Who would have thought? Our county mayor and the British prime minister caught in the same roiling predicament. Call it the Trump dilemma.
On Friday, then again on Tuesday, angry placard-waving protestors descended on the county government center. They came to denounce Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez for capitulating to Donald Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order threatening to block federal funds earmarked for sanctuary cities.
The now familiar chant of disaffected Americans, “Not our president!” morphed into “Not our mayor!”
Poor, beleaguered Gimenez could empathize with poor, beleaguered Theresa May. On Monday, thousands of Brits took to the streets in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to protest Trump and castigate Prime Minister May for sucking up to America’s much loathed president. The Guardian reported 30,000 Londoners marched on her digs at Downing Street.
Demonstrators simultaneously filled the streets of Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Birmingham, Belfast and Devon, demanding that the prime minister rescind her invitation to the President to visit England.
Meanwhile, 1.8 million (and counting) have signed an online petition demanding that May cancel Trump’s state visit because his coming “would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.” Some 70 members of Parliament have warned that they’ll boycott Trump’s proposed address to Parliament.
Much of the British ire was in response to Trump’s executive order banning travelers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, (though many of the signs noted his boorish attitude toward women and minorities.)
May denounced the ban but refused to disinvite the Donald. She’s in a tough situation, caught between her constituency’s revulsion with Trump and cold economic reality. Britain, after the Brexit calamity, is desperate to maintain and expand the UK’s trade relationship with the United States.
Gimenez can relate. The mayor has good reason to worry that the tempestuous Trump just might cut the $300-million-plus in federal aid destined for Miami-Dade County.
True, Miami-Dade never actually declared itself a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants. But, as my colleague Douglas Hanks reported last week, back in 2013 Miami-Dade decided to no longer hold illegal immigrants in the county lock-up without a warrant or a deportation order unless the federal government agreed to reimburse the county for expenses. As sanctuary enclaves go, we were a pretty tepid joint, compared to defiant towns like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York.
Logic would indicate that those cities have a lot more to worry about than Miami-Dade. But for the narcissistic Donald Trump, all politics are personal. He still remembers how Miami-Dade rejected his overtures to take over the county-owned Crandon Park Golf Course on Key Biscayne. He remembers that Mayor Gimenez endorsed Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, even after Trump hired Gimenez’s son as a lobbyist for his Doral golf club (talk about lack of gratitude). And the president has surely not forgotten how a political committee supporting the mayor’s re-election returned his $15,000 contribution last June after Trump disparaged Mexicans as criminals and rapists.
If Trump was a normal politician, with a normal temperament, with the usual inclination toward restraint and compromise and consensus and moderation, protesters in Miami and London would be right to demand principled dissent from their respective leaders. But this is impetuous, vindictive, scorched-earth Donald Trump, who can’t forget even a petty slight.
This is the president who became outraged this week when student protesters caused the cancelation of a speech by alt-right provocateur and racial rabble-rouser Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California. Trump tweeted Thursday, “UC Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view — NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”
This is the quarrelsome president who harangued Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over the phone Saturday about an immigration agreement, then hung up on him like an angry teenager. “I don’t believe Turnbull did the wrong thing,” Graham Richardson, a leader in Australian’s opposition Labor Party, told Sky News. “I think we are just facing a normal Trump tantrum.”
This is the president who during another call with a world leader (according to the Associated Press), warned President Enrique Peña Nieto that Mexico wasn’t doing enough about “bad hombres.” He said, “You aren't doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn't, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”
Mexico, Australia, Berkeley, Miami, whatever. Trump is itching to exact retribution. Somewhere. Anywhere.
If Gimenez is worried, and world leaders are worried, Trump’s political allies must be terrified that they’re about to get sucked into the vortex. On Jan. 21, Republicans, from their perch atop a rampaging tiger, endured the largest single-day demonstration in American history, with a half-million marchers in Washington, with demonstrations in at least 400 other American cities, and similar marches in 81 other nations. They had to have noticed that anti-Trumpism has become a global phenomenon.
Last weekend, after Trump issued his travel ban, demonstrations broke out at airports across the nation, including at Miami International. Then came another spate of demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday. In South Florida, there was a major march planned for Saturday evening to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on Palm Beach. His nervous political allies can’t help but notice the unhappy amalgamation: constant protests mixed with Trump’s record-low approval ratings.
I was walking to the drugstore Wednesday evening in Fort Lauderdale and came upon the remnants of yet another demonstration, a group of pro-choice demonstrators upset by Trump’s arch-conservative pick for the Supreme Court.
It was the second street protest I had witnessed in South Florida in two days. With another set for Saturday. Maybe civic unrest, along with Trump tantrums, are the new normal..