California Republican Convention and prevented Trump from entering via normal means. He had to walk through an out-of-the-way back entrance to deliver his speech, all while the cameras caught him climbing over a barricade to accomplish his task. (RELATED: Trump Shows Remarkable Feat Of Athleticism To Enter California Speech)
Throughout the primary season, Trump has attracted a wide array of opponents to his campaign. Protester disruptions are an expected occurrence at Trump rallies, and common culprits include Black Lives Matter and Muslim activists. The Republican front-runner’s attempt to host a March rally in Chicago ended in a riotous tumult similar to this week’s activities. Except, in the case of Chicago, the media tried to pin the blame entirely on Trump and his supporters.
With all the aggression clearly on the anti-Trump side in California, there’s little of that response this time around.
Arguably, the most important thing to take from the California unrest is not that it is beyond the shadow of a doubt the fault of the protesters for the violence — its the fact they rallied around the Mexican flag.
Immigration has served as Trump’s core issue this election cycle. His hardline stances on securing the border, deporting illegals and restricting immigration have drawn the predictable condemnation that his proposals are “un-American.” The opposing argument says there is nothing more American than immigration (“just ask Emma Lazarus!”) and all recent arrivals want to enmesh themselves in their new nationality.
As Paul Ryan declared in March, America is a nation founded on an idea, not an identity. Thus, everyone here should be a proud American since it requires nothing more than a belief in the idea that success is available to all. (RELATED: Dear Paul Ryan: America Was Actually Founded On An Identity)
So why then are all the proud immigrants protesting Trump displaying Mexican flags instead of American flags? Shouldn’t they be trying to say that they’re Americans too in their demonstrations?
Of course, the logical path is not always the one chosen by outraged activists. Hispanic leaders recognized the violence and Mexican flag parading were not helpful to their cause — that’s why they blamed Trump for the chaos since he didn’t give them ample time to organize a “peaceful” demonstration.
But the resulting protest showed a more honest side to many within the pro-immigration movement. Brandishing Mexican flags and burning American flags sends a clear message as to which national identity the demonstrators prefer.
It’s worth noting that the vast majority of the California demonstrators were young people, an ominous sign that the children of immigrants aren’t assimilating into America’s national fabric. Rather, they are keeping alive their allegiance to the country only a few miles to the south.
A testament to the dramatic decline of America’s ability to assimilate recent migrants, for sure. However, the California demonstrations repudiate the notion that the American national character of abstraction can inspire new arrivals. Obviously, these anti-Trump protesters enjoy all the opportunities afforded by living in this country. They don’t appear to take issue with the American way of life; otherwise, they’d be back in Mexico.
But they do favor Mexican national identity over American national identity. To them, it represents their family, their heritage and their history. America is just a place where they make money.
As is always the case outside of libertarian theories, culture trumps economic concerns when it comes to issues of the heart. America as a nation-state, apparently, inspires no feelings of loyalty or attachment among these activists.
And it’s not like you can blame Trump for this alienation. There’s been multiple instances of Mexican immigrants expressing their preferred national identity within the confines of the United States.
In 1998 and 2011, Mexican immigrants booed the national anthem during soccer matches between the U.S. and Mexico Men’s soccer teams — that took place in the U.S. During the 2006-07 legislative debate over granting amnesty to illegal aliens, supporters of the proposal marched through several American cities proudly waving Mexican flags with hardly any American ones in sight.
It should be a disturbing sight to see these kinds of demonstrations in our cities, but maybe we should expect them when our elites offer new arrivals a national character that is nothing more than a celebration of economic opportunity. Everyone believes in that, and it’s not particularly unique to the American experience. More importantly, it is not enough to bind the citizenry together in unity.
Fortunately, America does have a national identity that is more than an abstraction. It’s just that our historical Anglo character is no longer in vogue among our elites and they’d rather think our country was formed out of thin air.
As indicated by the displays at the anti-Trump riots, people will always choose the identity that can win over their heart. And it wasn’t “America as an idea,” which seems to only make D.C. policy wonks swoon.
In the short-term, the riots will likely bolster Trump’s appeal. In the long-term, it portends to a future where millions of young people think of America with contempt as they cling to their native land and culture.
Imagine our national unity in a country like that.