The big issue of the day is immigration reform, and passing a much needed bill will require bi-partisan cooperation. And so meetings have been held, negotiations continue. In the midst of those conversations in the Oval Office, President Trump expressed frustration over a Democratic discussion of immigrants from such nations as Haiti, El Salvador, and various African nations. And the President, with that delicacy and elegance of expression that seems never to desert him said ““Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” And then suggested that we should seek more immigrants from Norway.
And the internet blew up.
As did mainstream media. I watched the coverage of this story on several networks, as well the indispensible commentary provided by late night comics. It was kind of astonishing. Over and over again, the President was condemned as racist. And that’s without euphemisms of any kind. They used the word ‘racist.’ Time and time again, commentators were calling the President himself racist. In other words, it wasn’t ‘this comment was racially insensitive,’ or something similarly anodyne. It was ‘President Donald Trump is racist.’ Clearly a line has been crossed. A decision has been made. The attitude expressed by the President cannot be normalized. It must be condemned. This President has revealed himself (obviously not for the first time) as openly racist.
Which suggests to me an opportunity. Obviously, politics is compromise. Democrats want a clean DACA bill; Republicans want more money for border security, meaning Mr. Trump’s infamous wall. And in the meeting in which the President expressed himself so intemperately, a compromise was agreed to by the 6 Senate Democrats and Republicans in a bi-partisan working group. They presented it to the President with, I think, some expectation that he would go along with their agreement; just the day before, after all, he had said ‘I’ll support whatever these people (those senators, in other words) come up with.’ But the unctous and repellent Stephen Miller (this White House’s Uriah Heep), got to him first. Trump rather famously agrees with whoever talks to him last. So. No deal. And then came this repugnant Trumpian burst of racism.
But, okay. Does not this suggest a possible window of opportunity? Because the DACA compromise bill agreed to by the bi-partisan working group was a dreadful bill. It would have ended the diversity lottery (which doesn’t let enough qualified immigrants into the country, but at least allows some), it wouldn’t have allowed immigrants to sponsor this families, plus it would have provided at least some money for the wall. So, stuff for Democrats, stuff for Republicans, usual procedure. Except they can’t pass it without 60 votes. And if you’re a Republican, and you vote against, say, a clean DACA bill, aren’t you aligning yourself with this toxically unpopular President? On this issue? Not sure I’d want to run for re-election with that baggage.
Anyway, let’s admit this; there are some mighty screwed up nations on earth. It’s unkind and unfair to call them what POTUS called them, but I also wouldn’t particularly want to live there. The term of art is ‘failed states,’ and there are a few around the world: Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria. Do we want immigrants from those countries? Aren’t they likely to be (gasp) terrorists?
Here’s a working definition for a functioning state: its government has a monopoly on the applied use of violence. In the United States, if you decide to kill someone, you will be arrested, tried, convicted and imprisoned. The state reserves to itself that right. And since we get to vote for the people who run our country, we want it that way. We want to watch the constabulary like hawks, but we also want them to exist and to do their jobs.
The failed states I mentioned above are all embroiled in horrific civil wars, and all lack a central, respected state authority. And yes, they’re all havens for terrorism. (Have you noticed: terrorists come from screwed up places?) But their people want the same things most people want. They want their families to be safe. They want their kids to get educations, and to have opportunities. Can you even imagine how hard it is to escape a war zone? Can you imagine how much courage and determination it takes to get your kids out of a dangerous neighborhood, to find a refugee camp, to escape roving violent gangs, to find some kind of refuge anywhere?
Those are the people we want in our country, Mr. President. We want people who work hard, who are dedicated to their families, who are willing to sacrifice for the sake of their children. We want people like my grandfather, with his third grade education and indomitable work ethic. He was a highly intelligent man (best chess player I ever met), who never had the opportunity for success he desperately wanted for his children.
We want people from Haiti. We want people from Syria. We want people from Libya. We want Somalis. We want people from failed states, frankly. This isn’t liberal weenie moralizing. I mean, yes, it’s also the right thing to do, to accept into our country, the richest in the history of the world, impoverished children and their parents. We should do it because it’s right. But. Mr. President, if you genuinely want to put America first, fine. Accept more people from shithole countries. They’ve already demonstrated their courage and determination and creativity. That’s exactly who we want.
And just between the two of us, Mr. President, you absolutely don’t want more immigrants from Norway. You’re a conservative Republican. Norwegians are used to living in a country with socialized medicine and free college tuition. You don’t want Norwegians, because they’ll all vote for Democrats.