It’s hard to be more Never Trump than David Frum, who has been trying to shake liberals out of their sentimental coma about migration for years. He sounds like he’s pulling his hair out over the caravan. Excerpt:
Trump’s election owes something to the surge across the U.S.’s southern border in the summer of 2014. Tens of thousands of women and children crossed the border in only a few weeks. Many of those who entered in 2014 remain in the United States to this day, even after their cases have been negatively adjudicated, because they have disregarded their removal orders and vanished into the vast U.S. population of unauthorized immigrants.
The strong U.S. job market is again attracting low-wage workers. After a dip in 2017, illegal crossings of the southern border in 2018 have returned to their levels of 2016—and are running well ahead of 2015. If the thousands of people in the caravan successfully cross the border, lodge asylum claims, and are released into the U.S. interior pending adjudication, many more seem likely to follow.
For Trump’s opponents, the caravan represents a trap. Has Trump’s radical nativism so counter-radicalized them that they have internalized the caravan message against any border enforcement at all? If yes, they will not help immigrants. They will only marginalize themselves—and American politics will follow the European path in which anti-immigration parties of the extreme right cannibalize the political center.
If liberals insist that only fascists will defend borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals will not do. I’ve been pounding the drum for this warning since the European migration crisis accelerated in 2013. The warning holds as true as ever—and now it’s coming home.
It’s politically insane that so many Democrats and liberals cannot bring themselves to condemn the idea that America’s borders should be wide open to anybody who wants to come here. Another Never Trump stalwart, David Brooks, wrote today about how screwed up Democrats are in this cultural climate:
Democrats still seem likely to win the House, because Trump is so effective at driving away voters. But Democrats are blowing the political opportunity of a lifetime. They seem to be getting little traction in red states and now may end up losing ground in the Senate. Instead of drawing disaffected voters away from the G.O.P., they seem to be pushing Republicans back to Trump.
It has now become evident that Republicans are better at politicizing cultural issues and Democrats are better at offering economic benefits to those who are struggling. If you think voting behavior is primarily motivated by material appeals, the Democratic strategy is fine. But if you think it’s motivated by cultural identity, a desire for respect, a sense of what’s right, loyalty to a common story, the Democratic strategy leaves a lot to be desired.
These days, culture is more important than economics.
Seven thousand people are marching towards the US border, expecting to cross it because they want a better life — and the Democratic Party can’t figure out what to say about it. David Leonhardt of the NYT is frustrated with them:
For the most part, Democrats have tried to avoid the issue. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leaders in Congress, have essentially urged their colleagues to ignore it. “The president is desperate to change the subject from health care to immigration because he knows that health care is the number one issue Americans care about,” they said in a statement over the weekend. “Democrats are focused like a laser on health care and will not be diverted.”
This strikes me as wishful thinking. The caravan is a huge story. It led the NBC Nightly News broadcast yesterday, to take one example. Politicians in the final two weeks of a campaign can’t persuade people to ignore a huge story.
The smarter approach for Democrats would be a few simple statements of the obvious, meant to display both realism and decency, along the lines of: This is a country of laws. We are not going to admit thousands of undocumented immigrants traveling in a caravan. We do not have open borders. But we are and have always been a country of compassion as well, and we are working with Mexican authorities to protect the safety of these men, women and children.
The problem with ignoring the issue is that it plays into the Republicans’ midterm strategy. It makes Democrats sound squishy and insecure on immigration. It makes it sound as if Democrats aren’t really sure whether they believe that this country should have immigration laws.
Well, do they? Look, of course Trump is demagoguing, but he’s not wrong about how soft the Democrats are on this fundamental issue.
Similarly, it took the Senate Democrats and their media allies savaging Brett Kavanaugh to wake up Republicans and independent conservatives to the reality that the Democratic Party is so sold out to identity politics that it would eagerly trash due process if the accused is a white male. The Republicans did not make the Democrats do that, any more than they’re making the Democrats whiff on the caravan. That’s who the Democrats are in 2018. They cannot or will not take a strong stand on what ought to be a fairly easy issue: that America has the right to control its borders.
In the closing stretch of the 2018 campaign, the question is no longer the size of the Democratic wave. It’s whether there will be a wave at all.
Top operatives in both political parties concede that Democrats’ narrow path to the Senate majority has essentially disappeared, a casualty of surging Republican enthusiasm across GOP strongholds. At the same time, leading Democrats now fear the battle for the House majority will be decided by just a handful of seats.
UPDATE: Reader Jonah R.:
I’ve told this story here before. I live in a bright blue county that’s a “sanctuary” for illegal immigrants in all but name. Our property taxes have risen 8% to pay for English language classes. We’re paying million for new programs for gang interdiction. Our schools are overcrowded (and have a police presence many of them didn’t used to have), our social services resources are being pushed to the limit, and basic, important citizen services are not happening because so much money is being shunted toward programs for illegal immigrants—but in public, no one can admit this has become a problem, or else you’re called a racist. Earlier this year our local government was going to spend taxpayer money on free lawyers for illegal immigrants, and the leadership was stunned that anyone objected! Many of the objections were, it turned out, from the many legal immigrants in the area.
If property taxes keep going up to fund stuff for illegal immigrants, my wife and I won’t be able to afford to retire in our own community and the home we love. We’ll have to move. It’s already mucho expensivo here. It’s not that we’ll have to make the choice many retirees make after working for a lifetime; it’s that we will have no choice.
I lean conservative, but I’m probably more liberal on immigration than the Democrats were just 15 years ago. I work with a church program that helps (among others) illegal immigrants. I’ve met many good people, and I’m sympathetic to their plight.
But in a couple weeks, I’ll be voting for every Republican I can identify on the ballot. The Republicans are hopeless and I don’t expect them to do anything…but how else can I be heard except at the ballot box? My community, at least, can’t absorb any more illegal immigrants! If it accomplishes nothing else, maybe my vote can help move the window of discussion so my community can at least discuss our economic and social situation honestly. It shouldn’t be verboten (or considered “anti-immigrant,” or nationalist) to acknowledge the perfectly factual down sides of keeping the doors wide open.