Sen. Chris Van Hollen Asserts that Trump “Exploited and Brought to Light” Nation’s Divide

Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Shibley Telhami discuss issues related to the political climate of the country at the Anwar Sadat Forum. Photo: Cameron Jackson

Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Shibley Telhami discuss issues related to the political climate of the country at the Anwar Sadat Forum. Photo: Cameron Jackson

On  Thursday, Sept. 28 Senator Chris Van Hollen spoke at the Anwar Sadat Forum on issues plaguing the nation. President Trump was the main topic of conversation in relation to the bipartisan division of social and political issues.

Dr. Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, sat down with Sen. Van Hollen to converse on very prominent issues.

The first topic of conversation was the deep divide this country is facing. Telhami said that he has, “never seen the kind of divide we now see on almost every major issue.”

Sen. Van Hollen expressed that these divides have always been there, but Trump’s presidency really exploited them and brought them to light. He said, “…you do have a president who ran a campaign, for president, in a very divisive way.”

He goes on to note how President Trump began his campaign: by calling Mexicans rapists. In some ways, Trump may be creating this divide on purpose; the Senator said that it is, “…a deliberate, calculated effort because it helps sure up the base.” By creating this divide, it is evident who Trump’s supporters are.

According to Dr. Telhami, the biggest divide this country is facing is about the travel ban. 90 percent of republicans support it, 90 percent of democrats don’t support it, and independents are divided in half on the issue.

Sen. Van Hollen believes that the travel ban is counterproductive as it has given ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq, a reason for recruitment. He reassures us that even if the ban doesn’t get overturned by the Supreme Court, congress can choose not to fund it. Safety is a huge concern this country has had to face and the travel ban along with the building of a wall are both bad ideas. Sen. Van Hollen stated that he was in favor for stronger national security, but building a wall is a complete waste of money.

He also makes a very interesting point about the so-called “supporters” of the ban. Many republican politicians actually oppose the ban but refuse to speak out about it, in fear of losing support from their home constituents.

In other critiques of Donald Trump, Sen. Van Hollen said, “…he is all about what he thinks is best for Donald Trump… he is much more willing to throw his party under the bus if he thinks it’s convenient for him…”

The senator disclaims that to a degree, all presidents look out for their own self-interest but not to the extent of Trump. He mentions the Affordable Care Act’s status in congress as an example. Republicans have been pushing this repeal back further and further, and Trump, a republican, has criticized them deeply for it.

The question then arises of why Trump. How did he become president with his unpopular opinions?

Middle class America and a broken economy. Sen. Van Hollen uses the analogy of an escalator to show his point. He paints the picture of an escalator going down and people aggressively trying to run up it. The middle class is working hard yet going nowhere.

Sen. Van Hollen said that Trump was able to relate with the working class on issues concerning jobs and income. The lack of economic mobility, “has led to very deep seated and understandable frustration…Donald Trump was able to punch through on that issue,” he said..

Sen. Chris Van Hollen delved into social issues including systemic racism, police brutality, unequal education systems, income inequality and wealth inequality. He stated that systemic racism leads to police brutality and disparities within the African American community.

To fix this issue, Sen. Van Hollen suggests better community policing, better police training, more transparency and more cameras on officers. He also stated that education should be equal with after school programs available for anyone who needs them.

These issues can all potentially be fixed but “when you have a president who is trying to exploit and deepen these differences for political purposes” progression is harder,  Van Hollen said.

Sen. Van Hollen claims that Trump is the reason for the spike in hate crimes but not to give up.  “We’ve come a long way, but we got a long way to go,” he said.