The border security debate illustrates that the left’s agenda requires two suspensions of disbelief. The first is needed to make the left’s proposal seem palatable; the second is needed to make it seem plausible. Such suspensions apply not just to the left’s border security stance but across their agenda. As the left becomes more radical, these suspensions become even more necessary and necessarily even greater.
The increasingly radical left is increasingly out of touch with America’s majority. Trapped by its ideological imperatives on one side, it sees America on the other. Unwilling to allow itself to cross this ideological divide and unable to bring America over, it must find a bridge. Its answer is to build a suspension bridge — a suspension of disbelief.
Because the left’s agenda is inherently unacceptable, the first goal is to make it seem as though it were. It must make the agenda seem what it is not. Today’s border security debate is a case in point.
The left’s first suspension of disbelief must therefore be to make the unpalatable palatable. In today’s border security debate the left must therefore switch the debate from being one about stopping illegal immigration to pretending it is a broader one about immigration itself.
Of course, illegal immigration is unpalatable to the broad majority of Americans. Essentially anything illegal is, such as driving illegally — where driving without a license has thus far not been renamed undocumented driving. Remaining in its actual form, the real debate would be over before it began. So, the debate must be transformed into an unreal form.
The left’s second suspension of disbelief is to make its solution — or rather, lack thereof — seem plausible. Here the left’s argument is that a problem does not really exist, implicitly accepting the status quo. Of course, this is patently absurd. Accepting it would require us to believe that there is no meaningful population of illegal immigrants currently in the U.S., in which case requiring citizenship documentation should not be so strenuously opposed by the left.
The left’s second suspension requires us to accept continued unregulated entry into the country. Again, unregulated behavior is resisted in virtually all areas of public importance — especially by the left itself — and who enters and resides in the country would assuredly qualify.
The second suspension also requires us to tolerate the consequences. Would one million illegal immigrants be too many? Two million? Ten million? Yet zero tolerance is the left’s hallmark for its causes.
The phenomenon of suspending disbelief is hardly limited to the left’s illegal immigration agenda. As the left becomes more radical, the more it’s reliant on these suspensions.
Consider its latest health care cry: Medicare for all. This in itself is the first suspension, because Medicare for all is just a renaming of universal healthcare. However, debating for universal healthcare leaves the left in the same unpalatable position as debating for illegal immigration.
“Universal healthcare” is an amorphous slogan that simultaneously describes nothing and everything. The drawback is that most Americans are hardly enamored with universal government services — the Postal Service coming readily to mind. Nor has the government’s latest foray into healthcare — Obamacare — been well received.
So the left renames the debate into Medicare for all. By so doing, it shifts the debate toward Medicare, a program Americans have known for over two generations. Of course, this is not what the left really means. Medicare was intended to be a program paid for by its beneficiaries (retirees) during their working years. The left actually wants a program paid for by someone else — assuredly “the rich.”
The second suspension of disbelief here is to make this seem plausible. The problem is that Medicare itself runs huge deficits and government healthcare spending in general is the federal government’s biggest deficit-driver. Yet somehow a more extensive federal healthcare program without the pre-funding pretext would be able to square the circle of spiraling spending.
Like the Wizard of Oz’s admonition to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” the left needs ever bigger curtains to hide its need for more and more people behind that curtain.
The trend is clear: The left becomes more extreme and greater suspensions of disbelief are required to bridge the widening gulf between ideology and reality. The suspension bridges become increasingly unsound as they must be higher, longer, and flimsier. Before long, no one will dare set foot on them but the left itself.
J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He served as a congressional staffer from 1987-2000.