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“Sound And Fury Signifying Nothing”: Republicans; “Do What I Say, Not What I Don’t Do”

Think for a minute about the agenda that is being articulated by Republicans these days. And then, given the fact that they now control both houses of Congress, think about what they aren’t doing about it. For example:

* They say that we need to fight ISIS more aggressively (whatever that means). But President Obama has been asking Congress to pass an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against ISIS for months now. Nada.

* They say that we need to secure our borders. Most of them think we should build an impenetrable wall on our border with Mexico. Some of them even say that we should deport all 10 million undocumented immigrants. Have we seen a bill on any of that in Congress? No.

* They say that they want to repeal Obamacare. OK, they actually passed a bill to do that. But they’ve also said that they want to replace it. Anyone seen that plan floating around anywhere? Not so much.

* They say that the problem with gun violence is that we don’t do enough to provide mental health treatment. Congress could do something about that. Have they? No.

* We’ve heard a lot about criminal justice reform. And some bills even passed out of committees. But so far – nothing has actually come up for a vote.

* I don’t know about you, but I haven’t even heard any rumblings from Congress on anything we can do about jobs or wages.

* Of course, most Republicans deny that climate change even exists, so they’re not interested in doing anything about that.

That is the backdrop on which President Obama has stepped forward to take executive actions where he can. Here’s how Ed Kilgore described it:

If you look back at Obama’s record on big executive actions — on guns, climate change, and immigration — you see the same situation. It’s not that he’s fought for “liberal” as opposed to “conservative” policies in these areas. It’s that congressional Republicans, pressured by conservative opinion-leaders and interest groups, have refused to do anything at all…So there’s literally no one to hold bipartisan negotiations with on these issues, and no way to reach common ground.

Even if we simply look at the issues Republicans themselves have identified, none of them are stagnant. There is no such thing as a neutral position. Choosing to do nothing has consequences.

Republicans can shout all they want about how President Obama is by-passing Congress with his executive actions. But until they quit shouting and actually demonstrate that they can do something, it’s all sound and fury signifying nothing.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 21, 2016

January 25, 2016 Posted by | Congress, GOP, Republican Obstructionalism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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

“Who We Are As A Nation”: 11 Million People, But Just Three Choices

Whether or not it can be said that Donald Trump is pushing the Republican presidential field “to the right” on immigration policy, there’s zero question he is making it much harder for them to play games with it, as Greg Sargent points out at the Plum Line after watching Scott Walker and Carly Fiorina squirm through questioning on the Sunday shows.

When the GOP candidates are pressed on what they would do about the 11 million, the results tend not to be pretty. For instance, on Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked Carly Fiorina about Trump’s call for ending birthright citizenship -which Fiorina rejected far more forcefully than Walker did. But then Todd sensibly followed up with this:

TODD: What do you do with the 11 million?

FIORINA: My own view is, if you have come here illegally and stayed here illegally, you do not have an opportunity to earn a pathway to citizenship. To legal status, perhaps. But I think there must be consequence.

Fiorina says that “perhaps” undocumented immigrants should have a path to legal status — provided it precludes any chance at citizenship. Okay, if you’re not willing to support legal status, then what should be done instead? Walker, for his part, has declined to endorse mass deportations, but doesn’t think we should even talk about legalization until the border is secured.

There are really just three legitimate answers to Todd’s question: deportation, self-deportation, or legalization (though it’s possible to have a combination of the three). “I don’t want to talk about it until the border is secured” is a non-answer. Arguments over the remote possibility of repealing “birthright citizenship” are non-responsive, too. And if deportation–which presumably is what “just enforcing the law” would involve–is in the cards, we need frank talk about how to defray the incredibly high costs and whether the police state atmosphere it would involve could have some collateral effects on little matters like who we are as a nation.

Until Trump started talking about deportation, there was a tacit agreement within the GOP to keep it all vague so as to satisfy the people who really would like to see children herded onto cattle cars and sent to the border without alarming everyone else–you know, kind of like the tacit agreement not to discuss Carly Fiorina’s qualifications to be president, which Trump also broke. But journalists really need to stop letting these birds avoid the key questions or have it every which way or change the subject.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 24, 2015

August 25, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Immigration | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Let ‘The Good Ones’ Return”: Why Donald Trump Is The Only GOP Presidential Hopeful Who Can Talk Straight On Immigration

Four years ago, deep within a process of convincing Republican primary voters that he was “severely conservative,” Mitt Romney declared that his solution for dealing with the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States was “self-deportation” — in other words, making life so miserable for them that they’d prefer to return to the countries they fled from rather than stay here. The chairman of the Republican Party later called Romney’s words “horrific,” not so much out of some moral revulsion, but because they sent a clear message of hostility to Hispanic voters, the country’s largest minority group and one that is growing fast. Since then, most Republicans have acknowledged that they have to be careful about how they talk about those 11 million immigrants if they want to have any hope of winning the White House again.

Then along came Donald Trump, who isn’t careful about anything (other than that glorious and extremely delicate mane of hair). Barreling into the campaign, Trump said he’d deport all 11 million, then let “the good ones” return to the United States. How would the unfathomably complicated task of locating all those people, detaining them, and moving them back to their countries of origin be accomplished? “It’s feasible if you know how to manage,” he said. OK then.

Compared to Trump, the rest of the GOP candidates have been models of reason and thoughtfulness on this issue, and between them they’ve taken a couple of different positions on how to handle the undocumented. If comprehensive immigration reform ever happens, this will be one of its key components, so it’s important to know where they stand.

But first, what about the public? Gallup just released a survey that sheds some light on this question, showing both why Trump is getting support and why most of the other candidates are taking a different tack. Asked whether the government should “deport all illegal immigrants back to their home country, allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States in order to work, but only for a limited amount of time, or allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States and become U.S. citizens, but only if they meet certain requirements over a period of time,” a full 65 percent said they should be allowed to become citizens, and only 19 percent said they should be deported.

But right now, the GOP candidates aren’t seeking the support of the whole country, they’re going after the Republicans who might vote in upcoming primaries. Among Republicans, the numbers are different — but not as much as you might expect. Fifty percent of Republicans said there should be a path to citizenship, while 31 percent said they should be deported.

Thirty-one percent isn’t a majority, but it’s still a lot — and you could say the same about Trump’s support in the polls. Right now he’s averaging around 24 percent, and while there are certainly people supporting him who don’t agree with him on immigration (and those opposing him who do), if you want the candidate taking the clearest anti-immigrant stance, your choice is pretty clear.

So where do the other candidates come down? When you ask them about a path to citizenship you’ll inevitably get a complicated answer, but most of them say one of two things: either they support a path to citizenship, or they support a path to some other kind of legal status, but not citizenship itself.

Interestingly enough, among the candidates who take the latter position — the more conservative one — are the son of a Cuban immigrant and the husband of a Mexican immigrant. Ted Cruz may be the farthest to the right (other than Trump) — he spends a lot of time decrying “amnesty” — but if pressed will say that he’s open to some kind of restrictive work permit that would allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the country. Jeb Bush talks about a “path to legal status,” but pointedly says that the path does not end in citizenship, but rather in something that resembles a green card, allowing the immigrant to work and live in the U.S., but not be an American citizen. (Bush used to support a path to citizenship, but not anymore.)

Others have taken the same position. Carly Fiorina says that some legal status might be acceptable, but not citizenship. Rick Santorum not only opposes a path to citizenship, but wants to drastically curtail legal immigration as well. Chris Christie used to support a path to citizenship, but has since changed his mind. Rick Perry is also opposed to a path to citizenship, but doesn’t seem to have answered a specific question about the undocumented in some time.

Whenever any of them describes their path, whether to citizenship or some kind of guest worker status, it contains some key features. It winds over many years, involves paying fines and any back taxes, and also involves proving that the immigrant speaks English. The truth is that this last provision is completely unnecessary — this wave of immigrants is learning English no slower than previous waves did — but it’s actually an important way for voters with complex feelings about immigration to feel less threatened and be reassured that the immigrants will become American.

For most of the candidates, the end of the long process is indeed citizenship. Scott Walker, after a bunch of incoherent and seemingly contradictory statements, finally said that he could eventually foresee a path to citizenship, once the border is secure (more on that in a moment). Marco Rubio will describe for you an intricate process that ends in citizenship, even if he seems reluctant to say so (Rubio was essentially cast out of the Tea Party temple after he proposed a comprehensive reform bill, which he has since dropped). Rand Paul has essentially the same position — he describes a path to citizenship, but doesn’t like using the word. Bobby Jindal also supports a path to citizenship, as does Mike Huckabee, and John Kasich, and George Pataki, and Lindsey Graham, who has even said that he would veto any immigration reform bill that didn’t contain a path to citizenship for the undocumented. Ben Carson has been vague on the subject, and as far as I can tell no one has asked Jim Gilmore.

But don’t get the idea that any of these candidates are all that eager to move undocumented immigrants down that path too quickly. All of them say we need to “secure the border” before we even begin talking about how undocumented immigrants might eventually become citizens. And they seldom elaborate on what “securing” the border would mean. Would it mean not a single person could sneak over? If not, then what? In practice, they could always say that we can’t get started on laying that path to citizenship because the border is not yet secure.

What all this makes clear is that you have to pay very close attention to understand what most of the candidates actually want to do, and even then you might not be completely sure. And even if there are plenty of Republican voters who would like to see a path to citizenship, at this point their voices are far quieter than the ones complaining about the invading horde. So if a Republican gets elected next fall, I wouldn’t expect him to be in too much of a hurry to create a way for undocumented immigrants to eventually become Americans under the law.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, August 17, 2015

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Immigration | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“How Trump Gives Negotiation A Bad Name”: Perpetuating Myths That Social Science And Common Sense Have Long Buried

During the 1950s, the U.S. was trying to gain access to Mexico’s oil and natural gas reserves. Realizing that their counterpart desperately needed their technology, industrial know-how and investment capital, the U.S. opened the negotiation with a very low offer. That offer was considered so insulting that the Mexican government started to burn off its oil and natural gas rather than provide the U.S. access to its fields.

This should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks Donald Trump can improve America’s standing in the world through ultra-aggressive negotiating techniques.

In his campaign to win the Republican nomination, Trump has repeatedly touted his business acumen and negotiation skills as qualities that make him uniquely suited to be the next president.

“Right now,” Trump explained to Breitbart News, “we have the wrong group of negotiators who have led us to being totally out-negotiated.”

Trump’s preferred negotiation style—at least as a rhetorical trope—is one of power, toughness, and dominance. For him, an effective negotiator is someone adept at hardball tactics, forceful arguments, ultimatums, walkouts, threats, public blustering, and table pounding.

This rhetoric assumes that negotiations are inherently a zero-sum game. And, while such an adversarial and power-based approach makes sense within a Machiavellian worldview, it goes against decades of research into the art and science of negotiation.

On Iran, for example, Trump said on numerous occasions that he would make his positions known and walk away from the deal if his counterpart did not comply. If that approach failed, he would double up on sanctions until the Iranians returned and submitted to his demands. He would conclude the Iran deal, he boasted, within a week.

A President Trump, he likewise insists, would somehow compel the Mexican government to finance a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Yet research shows that a solely competitive approach to negotiation—Trump’s preferred style—often leads to stalemates, less than optimal or satisfying solutions, damaged relationships, low levels of trust, feelings of resentment, desire for vengeance, and sometimes even violence.

In contrast, a cooperative approach to negotiation—one that perceives the conflict as a shared problem to be solved—often leads to more creative and mutually satisfying outcomes, preserved or improved relationships, higher levels of trust, and increased self-esteem.

According to Joshua N. Weiss, a negotiation expert and co-founder of the Global Negotiation Initiative at Harvard University, in recent years there has been “a very noticeable shift from a strictly competitive hardball approach to negotiation to a much more collaborative one. This is because companies understand if they burn bridges when they negotiate they lose customers in the process. More importantly, their reputation suffers dramatically. As a result, other companies hesitate, or worse, refuse to work with them.”

Indeed, studies do support the assertion that selfishness tends to backfire in negotiation. In one particular experiment one group of negotiators was assigned very greedy goals, while another group was given more moderate ones. In some instances, the greedy negotiators got more than the moderate ones, however, not without incurring significant costs: their negotiation partners ended up resenting them.

Not surprisingly, when the greedy negotiators’ counterparts were presented with another opportunity to negotiate, they acted defensively, drove hard bargains, exacted revenge, and in some instances failed to reach a deal.

In another study, with over 200 negotiators, half of which were experts and half inexperienced, researchers told some of the novices that their counterparts were avaricious sharks. This was untrue. But reputation was of consequence. Those labeled sharks did badly in the negotiation: talks deteriorated, and outcomes, when they were reached, often failed to satisfy.

Trump speaks as if he is perpetually haggling in a mythical bazaar. Yet in the complex and interdependent world of international relations, thinking long-term and cultivating relationships matter.

“As a negotiator, Trump is more about achieving his short-term interests without regard for the other party or any inclination that he wants a long-term relationship,” explains Beth Fisher-Yoshida, director of the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program at Columbia University.

“If a party loses badly and publicly,” she continues, “there is a sense of shame or embarrassment that will not bode well for the future. The other party suffered humiliation and depending on the party’s cultural orientation, will do something to right the offense. The next round will be even more challenging because it will not only be about the subject being negotiated, but also personal revenge and retaliation.”

People—no matter what station they hold in life—care about being treated with fairness and respect. They want to be heard, acknowledged, and have their identity protected. When this does not happen, when people feel they are being disrespected, ignored or mistreated they can behave in ways that make little rational or economic sense.

It’s very possible that there is a gap between how Trump talks and how he (or those whom he employs) behaves around the proverbial negotiation table. After all, even in his own book on the Art of the Deal, Trump advertises the virtues of being cooperative, accountable and positive.

However, his negotiation rhetoric leaves a lot to be desired and is dangerously perpetuating myths that social science and common sense have long buried.


By: Roi-Yehuda, The daily Beast, August 12, 2015

August 14, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Negotiations | , , , , | 1 Comment

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