Trumping the Immigration Issue

Regular readers of this publication are by now aware that we are not at all enthusiastic about Donald Trump or his presidential campaign, but we will give him credit for a salutary effect on the ongoing debate about illegal immigration. It was typically Trumpish braggadocio for him to say in that widely watched debate that no one would be talking about the issue if not for him, a claim easily disproved by our own frequent rants about the matter starting long before he announced his presidency and all the way back to when he was taking the opposite side of the debate, but he does seem to have broadly expanded the parameters of what a politician can say without committing career suicide.
Not so very long ago, at least as recently as the last presidential election, all the smart set insisted that any serious Republican effort to stem the immigrant tribe would surely cause the party’s demise. Any attempt at mass deportations or other form of serious enforcement of current immigration law would lead to so many mass media sob stories about families torn asunder by a xenophobic zeal that no person worried about his reputation would tolerate it, that a variety of well-heeled industries ranging from agriculture to hotels and restaurants to whatever those guys who gather down at the Home Depot parking lot every day are doing would exert their influence, and that the more ethnically diverse America that would surely result would forever banish those old white Republicans from the nation’s politics.
Such otherwise more or less reliably Republican types as President George W. Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio are still saying the same thing, and the Wall Street Journal and other putatively conservative media with a predisposition to agriculture and hotels and restaurants and the rest of the business interests that are hauling pickup trucks full of those in the Home Depot parking lot were of course espousing the same line, and the few hard-liners were so exquisitely careful about how they talked about deportation and border enforcement, and when you threw in in the unanimous opinion of the liberal bien pensant it really did seem that you just couldn’t say anything else. Even at the time it struck us as odd, given that all the scientific opinion polls confirmed our unscientific anecdotal experience that most of Americans of all hues were dissatisfied with the currently unprecedented levels of illegal and legal immigration, and that the dissatisfaction also crossed partisan and ideological and socio-economic categories, so it all reminded us of the numerous liberal friends who have assured us that no watches Fox News, despite the ratings that show more people watch Fox News than the other news channels combined.
Trump, we must concede, has proved our point. He’s taking the hard-headed if hard-hearted stand that those families can stay together but only in the countries where they’re legally allowed, stated the obvious fact that a nation without borders and laws is no longer a nation, seemingly accepted that lettuce and hail insurance and the chocolate on your pillow at one of Trump’s fancy hotels will be slightly be more, made a shrewd pitch to spend more on “inner city” youth than newly arrived immigrants, which is especially shrewd at a time when the “Black Lives and Black Lives Only Matter” movement is bedeviling the Democrats, and yet continues to lead in the polls. Taking the stand that a clear majority of Americans prefer, it would appear, does not necessarily result in a politician’s career suicide.
All of a sudden the conventional wisdom seems quite convoluted. Self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s insurgent Democratic campaign is calling illegal immigration a “right-wing” thing and he’s nonetheless leading the more respectable-on-the-issue front-runner Hillary Clinton in some crucial early-voting states. The “Black Lives and Only Black Lives” matter movement that has dogged then both won’t be inclined to vote any Republican but they’ll probably be less enthused about voting for any candidate that takes issue with Trump’s plan to spend more on “inner city” youth than illegal immigrants. The issue is shaping up to be a significant advantage for the Republicans, and if that Republican is somone other than Donald Trump it could be decisive.

— Bud Norman


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