David Brooks of the New York Times is dismayed at the rise of Donald Trump. But in Friday's column, Brooks once again acknowledges that Trump has brought attention to the fact that "people across America have been falling through the cracks." Writes Brooks, "Trump to his credit, made them visible."
Today, as I was looking at notes from a reporting trip to Arizona exactly a decade ago — in April 2006 — I saw a letter to the editor of the Arizona Republic that was written by one of the Americans Brooks now promises to seek out and report on. It was written by Linda Cropper of Mesa. She began by rejecting the notion that she was racist because she was upset at the influx of illegal immigration. Her letter is worth reading. Here is how she continued:
I'm just upset that no one in the government seems to care that our country is being overrun by a huge population of people that no one knows or can keep track of. They can disappear into our country and either work (or the scary part) commit crimes. Why am I a racist because I am scared? The media say, "But they only want to work to feed their families." I also want to work to feed my family, but most important to me is that my family is safe. I think those who can make over $40,000 a year don't realize how much it affects the working poor. My husband is a construction worker. He goes to a job site to work and has to compete with a person who will accept $6 an hour. My husband now has to work two jobs. ... I am frustrated by the system and I know that the government at all levels (local and federal) has failed the American people. If I am a racist for feeling this way, then so be it, I'm a racist.
As David Brooks has acknowledged, reporters need to listen to people like the Croppers. Donald Trump has listened. That, in large part, explains why he is doing so well. Trump is a badly flawed presidential candidate. But he knows some things that many reporters do not. His candidacy is a reflection of several problems in our country. Poor reporting on immigration — often flawed by class bias, ignorance, and elitist arrogance — is one of them.