In case you hadn’t noticed, everything is in crisis these days. Race relations, the climate, male behavior, government shutdowns, immigration…
Except that immigration, as crises go, was pretty small beer until President Trump swooped down last week with his proclamation of an emergency requiring him, as he represented the matter, to build a southern border wall with funds designated by Congress for other purposes. Whereby he worsened prospects, dim enough already, for the composing of national differences over what to do about the seemingly bottomless desire to take up residence in the United States, legally or the reverse.
“#^%^#— it! We’re going to do things the way I say — I, Donald Trump,” isn’t recommended as a formula for achieving majority support of useful immigration policy.
For one thing, polls show half of Americans — 52 percent, specifically — dispute the need for more walling, or fencing, or whatever, of the country’s southern border. Just 34 percent want more. That sizable gap in commitment would seem to necessitate, on the administration’s part, more wrangling and shouting, more strong language, more dismissal of variant viewpoints than seems likely to reveal a way forward.
One thing we can probably all agree on without working up a sweat: Announcing that we’ve got an emergency (“We’re talking about an invasion of our country.” — DJT, Feb. 15) isn’t the same thing as establishing in federal court that we’ve got such an emergency. Or that the emergency declaration fits the terms of the 1976 statute the president invokes to justify it.
This thing is going to be tied up in federal court for months and months — perhaps until the presidential election — without making Trump look anything like the thoughtful, constructive leader he surely imagines himself to be. He is likely now to resemble, more than ever before, some petulant kid with tongue stuck out: “Can’t make me, can’t make me!” On Election Day next year he could find his fellow countrymen depleted, wrung out, ready to hand over power to Joe Biden, say, in order that the tumult and shouting might die.
The strength and, at the same time, the weakness of Trump has always been his assumed posture as the Great Disrupter. Knock, knock, pound, pound — here he was with foot in the door, offering to kick over the furniture, to bust in the mouth those we wanted busted, and generally to give our political Augean Stables a good cleansing. In which enterprise he has earned some legitimate credit: good judicial appointments, a greatly improved economy, stronger support for the military than under Barack Obama, the filing down of various sharp-toothed federal regulations, etc.
Immigration and trade policy, nonetheless, are thorn-infested pastures in which Trump leaves his wildest impulses to run amok. Both venues, being complex, require of their occupants some willingness to paper over differences of viewpoint. Not as Trump sees it. He loves tariffs because he loves them. He’s got no patriotic and sensible fix for immigration other than walling off America’s south side: blocking from his mind the great international coming-and-going facilitated by modern travel.
Why not face facts? Immigrants do come, and always have: one recent reason being a prosperous but understaffed labor market, for which the moral capitulation of so-called white culture is partly culpable. There’s abortion, to start with: meaning (among other things, some of them worse) fewer workers. Late marriage and cohabitation also suppress white labor force growth. White fear of the “racist” smear keeps the country from requiring civic and cultural assimilation of immigrants, as in the days of the melting pot. That leaves us talking in bald and simplistic terms, as if no other factors merited public discussion. It’s Wall vs. No Wall. It’s Trump vs. No Trump.
Horsefeathers! The only thing this reductio ad absurdum produces is the absurd and counterproductive proclamation of a national emergency due to “invasion” — a claim meant to advance the construction of an absurd wall capable mainly of reminding us how hard it is to live together as a people perpetually furious at one another, perpetually looking for the easy way out. And all too rarely finding it.
William Murchison is writing a book on moral restoration in the 21st century.
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