When You Pull Away the Onion Layers, It’s All Xenophobia

Mark Levin's astonishingly racist rant reveals all you need to know about Trump and his supporters.

by Rich Herschlag

With Trump staring down the barrel of a 12-gauge Pelosi, strange things are happening every day. Trump coughs up a self-incriminating composite written account of his phone conversation with Ukraine President Zelensky. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admits on television there was a quid pro quo. Rudy Giuliani more or less brags about his lucrative Ukraine money laundering operation. Lindsey Graham and a multitude of other sycophant Republican senators take a day off and lambaste Trump for selling out the Kurds. Rightwing militant hothead John Bolton becomes the left wing’s great white hope.

It seems the Trump Club veneer is cracking here and there. That if you put a person, a party, or a crime syndicate under enough duress the truth will occasionally pop out of one orifice or another. It is important to remember that truth is not only limited to the matter at hand. The rightwing Sodium Pentothal that is the impending impeachment is having all sorts of bizarre and revealing side effects on a very sick patient, perhaps none more dramatic than the late rally around the single core issue that has kept Donald Trump’s pathological base reasonably unified during the impeachment storm.

On Wednesday, October 30, a wellspring of rancid veracity shot out of terrestrial radio megatroll Mark Levin’s filthy mouth. Levin spent a large percentage of airtime spewing a stream of toxic waste about Daniel Horowitz’s Conservative Review article decrying non-English speakers in America. The article, based on data published by the Center for Immigration Studies, states that a record 67 million people in the U.S.—21.9 percent of the total population—speaks a foreign language at home.

Levin shared a state by state breakdown of the data as if he was reading a list of casualties at Iwo Jima. California foreign language speakers at home, 45 percent; Texas, 36 percent; New York and Nevada, 31 percent each. Of these people, 62 percent speak Spanish. The remainder is comprised mostly of Chinese speakers, with a growing proportion of several languages from India and Muslim nations. The Asian, African, and Middle East numbers have increased steadily over the last several years, with a doubling since the year 2000 in the number of—wait for it—Arabic speakers.

All this was reported as if it were lead in the water supply, a neutron bomb dropped on Memphis, or a nationwide outbreak of botulism. There was a palpable understanding between host and audience that these numbers represent a sociological atrocity and the only questions were which Democrats to blame first and how to deport the undesirables. The premises—that legal immigration is destroying the country, that it’s at an all-time high, and that a foreign language spoken at home is tantamount to terrorist encryption—were foregone conclusions unchallenged by any caller and not looked at critically for a nanosecond by the smarmy conceited ringmaster who laughably calls his sorry self “The Great One.”

But, like Rudy, Mick, Linsdey, Johnny B, and Trump himself, you have to give the Hate One credit for delivering the goods with no window dressing. When you scrape away all the fallacious, disingenuous so-called conservative policy positions and all the far-right tropes, all you are really left with is xenophobia so rabid and noxious it provided Stephen Miller with gainful employment. Quaint concerns like balanced budgets, law and order, and American accountability have been neutered, drawn and quartered, obliterated. Empty catchphrases like the swamp, the deep state, and fake news— if they ever had any meaning to begin with— are now ironies at best and odious psychological projections at worst.

For Trump Nation, xenophobia is the sine qua non of its very existence. It is the rallying cry, the bottom line, the cause, the mission, the goal, the glue. Without it, there is no Trump presidency and at most a niche Mark Levin show on satellite radio with about ten thousand incel listeners. On October 30, under pressure from walls closing in, Levin threw it out there as raw meat to the base and it was devoured before the next commercial break for LifeLock. You see, we folks with lots of anger issues and no discernible soul are under attack from sunlight, and so we from time to time tend to forget which self-evident truths about ourselves we are supposed to hide and which ones we are supposed to revel in. Woops.

Because unlike the intellectually masturbatory Levin I can’t manage to shut off my rational brain in order to sell books and pick up sheep subscribers, I spent a little time on the facts. According to the Migration Policy Institute, immigrants as a percentage of the American population peaked in 1890 at 14.8 percent. After leveling off for a few decades it declined gradually until hitting a nadir of 4.7 percent in 1970. Today, the population share of immigrants is back up to about 13.7 percent—higher than in the post-WWII era but very much in line with the more robust decades of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Where does that put Levin and his ilk on the spectrum of patriots? The restrictive immigration laws of 1921 and 1924 were intended largely to keep out central and eastern European peoples, especially Jews. The Immigration Act of 1965 abolished these quotas and others like them, effectively opening the door to the current population mix that makes the Hate One’s flesh crawl.

Ironically, this self-proclaimed great American and his listeners fear a return to a time when people like him and many of them were allowed entry in droves. Except today the wretched refuse speak Chinese, Hindi, Bengali, and Arabic. This turn of events, this nasty predilection, puts the Levin crew right on par with the white supremacists and KKK aficionados of the 1920s through post-war years. No sneaking across the southern border, or for that matter any border, is necessary for the Hate One to put a bull’s-eye on your back. He hates you no matter how you got in if you are not white and perhaps still learning English.

In professing such hatred so publicly and under what he perceives as siege, the Hate One has performed, perhaps unwittingly, yet another public service. Over the last few years, many in the center and on the left have wondered precisely what era is implicitly pined for in the jingoistic slur “Make America Great Again?” And now we know. It’s the late 1940s through early 1960s, when America was largely white and getting whiter and the biggest cultural threat was Elvis shaking his hips like a black man. Thanks, Mark. That was clarifying.

Aside from keeping our economy vibrant and population relatively young, immigrants speaking a foreign language at home tend to contribute a disproportionately high share of the GDP. One possible reason for that is revealed in a slew of recent articles citing scientific research that learning additional languages tends to enhance brain power and has even shown signs of staving off dementia. The Hate One should consider a Duolingo course in Swahili before it’s too late.

Language spoken at home is just that. The countless millions of newly settled Americans who against all odds learned to conjugate the English verb “to bring” ultimately benefited from the mental agility required to go back and forth in tongue and went on to become doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and in some cases radio talk show hosts. One of the proudest moments in my life occurred in September 1968 when my first grade teacher introduced me to a kid who had just arrived with his family from South Korea. Mrs. Foreman asked me—should she place Sungkey in the empty seat next to mine, would I take responsibility for helping him with English? It was the first time anyone ever needed me for something important, and I jumped at the opportunity.

By the end of the school year, Sungkey’s English was more polished than mine. At his seventh birthday party, I could hear his mom and dad speaking Korean in the kitchen. It didn’t make them, Sungkey, or me any less American. All it did was make Mark Levin a shameless liar and fearmonger 50 years later.

My dad and his two brothers grew up in a household where the father came home from a 12-hour day at the bakery and fell asleep reading the Yiddish paper. Yiddish and English flowed stream-of-consciousness in the apartment. As for the boys—lawyer, advertizing executive (English), commercial artist. As for us middle-aged grandchildren, the Yiddish is still present in some measure, although quite eviscerated. My own Yiddish vocabulary is probably no more than two hundred words, but one of them comes to mind each time I hear the likes of Mark Levin, and every time I read about a member of Team Trump pushing the Supreme Court to ruin the lives of almost a million DACA recipients—putz.

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