ANALYSIS: What caravan? Donald Trump has already forgotten about the crisis he created
To hear President Donald Trump tell it, the United States was on the cusp of a national emergency.
A caravan of migrants from Central America was streaming toward the U.S., full of “unknown Middle Easterners,” and “many gang members.”
The president called it “an army,” and “an invasion,” and threatened that the migrants would be “shot” if they threw rocks at the thousands of U.S. troops he deployed to stop them.
Trump never offered any proof to back his hyperbolic claims, but the rhetoric reached a fever pitch just in time for the midterm elections.
“The migrants are coming to get you,” effectively became the president’s closing argument to voters, punctuated by an anti-immigration TV ad that was pulled off the air for being too racist.
The pro-Trump media ecosystem helped amplify that message.
According to an analysis by the watchdog group Media Matters, Fox News spent more than 33 hours discussing the caravan ahead of Election Day.
But a funny thing happened as soon as the voting was over: the caravan kept marching north, but talk of it disappeared.
WATCH: Migrant caravan begins final trek towards Tijuana on buses
On Nov. 7, the day after the election, Fox News went from being consumed by the caravan to not mentioning it at all. On Nov. 8, it spent less than five minutes on the subject, according to Media Matters.
And the president? Well, he stopped talking about it altogether.
Trump has not tweeted about the caravan once since the election, tweeting only about a proclamation that bars people who enter the U.S. illegally from claiming asylum.
“I’ve never before seen an American president, after going all over the country about this national crisis, then the day after an election shrug,” said a presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, to the New York Times.
Even before the election, it was widely accepted that Trump was playing up the migrant caravan for political purposes. His base may have bought it, while his opponents saw right through it.
A democratic pollster reported that his exit polling found 55 per cent of voters “said Trump and the GOP were ‘playing politics,’” over the caravan, while 40 per cent said Trump acted out of “genuine concern.”
By falling silent, Trump has just proven the majority of voters right, signalling that this is not the crisis he claimed it to be.
If this was a full-blown threat to the nation eight days ago, when the caravan was still more than 1,000 kilometres away from the border, how is it any less of a threat today, when the first wave of migrants has reached Tijuana, Mexico?
One might expect that a real emergency would still command the President’s attention — but this issue was always political.
While the talk has disappeared, the response to this Trumped-up threat remains in full swing.
Today, 5,900 U.S. troops are actively deployed along the southwest border, on the president’s orders.
WATCH BELOW: Troops at border prepare for arrival of caravan
“I do not anticipate military personnel coming into direct contact with migrants,” said U.S. defence secretary James Mattis as he travelled to visit the troops in Texas.
They spent the Veterans Day long weekend away from their families, and will likely still be there for American Thanksgiving. They do not receive extra combat pay or hostile fire pay. There have been early reports of heat exhaustion, in the desert camps that have no electricity or air conditioning.
There are fears about what a forgotten, politically-motivated mission could do to troop morale.
Politically, Trump’s fear-driven strategy seems to have been all for nothing.
While immigration may have scared his base into voting, it also motivated Trump’s opponents to act on their distaste for him.
Democrats made major gains in the house and in state legislatures, while largely holding their own in tough Senate races.
Suddenly, the issue that Trump just couldn’t let go, is almost entirely gone from public view.
Jackson Proskow is Washington Bureau Chief for Global National.
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