Former President Donald Trump’s remarks on Tuesday to a right-wing think tank in Washington were supposed to focus on “policy.” At least that what his allies said in the lead-up to the event.
The speech was Trump’s first in the city since leaving office days after encouraging an armed mob to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory on Jan. 6, 2021.
But his so-called policy address this week at the America First Policy Institute’s two-day summit took the form of just about every other Trump speech: meandering rants, a few jokes and an adolescent understanding of how government operates.
For example, one of the few policies Trump actually discussed — and, arguably, the stupidest one — may have been borrowed from a friend of his. While discussing homelessness in Washington, Trump proposed building towns of tents on the outskirts of American cities, where the unhoused would be shunted. Think of these as concentrated encampments run by the government and used to house people immorally cast out by society at large. To the history buffs out there — ringing any alarm bells?
Instantly, Trump’s tent city plan sounded familiar to me. As it turns out, that’s because it was deployed by Joe Arpaio, the disgraced former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.
Trump, you’ll remember, is a huge fan of Arpaio, who used his office to push Trump’s baseless and racist claim that then-President Barack Obama isn’t a natural-born U.S. citizen. And after being convicted on contempt charges for ignoring a judge’s order not to detain undocumented immigrants, Trump pardoned Arpaio in 2017.
As sheriff, Arpaio also created the infamous “Tent City” jail compound, an outdoor facility where incarcerated people were forced to live in tents that often reached unbearable temperatures under the Arizona sun. Arpaio himself called the setup a “concentration camp.”
And what do you know? Back in 2020, Arpaio proposed using the setup not just for people who commit crimes, but for homeless people, too.
Trump’s tent city plan isn’t just inhumane — it’s an inhumane rehash of an old idea.