From his “big, fat, beautiful wall” to his travel bans, much of Donald Trump’s push to isolate America, like so much else in his program, has hit a series of ugly speed bumps. Not only won’t the Mexicans “pay” to build that much-promised wall, but even Congress is unlikely to do so, as its price tag soars by the week. Of course, much of what Trump wants to do when it comes to keeping “them” out, or throwing “them” out, has (as TomDispatch regular Aviva Chomsky writes today) already been done. Our last president wasn’t given the moniker of “deporter-in-chief” by his critics for nothing, and as for that wall, a far more sophisticated, layered version of it is already in place, complete with advanced sensors, cameras, drones, biometrics, spy towers, radar systems — much of the technology tested on America’s distant battlefields — as well as actual walls. Even if there isn’t a single old-fashioned wall along the full length of the U.S.-Mexican border, the construction of the layered “wall” that does exist began in the years of Bill Clinton’s presidency and its expansion has continued in a bipartisan fashion ever since.
And yet, even if Donald Trump never builds his wall, his attitude, whether toward Mexicans or Muslims, and the spirit of nativism and authoritarianism he’s released in those who police and bureaucratically control America’s borders, along with a bully-boy language that relies on phrases like “extreme vetting” and on demands to turn over personal passwords for electronic equipment at the border, will go a significant way toward walling this country in. Take tourism. Just the other day, Dubai’s government-owned airline, the largest in the Middle East, announced that it was significantly cutting back on its flights to the U.S. because interest among its customers had fallen radically and bookings were way down. (“The recent actions taken by the U.S. government relating to the issuance of entry visas, heightened security vetting, and restrictions on electronic devices in aircraft cabins, have had a direct impact on consumer interest and demand for air travel into the U.S.”)
But it isn’t just Mexicans and Muslims, the obvious targets of Trump’s banning efforts and other restrictive urges, who are losing their urge to travel here; it’s true, too, of Asians and Europeans. According to travel companies, interest in voyaging to America, whether for vacation or business, is down across the planet. Searches for flights to the U.S. have, for instance, dropped by 13% in Great Britain, 35% in New Zealand, and 40% in China. Twenty-nine percent of Britons recently claimed that they were far less eager to holiday in America. (Globally — go figure — only Russian interest seems to be up.) And if, as Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly has warned, the present visa-less travel from most European countries comes into question, watch out.
Already, it seems clear that tourism to the U.S. has taken a genuine hit — a drop, reports the Bureau of Economic Analysis, of 10.2% for last December, January, and February. According to Tourism Economics, 4.3 million visitors will decide not to come to the U.S. this year, a potential loss of $7.4 billion, and in 2018 those figures might rise to 6.3 million and $10.8 billion. (The “Trump slump” in tourism already underway will obviously also mean lost jobs for the jobs president.)
And don’t forget that, as with America’s wars, so with the walling in of America, there’s a distinct history here for President Trump to build on and, as Aviva Chomsky writes today, it’s a history that is remarkably, dismally bipartisan.