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“When Representation Fails, Demagogues Thrive”: How America’s Political And Economic Elite Gave Birth To The Trump Campaign

“Trump talks about Mexicans the way anti-Semites talk about Jews.”

There’s a lot of truth in that Christopher Hayes tweet from the night of the first Republican debate. Ominous (and unsubstantiated) talk of rapists and murders streaming over the southern border, demonization of “anchor babies,” calls to end birthright citizenship — Donald Trump’s surging campaign for president has brought xenophobic fears and hostility into the political mainstream in a big way. No one should be surprised that just a couple of clicks to Trump’s right, Iowa radio personality Jan Mickelson has begun to muse with his listeners about whether the U.S. should enslave undocumented immigrants who fail to leave the country.

But political commentators would be wise to avoid sliding too quickly into denunciations of Trump’s supporters and his campaign for falling prey to fascism. Yes, their rhetoric is often illiberal and sometimes blatantly racist. But that doesn’t mean their concerns deserve to be dismissed entirely. Trump’s supporters have reasons for their views, and some of those reasons are worth taking seriously.

Anti-immigrant sentiment has been on the rise (in intensity if not always in sheer numbers) throughout the Western world in recent years. The severe economic downturn that began in 2008 and the painfully slow recovery that followed has no doubt helped to fuel it. But so has a visceral frustration at what many believe to be a failure of representative institutions to respond to popular discontent about the changing ethnic and economic character of Western nation states over the past several decades.

These institutions have been sluggish to respond to this discontent because two (sometimes overlapping) factions of our political and economic elite strongly support high levels of immigration — or at least oppose doing very much to stop it.

One of the factions — the business class and its neoliberal champions in government, think tanks, and NGOs — believes in a free-flowing international labor market that treats borders as superfluous.

The other faction — liberal lawyers, activists, intellectuals, journalists, academics, members of the clergy, and (once again) NGO staffers — has a deep-seated moral suspicion of nations and political boundaries in general. Why should an American count for more than a Mexican who crosses the border into the United States? Shouldn’t a refugee fleeing violence in North Africa enjoy full political rights upon setting foot in the European Union? Don’t all human beings deserve to be treated equally under the law? Isn’t opposition to such equality an example of bald-faced racism?

Both of these factions make deeply anti-political assumptions, denying the legitimacy of particularistic affiliations and dismissing the intuition that citizenship in a particular political community is a distinction that should not be open to all comers. The first faction denies these fundamentally political distinctions in the name of economic universalism; the second denies them in the name of moral universalism.

Universalism might be the gold standard of truth in economics, moral philosophy, and in every field of inquiry that aims to model itself on the natural sciences. But politics is always about how these particular people choose to govern themselves. Which means that politics can never be conducted entirely in universalistic terms.

It would be one thing if we had reason to believe that the human race was evolving in the direction of a universal, homogenous state in which there would be no one “outside,” and therefore also no one “inside,” a single political community of worldwide extent. The trouble is that there is little evidence that politically based solidarity is withering away. On the contrary, the more that economic and moral universalists get their way in the policy arena, the more they inspire a radically particularistic (nationalistic, often race-based) backlash.

That describes exactly what’s been happening in the United States (and Europe) in recent years. Not only has the federal government been half-hearted at policing the nation’s southern border, but millions of individuals and business owners have flouted the nation’s immigration laws by hiring undocumented workers, most of them below minimum wage. (I wonder: Will the dramatic increases in the minimum wage being enacted and contemplated around the country alleviate or exacerbate this problem?)

The combination of a porous border and abundant jobs is what keeps attracting immigrants to risk crossing into the United States. Then once they’re here, the moralists deny the legitimacy of finding and deporting them. That creates something close to an open-border policy.

A majority of American citizens may support a generally liberal immigration policy — I certainly do — but there’s no evidence they think the border should be effectively abolished. Those for whom this is an important issue are not wrong to see our drift in that direction as, in part, a failure of democratic representation.

And when representation fails, demagogues thrive, promising to serve as something more than a mere representative — something more like a living embodiment of the people’s will.

Enter Donald Trump.

The magnate from Manhattan is still a long-shot to land the Republican nomination, let alone to win the general election against a halfway competent Democrat. But the passions he’s drawn on and stirred up are unlikely to disappear. And that’s where the dysfunction of our political system rightly inspires serious concern.

Everybody in Washington understands perfectly well what the solution will have to be — some combination of much more stringent border controls with a path to citizenship for those already here. This is precisely the kind of deal that Congress (led by GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio) worked hard, and failed, to pass after the 2012 election. It went down in large part because those who care about the issue no longer trust the federal government to impose the crucially important first half of the deal (enforcement of the border). They fear, and not without reason, that the path to citizenship will be enacted with enthusiasm while the border controls will be half-hearted — a combination that would likely inspire even more people to come to the U.S. illegally.

That leaves us stuck: knowing what we need to do but unable to get it done, with some of us tempted to treat a billionaire snake oil salesman as the nation’s savior.

It’s unclear how to go about righting our course. But it certainly couldn’t hurt for the moral universalists among us to acknowledge that their contempt for particularistic political attachments is helping to provoke the very xenophobic passions they rightly decry.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, August 25, 2015

August 31, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Immigrant Laborers, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Get The Facts Jeb”: Why Jeb Bush Should Pledge To Roll Out The Welcome Mat For Asian Birth Tourists

Jeb Bush used to be the Mr. Rogers of GOP presidential candidates — a gentle fellow who would put you to sleep a few minutes after coming on TV. Now Bush is the GOP’s Bambi — a frozen deer who doesn’t know which way to turn as the headline-beaming monster truck that is Donald Trump bears down upon him.

Nowhere is this clearer than in Bush’s recent cringe-inducing suggestion that the real abusers of America’s birthright citizenship are Asian birth tourists — not Latino “anchor babies,” as Trump claims.

But as the GOP’s token pro-immigration candidate, if Bush had half of Trump’s cojones, he wouldn’t throw Asians under the bus to save Latinos. He’d tell Trump that “anchor babies” are a problem more hyped up than Trump’s bouffant — and birth tourism is a blessing that America should wholeheartedly welcome.

“Anchor babies” are a myth invented by restrictionists to try and scrap America’s constitutionally guaranteed right to birthright citizenship. The term used to refer to pregnant Latino women who supposedly deliberately and illegally came to America to give birth to American children who would become mom and dad’s green card sponsors. But this scheme can involve wait times of up to 31 years (kids can’t sponsor before age 21, and parents sometimes have to wait 10 years outside America before qualifying). Hence, restrictionists couldn’t find many examples to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria. So now they have dubbed every one of the 300,000 children born to undocumented parents annually as anchor babies whose real purpose is to prevent their unauthorized parents from being deported.

This argument is ridiculous. Vanishingly few undocumented immigrants have children specifically to escape deportation. They have children because they want to — for any number of non-cynical reasons. And yes, this can sometimes help them escape deportation. But don’t conflate that consequence of birth with the motives for pregnancy.

Anchor babies don’t exist in any meaningful sense. Birth tourism, however, does. And that’s a good thing.

No super-reliable figures are available, but the number commonly bandied about puts birth tourist babies at a mere 35,000 annually. Unlike the poor, unauthorized Latino parents of mythical “anchor babies,” birth tourism involves relatively well-off couples, the vast majority from China, who come to America when it comes time to give birth so their kid will score U.S. citizenship.

Another benefit for these Chinese couples: Beijing’s autocrats don’t count children born with other nationalities against a couple’s one-child quota. No doubt, a U.S. passport for their newborn is a huge attraction. But America is not the only destination for couples trying to dodge China’s draconian birth control policies. Mainland Chinese couples also flock to Hong Kong (all of which the pro-life, pro-family conservative editors of National Review Online should understand and applaud rather than running confused pieces like this conflating “anchor babies” and birth tourists to promote their anti-birthright citizenship crusade).

Immigration restrictionists love to deride “anchor baby” parents for being in the United States illegally. But that’s not true with birth tourists. They come here legally. Even a recent Rolling Stone “expose” of Los Angeles-based maternity agencies acknowledged: “Birth tourists, arriving on legal visas, aren’t breaking any laws while in the country.” Meanwhile, a May Bloomberg Businessweek story about these agencies — that for a fee of up to $50,000 help a couple obtain U.S. visas, put them up in hotels during their long stay in America, arrange doctors and hospitals and then passports for their infant — found that most of them go out of their way to coach their clients in “cheng shi qian” (honest visa applications). This is not to say that no one lies, but it is far from standard practice — which is why a Department of Homeland Security raid on maternity hotels earlier this year didn’t seem to come up with many instances of visa fraud, despite a long undercover investigation.

Restrictionists constantly accuse “anchor baby” parents of mooching off American taxpayers by using emergency services for child delivery and collecting welfare through their American child. (Never mind that unauthorized parent-headed households receive far less welfare than native ones of similar income, and are far less prone to welfare dependency.) But none of that applies to birth tourists, who, with few exceptions, pay for the entire cost of delivery out of pocket. In fact, the agency that formed the cornerstone of the Bloomberg story went out of its way to ensure that its clients don’t use public money, and keep copious documentation to prove that.

More to the point, birth tourist babies go home to be raised during their most expensive phase — only to possibly return to America after their 18th birthday, during their most productive phase. In effect, birth tourism allows America to outsource the raising of its citizens, resulting in enormous savings, given that it costs a whopping $300,000 to raise a child in a middle-income family in America today.

Every adult immigrant, even poor Latinos, constitute a windfall for America, given that America reaps the dividends of another society’s investment in them. (Indeed, immigration is arguably a far cheaper way than having children for a society to maintain its population level.) But birth tourist babies are a special boon because they are the product of super-ambitious parents who are obviously sparing no expense or effort to build their child’s full potential and give him/her options.

This is why it is all the more unfortunate that Jeb Bush put birth tourists in the crosshairs of his party’s ugly war on immigration. He has said in the past that Latinos who come to America illegally to give their children a better life are engaging in an “act of love.” This is equally true for Asian birth tourists.

Bush should have used their example to defend and strengthen America’s birthright citizenship against Trump’s attacks. Instead, in his panic about his nose-diving poll numbers, he may have done the opposite — none of which inspires much confidence in another Bush presidency.

 

By: Shika Dalmia, The Week, August 28, 2015

August 30, 2015 Posted by | Birth Tourism, Immigrants, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Media Playing The Role Of Enabler”: Out Of Touch Punditry Should Get A Grip — Hillary’s Email Is Non-Story

A message to the out-of-touch Washington pundit class: get a grip. What was or was not on Hillary Clinton’s email server when she was Secretary of State is not a game-changing news story.

In fact, no one outside the chattering class — and right-wing true believers — could give a rat’s rear about this story — and there is a good reason: there is no “there” there. If someone really thinks the great “email” story — or the Benghazi investigation — are going to sink her candidacy, I’ve got a bridge to sell them.

Of course, this is not the first time that the media — with an assist from right-wing political operatives — have laid into Hillary Clinton in an attempt to create a “scandal” where there was none.

Over the weekend, syndicated columnist Gene Lyons quoted a New York Times editorial as saying:

“These clumsy efforts at suppression are feckless and self-defeating.” It argued that these actions are “swiftly draining away public trust in (her) integrity.”

That editorial actually appeared in January 1994. The Times was expressing outrage at Hillary Clinton’s turning over Whitewater documents to federal instigators rather than the press, which, as Lyons pointed out, ” had conjured a make-believe scandal out of bogus reporting of a kind that’s since become all too familiar in American journalism.”

Speaking on NPR’s Diane Rehm show, the Atlantic’s Molly Ball sounded the same notes 21 years later. The email issue “continued to contribute to the perception that she has something to hide.”

The Times’ Sheryl Gay Solberg added that the email issue “creates and feeds into this narrative about the Clintons and Mrs. Clinton that the rules are different for them, and she’s not one of us.” Really?

What might really feed a negative narrative would be the New York Times’ own story several weeks ago that falsely accused Ms. Clinton of being under criminal investigation. Which she is not and never was. The Times public editor acknowledged that the story was false and that it fed another narrative: that the New York Times had an ax to grind against the Clintons.

Of course the bottom lines of this story are simple:

At the time Ms. Clinton was Secretary of State there was no prohibition against the Secretary of State having a private email server. In fact, no Secretary of State before Ms. Clinton had a government email account.

None of the emails on the Secretary’s personal account were classified at the time they were sent or received. That is not in dispute. There is an on-going controversy between various agencies of what ought to be classified in retrospect as the material is released to the public by the State Department, but that does not change the fact that none of it was classified at the time. In fact, one of the several emails at issue actually says the word “unclassified” in the upper left hand corner and can still be accessed by the general public on the State Department web site.

Finally, no one has ever pointed to an instance where the fact that something was on her server instead of a government server had any negative consequences whatsoever.

There is no issue here, period.

And as for the Benghazi “affair,” none of the many investigations that have already been completed concerning the events surrounding the death of the American Ambassador to Libya in the Benghazi attack has found a shred of evidence that that Hillary Clinton did anything wrong whatsoever leading up to or in response to that attack.

And frankly if you ask most people about the Benghazi affair they think you’re talking about something you rub on your muscles to reduce pain.

So now Congressman Trey Gowdy, who is the Chair of the Select Committee that was set up by the Republicans in the House to once again investigate this non-scandal, has decided to investigate the non-existent issue of the Clinton email server as well — even though he acknowledges that it has nothing to do with Benghazi.

Not withstanding the lack of substance to any of these issues, people like Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post proclaim that they could be a terrible weight on her candidacy.

Who exactly are these pundits talking to? Rarely have they been so out of touch with the real American electorate. The perceptions and narratives they are discussing are the perceptions and narratives of the insider pundit and political class — not normal voters.

And the same goes for often-unnamed Clinton backers that are wringing their hands that Clinton has not yet put the email issue behind her.

No one is handed the American presidency — and that is especially true of a candidates that are not incumbent Presidents.

Every candidate faces many challenges and hurdles to getting elected — and Hillary Clinton is no different. But the email-server issue is not one of them.

Clinton’s campaign completely recognizes that it must fight for every delegate in the primaries and every vote in the general election.

In the general election, she must motivate Democratic base voters to turn out in massive numbers. She must excite new voters — especially young people and women. And she must persuade undecided voters that she will fight effectively to actually change the rules of the political and economic game so that we have economic growth that benefits every American, not just Corporate CEO’s and Wall Street Banks.

These are her real challenges — and her campaign is focused like a laser on meeting those challenges.

It’s time for her supporters to focus on those challenges as well — and for the media to resist continuing to play its role as enabler of baseless right wing attacks like the great email and Benghazi “scandals” of 2015.

 

By: Robert Creamer, Political Organizer, Strategist, Author; Partner Democracy Partners; The Blog, The Huffington Post, August

August 30, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Clinton Emails, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Papers Please”: Remember What Happened The Last Time A Republican President Had A ‘Round Up Of Illegal’ Immigrants?

Ed Kilgore is right to be…um…”skeptical” that Peggy Noonan has tapped into some great Latino love for Donald Trump. She found one Dominican who is angry at illegal immigrants. Noonan bought his story because that’s what she wants to believe.

But I’ll give you one good reason why most brown people (Latino as well as other nationalities) in this country are terrified of what Donald Trump is saying he would do. It’s because some of them (and a few of us) remember what happened the last time a Republican president decided to round up a bunch of illegal immigrants and ship them home. We remember because it wasn’t that long ago.

Here’s what happened when ICE raided Howard Industries in Laurel, MS in 2008.

ICE´s approach humiliated all Latino workers in the plant with their Racial Profiling. Witnesses said ICE provided all White and Black workers Blue Armbands. All the Latino workers were put in line and forced to prove their legal status. ICE, in their uniforms and wearing side arms, caused ALL Latino workers to shiver in fear as they went through this ritual. The exits were sealed. Some Latino workers were sprayed with Mace.

Here’s how an ACLU press release (link no longer available) described what happened.

“We are deeply concerned by reports that workers at the factory where the raid occurred were segregated by race or ethnicity and interrogated, the factory was locked down for several hours, workers were denied access to counsel, and ICE failed to inform family members and lawyers following the raid where the workers were being jailed,” said Monica Ramirez, a staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project who has traveled to Mississippi to meet with family members and lawyers about the government’s actions.

So you see, brown people know that if Trump’s plan to “deport ’em all” was ever implemented, they’re all likely to be subjected to “papers please” interrogations – regardless of their legal status. It hasn’t been that long since that is exactly what happened in this country.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 29, 2015

August 30, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Immigrants, Immigration | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Aiding And Abetting”: Australia Reduced Mass Violence By Confiscating Guns; In The U.S., Police Sell Them Back to Citizens

The on-camera shooting on Wednesday of two Virginia reporters has already reignited the debate over gun control in America. “I’m going to do something to shame legislators into doing something about closing loopholes and background checks and making sure crazy people don’t get guns,” Andy Parker, the father of slain WDBJ reporter Alison Parker, told Fox News.

Earlier efforts to push gun control legislation through Congress have failed. But Vox’s Zack Beauchamp describes a compelling case study for how another country has tackled the issue of gun violence. In the late 1990s, following a mass shooting, Australia launched a mandatory gun buy-back program. The government banned a number of types of guns, including automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, purchased guns from owners at fair market value, and offered amnesty for anyone turning in an illegally owned firearm. About 650,000 guns were seized and destroyed. Afterwards, Australia’s murder and suicide rates dropped.

Could such a program work in America? Certain cities have already experimented with such an approach. The Los Angeles Police Department, for example, regularly holds buybacks and then melt down the guns. Cities in Florida, Connecticut, California, Arkansas, and Massachusetts also held gun buy-back initiatives in June this year, according to The Trace, a website dedicated to covering gun violence. More often than not, however, when police confiscate illegal guns or firearms found at crime scenes, they turn around and sell those weapons on the open market, raising quick cash for police supplies or training. Many states, including Kentucky, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Montana, have laws on the books that encourage or require local police to put the guns they collect each day back on the streets.

In theory, this would result in taking guns out of the hands of criminals and putting them into the hands of responsible, law-abiding gun owners. Thanks to the nation’s patchwork of background check laws, however, it’s very easy for guns to wind up in the hands of criminals (again). In many states, a straw purchaser with no criminal record could buy the weapon legally from a licensed dealer, then sell it, legally, in a private sale without requiring the buyer to undergo a background check. Let us not forget that Vester Lee Flanagan, the man who committed the horrific shooting in Virginia on Wednesday, obtained his gun legally.

The police practice of holding auctions or trading in guns to a dealer is legal under federal law, and in some states it’s mandatory. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative network of lawmakers and corporations, and National Rifle Association both have their fingerprints on these laws advancing in Montana, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Here’s a small sampling of the widespread practice:

  • In 2009, Montana passed a law prohibiting guns from being destroyed by police, and instead requiring them to be sold off to licensed dealers. North Carolina and Tennessee followed suit in 2010. The Tennessee law states, “Any weapon declared contraband shall be sold in a public sale or used for legitimate law enforcement purposes, at the discretion of the court.” Texas in 2013 passed a law that gives local departments the option to resell guns.

  • The Memphis Police Department in Tennessee traded 500 of its confiscated guns in return for 33 new assault rifles. A local outlet reported that guns sold by police have been traced to new crimes. In 2010, a man shot two police officers in the Pentagon using a gun sold by the Memphis police department in 2008.

  • In Duluth, Minnesota, the police department sold 46 of its shotguns for $5,538. One of those guns was used to shoot two officers at another police department. The mentally ill man who shot the officers would not have passed a background check, but he was able to obtain the gun easily through a straw purchase on an online auction—private sellers require no such background checks.

  • Indiana’s Evansville police sold 145 firearms in 2015 to raise $24,915 for the department’s firearms training.

  • Since 1998, Kentucky has had a law that lets the Kentucky State Police collect confiscated guns from local police departments and sell them in an auction. A single auction can include more than 400 guns, and auctions can collect $650,000 a year, 20 percent of which goes to state police and 80 percent of which goes back to local agencies. Guns used in murders can be sold off, as well.

After the June mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, President Barack Obama called once again for stronger gun laws, and noted that he “had to make statements like this too many times.” Now, in the wake of this week’s tragedy, we are having that conversation once again. As long as federal background checks are too weak and the enforcement of existing laws remains too timid, however, we’re essentially encouraging more gun violence. Taking weapons off the streets could help reduce gun violence in America. Yet sometimes, even our own law enforcement agencies are the ones responsible for putting weapons into the wrong hands.

 

By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, August 28, 2015

August 30, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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