My twin (Donald Trump) and I were building a wall out of blocks in the playroom. “Let’s build a high wall,” he said, “and then go tell the gardener he has to pay for it. He’s an immigrant.”
“I like immigration,” I said.
“Then why don’t you marry it?” Donald countered.
“You already did,” I said, and we laughed and laughed. Donald doesn’t always remember he has a wife, but he never forgets that he got elected by attacking immigrants.
The first election that hinged on immigration was the Election of 1844. Immigration affected most lives far more than slavery did. As few as fifteen years earlier, the annual United States population increase from immigrants was basically 0%. By the time of the election, the United States population was growing 10% per year from an increase of immigrants.
As the immigrants poured into Ellis Island, the Democrats took one look at those people and with tears in their eyes, the Dems realized that the immigrants had something vital, something that gave them value: they could vote. As fast as you could say “lickety split,” the Democrats took immigrants directly off of the boat and naturalized them as citizens, before they even had a place to stay. In return for immediate citizenship, immigrants were encouraged to vote for Polk, early and often, which they did.
When the election was over, Democrat James Polk won the presidency. New York was the deciding state; Henry Clay would have won if he had held on to it. Clay lost by 5,000 votes out of almost a half-million, about 1%. It’s easy to find the 5,000 votes.
After the Democrats naturalized all those citizens and encouraged them to vote often, turnout in the city was 115%, which cannot be explained mathematically. The impossible turnout means there were upwards of 30,000 votes made by the “extra 15%,” people who did not exist in real life. Polk won New York City by a large margin. He needed every bit of it to win the state and, consequently, the election.
Like the Democrats of Polk’s day, Donald Trump won by realizing immigrants were people who had value. In 1844, their value was their willingness to vote often. In 2016, their value was that they could be scapegoated. So, Donald Trump is James K. Polk.