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The Collapse of the Wall

It’s interesting how sometimes you have a political passing observation about something, consider it true but probably not that important, but that becomes incredibly important. Think of it like “Those tires are looking kind of thin” thirty minutes before they blow open on the Interstate. A few years ago I thought to myself, “You know, first past the post isn’t a good way to hold primary votes.” I was thinking more for things like senate races, but that actually became very important. In early 2015, I thought “I think people are overestimating the ease with which Jeb Bush will win the nomination. This might be the year the establishment loses” This struck me as potentially important, but I thought at the time it might mean that Scott Walker or, worst case, Ted Cruz. And here we are.

Perhaps the most important of these things was about immigration. After running some numbers, it became apparent that the “Campaign Autopsy” as it related to the Hispanic vote and Comprehensive Immigration Reform simply wasn’t true. There were a lot of things responsible for the GOP’s loss, but the Hispanic vote wasn’t really among them. They didn’t put that in there as an analysis of what the party needed to do in some irrefutable need, but what its leaders wanted to do. With that, it became obvious that even after the failure to pass anything in 2013, the party really was going to screw the immigration restrictionists as soon as it could. Since I am uncommitted on the issue, this realization made me neither elated nor angry. It was mostly just an observation. One that would become very important.

I’m not going to pretend that I know a lot of Trump supporters. But those I do know come overwhelmingly from one segment of his support: Border Hawks. Those drawn to him first and foremost over his (alleged) commitment to border security. They are a subsection of his support, but were very important in providing him an unwavering base of support early on, helping him establish credibility. Early on in Trump’s rise, I was baffled as to how they felt they could trust Donald J Trump on immigration. Could they not see that he was going to screw them? That he didn’t care? And that he was unreliable? Even someone like Ted Cruz or Scott Walker, who may be insincere, could probably be made to understand that it was critical to their self-interest not to deviate on that particular issue. I voiced this with my friend Trumper Dave, and he made what has since become the best way through which I have understood the alliance. And it all goes back to my observation about the GOP screwing them.

border fence photo

Image by Brianna Lehman

Maybe they could trust Trump or maybe not, but they knew that they couldn’t trust anybody else this side of Sessions or Tancredo. If the GOP was poised to screw them, he explained, then you in essence really did need somebody outside of the structure. Someone who owes nothing to the structure, and a lot more to border hawks. While Trump might not be ideal (and Dave admitted as much), he was the only person in the field who fit that bill. They do (or did) believe that Trump really cared about the issue (there’s an origin story involving him reading Ann Coulter’s book), but even if not they had what they felt was better insurance than their hopes and dreams: Trump was burning the bridge of respectability.

They believe that Republicans moderate on the issue of immigration not out of any conviction (or change thereof), but because of a desire to be on the good side of the powers that be. Big money, big media, and liberal society. It’s the cocktail party argument, basically. So they remain suspicious of anybody – anybody – that speaks in such a way that allows them to retain the respect of the people whose endearment they can later attain by selling out on immigration.

Consider prison gang tattoos. Getting one is more than a show of solidarity, but indicative that burning a bridge to where you cannot go easily back. If you want the protection of white supremacists in prison, it’s not enough that you call black people names and say things you can take back once you get out. You may be required to wear a tattoo that brands you for life. If you flinch at that, then you’re not committed and may just be using them for cover.

border fence photo

Image by longislandwins

Trump’s vulgar rhetoric regarding immigration has served as a rhetorical tattoo in that regard. Which, in turn, made it an insurance policy. As Trump has perhaps turned on the issue this week, a lot of outside people are saying that it won’t do him much good because he’s already burned the fields. I am among the ones who have said that, and this was why they trusted him. This was why the verbal tattoos were so important. They turned what might have ordinarily been a good political move (moderating on a contentious issue, finding the abandoned middle ground) into a useless one.

So what happens if Trump flips anyway? What happens if Trump comes out with a plan that’s hard to distinguish from that of Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio? What then? Well, we’re finding out.

Border hawks are often a more nuanced group than people think. I don’t mean that they’re more sympathetic, but while I wouldn’t call their views “realistic” many have views that are less unrealistic than people suppose. So, for instance, almost none that I have talked to have put a lot of stock in the deportation force. They believe in The Wall, but they recognize how tricky it is to just go out and deport millions of people. They liked that he was saying it, but recognized he was just saying it. Indeed, many know that in the end there will be amnesty of some sort for those already here that do not leave.

What they want, though, is for any talk of amnesty to come last. Otherwise, what they believe is going to happen is that you will get a comprehensive reform package where everybody gets carrots and the stick never gets funded. (They believe this is what is going to happen because, in all likelihood, it is.) So unauthorized immigrants get residency, they get citizenship, they never pay the “back taxes”, the wall never gets built, employers are never cracked down upon, and the process starts all over again at some point in the future. So before anybody gets any carrots, there must be sticks. It’s the non-negotiable point. The enforcement enhancements cannot come later, or concurrently, but must come up front. Then, and only then, can we talk what to do with the ones already here. And if we never get to that point, and they live the rest of their lives in the shadows but here, they’re okay with that.

The Republican candidates picked up on this, and released their plans accordingly. So what was the problem? The problem was that they were entirely untrusted. They refused to get the tattoo. They didn’t demonstrate sufficient commitment. Which creates an utterly unworkable dilemma for the GOP. Whatever their willingness to hold the line on immigration, most ambitious ones are rather uncomfortable demonstrating their willingness by alienating everybody else. I don’t believe that the GOP needs to sign on to a generous immigration reform package to improve their standing among minorities and educated whites. But what they can’t do, is call Mexicans rapists in blanket statements. The arguments have to be very tight, and very careful. This is hard enough when you’re dealing with hundreds of political operators with political ambitions that require getting attention. More importantly, though, it’s exactly the opposite of what is being demanded here . Ann Coulter more or less said as much to a reporter after Trump turned:

My worship for him is like the people of North Korea worship their Dear Leader – blind loyalty. Once he gave that Mexican rapist speech, I’ll walk across glass for him. That’s basically it. Unlike the crazy Cruz supporters, I’ll criticize him, and I have, but it’s all minor stylistic stuff. We all want to shoot him at various times.

When Trump tentatively announced a reversal on amnesty, Coulter started cussing up a storm. Mickey Kaus fell into line pretty quickly. Mark Krikorian, who is very policy-centric, is the only one who is not on board. Most of the anti-immigration Trumpers I know are still going to vote for him regardless of what he said, for the same reason they voted for Romney and even McCain. The alternative is the Democrat, and despite some bloated primary rhetoric, they know who is worse than whom from their perspective. And Trump still promises the wall.

In the meantime, the anti-immigration movement is as far as it ever was from a semblance of respectability. I don’t know what the future holds for the Republican Party and their position in it, but half of them are now on the record accepting forms of amnesty they rejected a few months ago. Unless they can firmly win Trump back (and maybe they will on Tuesdays and Thursdays and alternating weekends), that’s going to be the new starting point for all future negotiations. Hillary Clinton is going to win an election she might otherwise have lost, and there is a non-trivial chance that she will have the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court.

The side of me that views them as the enemy would like to be able to say that it’s their own fault for being so intransigent, and so unwilling to compromise, but I am not sure how much it mattered in the end. They tried cooperating, and it didn’t work. They tried rebelling, and it didn’t work. It didn’t work when the polling numbers on immigration were favorable to them, and it won’t work now that they are as unfavorable as they have ever been. They poisoned their own well with the rhetoric they demanded. With the fall of Trumptown (on this issue), there are no paths to victory and there probably never were. Even if they hadn’t lost public opinion. Reasonable faces aren’t trustworthy. Unreasonable faces aren’t popular. All that’s left is to hold the line until the inevitable fall. All they can do is keep burning the fields and admiring their work.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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83 thoughts on “The Collapse of the Wall

  1. That’s an interesting observation about the speech tattoo. Probably correct also. The biggest border hawk guy i knew i meatspace was very big on the Wall and Security first then we’ll talk about everything else. Sadly he , nor other border hawks, just don’t see how that is terrible negotiating strategy that will never find a partner. “Give us what we want first then we will start to discuss what you want”. Ridiculous.

    I agree that a lot of border hawks see the R establishment as stabbing them in the back by cozying up to business or liberal party goers. This is where the conservative media has really done them a disservice and twisted their perceptions out of reality. Sadly for BH’s a lot of R’s just don’t share their beliefs on the border and never have. They have plenty of their own cocktail parties and don’t need liberal approval, they just aren’t BH’s. Part of this is the shallow tick people have of always assuming pols aren’t insincere or lying. Yeah yeah i know the responses, but many R’s have made it clear they aren’t the kind of BH that real hawks want. Is Jeb or Mario a real border hawk..nope. They ain’t really lying either, they just aren’t what BH’s want. Border Hawks would be wise to realize they aren’t a silent majority who is being oppressed. They won’t but it would help them if they did.

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    • The polling on the issue – that their view is a minority one – is their most immediate problem, but it’s not their biggest problem. Their biggest program is that even when their polling is good and their views are popular, the political class (for various reasons) simply won’t cooperate, and they can’t get what they want without the cooperation of the political class. (Not just in getting the bill passed, but in implementing its content.)

      So I don’t think it’s a matter that they need to get more realistic, or that they’re going about it all wrong. I think they’re playing a game they can’t win no matter what they do. Not without tossing the table, and even then.

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  2. There are a few ways too view Trump’s “moderation”. You seem to be viewing it as Republicans wanting to cozy up the liberal establishment and all their cocktail parties. I think Trump isn’t seriously trying to conduct minority outreach but placate white, college-educated voters who might not be liberal but don’t want to be associated with the full outright bigotry of the alt-right and people like Breitbart.

    What fascinates me about the alt-right is that they seemingly come from the same people they deplore. Trump’s speech writer is a Jewish guy in his 30s from Santa Monica. The guy grew up in a liberal family. This is hardly being an outsider on the margins of society. Steve Bannon was a trader at Goldman Sachs and worked in Hollywood.

    There seems to be a strong and contradictory “shock the middle classes” attitude to the alt-right. Also strange is Moldbug and techie neo-reactionaries who talk about making Elon Musk or Eric Schmidt king. They end up picking some very liberal people for being types who allegedly reject liberalism and democracy.

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    • I think “This ostensible reach out to minorities is actually about whites” is true to an extent, but it’s said about every attempt (including George W Bush speaking Spanish and teaming up with black church leaders) so I ultimately pay it little mind.

      But here, I think it basically follows the track of the autopsy. It’s what people (in this case Conway, Christie, Giuliani – everybody but Bannon) want to do anyway and so they convinced Trump.

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      • George W. Bush (and Karl Rove) made a very serious effort to win the votes of blacks and Hispanics. He did better in these categories than any Republican before him since probably Eisenhower. And better than any candidate since him. This is a thing that I would definitely give him credit for – he was trying to make the Republican Party a place that a black or Hispanic conservative could call home.

        That has gone up in smoke, and his work has been destroyed, and my reading of the tea leaves is that he isn’t happy about that at all.

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      • As Jay from Brooklyn (or someone) pointed out. Trump is currently polling at 1 percent of the African-American vote. Bush II received 11 percent of the African-American vote. Romney received 6 percent. The 11 percent gave Bush the Presidency twice. The 6 percent kept red states red. Trump’s one percent has the potential of turning red states blue at least this time.

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        • The black vote problem is a much bigger one than the Hispanic one, in my view, for the GOP generally and Trump in particular.

          I’m not sure either are as big of a problem – potentially anyway – as the educated and white woman vote.

          But I think Trump is toast no matter what.

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          • Yeah, look, the black vote is gone. I don’t see how he can get it back. Trump has full on assailed the first Black President (a man the black voters love) for eight years. That ain’t something you can undo. I think Trump could make up ground with women, educated voters AND Hispanics long before the black voters will consider forgiving him.

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            • As I say, I think Trump is toast regardless. But demographics aren’t states in an electoral college. If Trump gets 5% of the black vote, that’s different than getting 1%. If Trump’s mind were taken over today by a good candidate’s, I think he could make non-zero progress. But Trump is Trump, so I’m not expecting it…

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      • I never said it about Bush, but I did say it about Romney, because I believed it. Given the way Trump is causing the GOP coalition to go up in flames, I think I was right to believe it then, and I’m right to believe it now.

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    • “What fascinates me about the alt-right is that they seemingly come from the same people they deplore.”

      “Come from” and “are” mean very different things. How many liberals had their fiercest battles with their parents?

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  3. I just wanted to say that I love the prison tattoo metaphor.

    I’m not sure what you mean when you say, “After running some numbers, it became apparent that the “Campaign Autopsy” as it related to the Hispanic vote and Comprehensive Immigration Reform simply wasn’t true.”

    I’m pretty sure the Border Hawks believe it isn’t true. But I think they are wrong. Demographics are moving against them, not for them. They still believe in the “missing white voter”. Was that what you meant?

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    • It’s tricky. Basically, if I’m being a Dark Analyst, the Autopsy doesn’t seem especially right on this matter. If I’m making a list of reasons why the Republicans lost the 2012 election, Hispanics are barely on it. And I’m not sure Immigration Reform is the best approach even if that is a problem.

      That it was such a focus of that document and its response indicates much more about pre-existing priorities than it does sound political analysis.

      More generally: Past the short term, the party is definitely going to need to do *something* about the non-white. In the short and medium term, it’s not as clear. I favor almost any path but the “Consolidate The White Vote” path, but I don’t know how much of that is sound political analysis, and how much of that is simply political preference.

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      • There’s a big difference between “Party A is the only one that cares for group X” and “Party B ONLY cares for group Y”.

        Caring for group X does not in principle stand in the way for Party A to reach to group Z also.

        But Party B cannot reach outside group Y.

        When (some) Democrats agreed to be the party that would represent black people, whites (whatever percentage of them) replied by asking Republicans to be more pro-white (pro male, pro Christian(TM)) . The GOP took the devil’s deal, and the vicious/virtuous circles started. Other ethnic minorities, women, non-Christians (TM) gravitated out of the Republican orbit and towards the Dems because they cared, too, about these other groups issues.

        And the more other groups left the GOP, the more the GOP focused on their white male Christian base until there’s nothing else but the group Y.

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        • I don’t disagree with this. The numbers just aren’t there for White Christian Male. The last one is the biggest and most immediate problem with that equation. And the biggest hole in the Trump model.

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  4. So my own outsider question. If X is the number of border hawks who’ll say “That treacherous fisher, I ain’t voting for him!” and Y is the number of voters who say “Huh, maybe he’s not racist and crazy, I don’t like HRC so I’ll vote for him now!” Which of those numbers are bigger?

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        • Well, that’s the “This doesn’t matter, nothing matters,” school of thought. If nothing matters, then nothing matters and why are we bothering? You’ve made up your mind already, I’ve made up my mind already, everyone has made up his or her mind already, nothing anyone says or does is going to make anyone change their minds. Might as well hold the election today, because since nothing matters and no one can say or do anything to change the result, the result on November 8 will necessarily be identical to the result we’d have today.

          Intuitively, don’t we all feel in our bones that this is not the case? Something still matters. Maybe not much. Maybe not this. But something must matter, at least a little bit.

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      • I think he’s running a greater risk of alienating his core supporters (who, bluntly, love the ‘tough talk’ on immigration) than he has a chance of wooing back voters.

        By and large, once you ‘wash your hands’ of a politician, you don’t come back. Not the heat of the moment, pre-convention, stuff — I mean you washing your hands of your party’s official candidate. Rally around the party, hold your nose — that happens. But the GOP folks leaving Trump now? They’ve basically bucked tribalism and said “Nope, nope, nope. Can’t vote for MY party’s candidate”.

        That’s pretty sticky behavior. You’ve rejected both the candidate and your political tribe. That’s not something you’ll drift back to easily. You’ve Made A Stand, as it were.

        What looks like a vague shift (that’s already being walked back) on immigration? I don’t think that’s gonna coax many Republicans back. I’m pretty sure “Deport them all!” wasn’t the deal breaker in the first place.

        Now I’m not sure a softening (that’s already being walked back) of his “Deport them all/build a wall” stance will really alienate his supporters either. But if there was going to be net movement, I’d say he’d lose more than he gained.

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  5. I’m going to reiterate my point that you can’t have a free market without free movement of people or something close to it. Unless the border hawks are going to agree to a radical transformation of the American economy that might involve lowering their standard of living than fighting for less immigration is going to be a no go.

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  6. I confess, I have a different take on the Autopsy than you do. I never took it to mean, “if only we had done X, latinos would have won us this election.” I took it more as a, “these are a subset of our weakest points that are only going to get worse going forward, so we need to change if we want to win.” I still think the Autopsy — all of it, not just where it related to latino outreach — was pretty much on the nose. Not because if they had done it it would have put them in the catbird seat at this moment in time, but because their long-term viability depends on them turning away from what we now call Trumpism.

    Now, does that mean they would have gotten the Coulters of the world to happily sign on? Probably not. But at the end of the day, you have to be aware that one group of voters is large and growing, and the other is small, growing older, and shrinking. Hell, there are still people who today, in 2016, believe the 19th Amendment was a mistake and needs to be repealed, and those people are ripe for the picking for anyone who wants to go chase them by offering a platform thatpromxises such. But you just have to be prepared to deal with the consequences of embracing such a strategy.

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    • Perhaps that’s true for the autopsy itself as a document. But the autopsy is supposed to most closely relate to the dead body it’s looking at and how it died, isn’t it?

      I liked it when it came out, but it immediately transitioned into “Immigration Reform must be a priority” which was never actually indicated by any sort of evidence. it was simply what the party wanted to do. Perhaps because they thought it was the easiest “Okay, there, were did it. Now vote for us” or because their donors liked it or because they themselves liked it.

      The stuff about women voters kind of worked out better. Not the stuff with immigration, which had limited upside and (it turns out) significant downside.

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    • I agree with your analysis. The report conclusion was “we can commit suicide now, and hope to be reborn in a better place, electorally, or we can linger around, holding on to existence until the party itself turns to dust”

      And they chose to linger around, probably due to the difference between “they” and “the party”. Priorities were misaligned there

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  7. “What they want, though, is for any talk of amnesty to come last. Otherwise, what they believe is going to happen is that you will get a comprehensive reform package where everybody gets carrots and the stick never gets funded. (They believe this is what is going to happen because, in all likelihood, it is.) So unauthorized immigrants get residency, they get citizenship, they never pay the “back taxes”, the wall never gets built, employers are never cracked down upon, and the process starts all over again at some point in the future. So before anybody gets any carrots, there must be sticks. It’s the non-negotiable point. The enforcement enhancements cannot come later, or concurrently, but must come up front. Then, and only then, can we talk what to do with the ones already here. And if we never get to that point, and they live the rest of their lives in the shadows but here, they’re okay with that.”

    But this is exactly what came out of the collapse of the Bush immigration reform efforts. The GOP declared : “enforce now, talk about reform later”. Significant funds were allocated to increase border patrols (a realtor friend made a killing in housing for the new officers and their families in near border town in NM and AZ ), a patched up version of the Wall (the “Wire Fence” ) was erected in those areas where crossing was easier. And because “enforcement” was never reached, nothing in terms of immigration reform came out in 2004-2012, until Obama decided to play the Executive Action route in his second term.

    So in reality the BH don’t seem to have a real complaint here. Most of the GOP has had their backs, even if they are not ideal logically pure, they never really betrayed them. Hell, they betrayed their anointed Dubbya instead.

    So the complaint that BH might have against the GOP is unrealistic. Is not that they didn’t prioritize the stick to the point where the carrot was a distant mirage. Their complaint, which was clear already by the Romney campaign, was that no effort had been done towards deporting the 10-12 million undocumented aliens. That’s why Rommney had to talk about self-deportation.

    And the reason deportation wasn’t on the table, is because it can’t be done, it’s not logistically possible. Not because the GOP exchanged the BH for a shrimp dipped in pink sauce.

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    • So the complaint that BH might have against the GOP is unrealistic.

      This, multiplied several times.

      Balanced budget, American supremacy, a return to traditional moral values, prosperity riding on the back of the Laffer Curve, and a world where “guys like us we had it made” were all promises made by Reagan, and all have repeatedly failed to have been upheld.

      In my view, each generation of conservative base has grown even more adamant and militant about these promises even as the GOP elite grow increasingly cynical about them.

      So Trump is once again selling the same promise, but the GOP elite is terrified to admit that they know full well it is all snake oil.

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      • I think they’re terrified he’ll actually try it, on accident, when the GOP back-benchers who don’t know it’s a con push it through.

        That’s how you get Kansas.

        The crazies get control and actually demand you do what you’ve been saying. The Republican platform works best when it’s in no danger of being implemented.

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    • But this is exactly what came out of the collapse of the Bush immigration reform efforts.

      That was, in their view, mostly security theater, and policies easily revised downward once the legal residency is established. It’s an impasse created by mutual mistrust. And in their case, I don’t think the mistrust is entirely unwarranted. If I were as hostile immigration as they are, I’d probably feel the same way. And I think that they’re probably right that in the event of comprehensive immigration reform, the amnesty and/or path to citizenship is likely to be a lot more permanent than the border control measures.

      I mean, I read this and I get a good idea of what they want. Reasonable? Well, that’s in the eye of the beholder. Politically, I think it’s a road to nowhere. But I’m pretty sure all other roads lead to nowhere as well. And nowhere isn’t the worst place for them. The worst place for them is legalization and/or citizenship without much tangibly done to prevent people from getting here and turning at least the new ones back.

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      • OK, what Krikorian is proposing is absolutely crazy:

        Finally, any future deal would have to include an end to the anachronistic practice of automatically conferring citizenship on children born to foreign tourists, foreign students, and illegal aliens. Automatic citizenship at birth should be restricted to children of citizens or permanent residents (with, perhaps, a sort of statute of limitations as in Australia, where a child born to illegals can become a citizen if he spends his entire first ten years in the country).

        He wants a Constitutional amendment before budging an inch on legal status! Failing to provide one is, evidently, to be interpreted as “selling out”.

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    • I wrote, and then erased, a very similar post making the same point, but riffing on the line in the OP about BH’s having tried cooperation. Which, as you point out, doesn’t ring true. They have the backing of the vast majority of nationally elected republican officials, a current president who is deporting people in record numbers, and have ensured that there is no plausible path to comprehensive immigration reform without a massive democratic sweep this year. They got those ‘victories’ by refusing to cooperate/compromise. Yet, despite the fact that basically every republican candidate had a get tough first immigration proposal, they aren’t happy unless the candidates aren’t also saying hateful things about immigrants.

      As you can tell, I’m broken up about how their lack of cooperation/compromise has turned around and bit them in the ass.

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      • The “tried cooperating” was actually in reference to “tried cooperating with the Republican Party.”

        A while back, Damon left this comment:

        I agree with this but no republican has ever said or done anything about immigration other than cave to amnesty. What makes you think anyone non Trump from the former lineup would be any different?

        Now, it’s my personal view this underestimates what the GOP did for them. I mean, they stopped it and there is a good chance in 2017 they’re going to find out what the alternative looks like.

        That being said, his view is the common one. They worked with the party, tried to elect respectable anti-immigration candidates, and… many of them would go on to support an unacceptable immigration package. So cooperation didn’t work because some of their allies demonstrated a willingness to sell them out. This election, they rebelled, and that looks like it’s not going to work either.

        So torch the fields.

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        • I’m sorry, I apologize, etc., but what does this mean:

          “They [BH] worked with the party [GOP], tried to elect respectable anti-immigration candidates, and… many of them [GOP members ???] would go on to support an unacceptable immigration package”

          There’s been no immigration package supported (or proposed) by the GOP since 2005. What is that they are complaining about? The GOP killed the Bush proposal and countered with increased appropriations for enforcement and border security. Real money was spent. Government really grew.

          I always took the language at the time about “we’ll discuss other changes when the border is secure” to be a fig leaf that was supposed to mean instead “because the border will never be sufficiently secure in our and your (the BH’s ) view, we therefore will never contemplate any immigration reform”.

          Yes, the Gang of Eight was a walk back from that promise, but it never had any support from the bulk of the party in Congress. Marco’s rookie mistake (he took the 2012 autopsy report seriously).

          But Go8 notwithstanding, the GOP hasn’t wavered about immigration at all since 2005. They still haven’t. So what is the unacceptable immigration package we are talking about? The Gang of Eight? The one that no one supported?

          What was that the GOP actually supported, that Cruz supported, that Walker supported, that Santorum supported, that was so terrible, so treacherous?

          It seems to me that what we are talking here is a purity test. BHs not only want the GOP to oppose immigration reform of any kind (which the GOP has complied with) but also to denounce immigrants in the strongest terms. Not moving an inch for ten years about legalizing the 10-12 million illegals is not enough. Unless you include in the budget an allocation rounding ALL of them and shipping them to the border in cattle cars, you are being treasonous to the BH.

          At what point can we start considering that there is a component of the BH demands that go past security and economic issues and gets into xenophobic, and worse, territory?

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          • One of the dynamics of the 2016 primary is that almost every credible candidate supported reform that included legalization: Jeb, Rubio, Walker, and Cruz. Boehner supported it. Ryan supported it. Cantor supported it. McConnell supported it. Sean Hannity supported it!

            There was a lot of support for it. They only held the line when the Border Hawks forced them. They got them to back down not with cooperation, but with rebellion.

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            • I’ll take your word because I avoided the Republican primary like hell, but I really don’t remember all this support. At most, some reverse dog whistling.

              Though Jeb did state some pro immigrant positions, I saw that more as being antiTrump that anything else. But his personal position was always compromised, being the brother of Bush the immigration reformer and married to an immigrant himself.

              Hehe, I’ve already conceded Rubio and Jeb. You might get to prove your point after all,

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            • One of the dynamics of the 2016 Senate race is that a good outcome for Democrats will probably mean the defeat of pro-legalization Republican Senators Mark Kirk, Kelly Ayotte, Mark Rubio, and perhaps John McCain(*), and the success of anti-legalization Democratic Senator Evan Bayh (**).

              (*) McCain mentioned because his general election opponent appears to be cynically attacking him from both sides on immigration.

              (**) Besides his vote against comprehensive reform, Bayh told Politico yesterday he didn’t know how he would have voted on the Gang of Eight bill.

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        • This is the modern GOP in a nutshell. Decades of talk about the silent majority, a center-right country, and constitutionalist judges have convinced Republican voters that their party preferences are popular and natural[1]. If you’re standing athwart history yelling STOP then even getting 90% of what you want (say, 10:1 tax cuts to spending increases) is a loss. Until Republican voters realize that “we tried compromise so now we will only demand 100%” is not how policy gets done, they’ll be on a long path to nowhere.

          [1] Whereas Democrats believe the average voter wants what they want but just doesn’t know it yet. Which means they’re much more comfortable with getting half a loaf.

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          • “Whereas Democrats believe the average voter wants what they want but just doesn’t know it yet. Which means they’re much more comfortable with getting half a loaf.”

            They are not completely wrong on that belief. When Democratic proposals are polled without reference to the political party, most of them get wide support, even from professed Republicans.

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            • I’ve seen this but I honestly can’t tell how much of it is because Democratic policies tend to look good piecemeal. With the ACA, for example, the guaranteed coverage is highly popular and the mandate is highly unpopular. Should we think of that as 50% popular even though one cannot work without the other? More precisely: the ACA has been in place for 6 years and polling hasn’t shifted at all, even among Democrats, so I think the practical value of this theory is limited.

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      • It’s almost as if they really want mass deportation, or simply that there stop being large numbers of latino people in this country full stop. Or even if they don’t want these things, they understand the political world in a way that nothing short of these things would be good enough.

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        • Border hawks are anti-latino the way that feminists are anti-male.

          That is, they aren’t, but if you say “the policies you favor will end up mostly affecting persons who are latino/male”, they will reply “that group has been the benefit of improper benefits for a long time now, so if they are more affected by curtailing those benefits it’s because there are more of them receiving them”.

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          • Most border hawks I know can fairly be described as anti-latino. It’s just wrapped in to their arguments. Though they do typically like Latinos on a person-to-person basis in a credit-to-their-people sort of way.

            That said, if we had a lot of Polish immigrants they’d likely sound a lot like British border hawks. And far from being unaware of the history with Irish and Italian immigrants, it’s actually incorporated into many of their arguments. (“They were bad when they first arrived, too. They became Americans when we had the immigration freeze. If we freeze immigration now, the Latinos will probably assimilate, too.” – which is actually a bad argument, but that’s the argument.)

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            • “Though they do typically like Latinos on a person-to-person basis in a credit-to-their-people sort of way. ”

              That’s kind of what I was going for. It’s not so much “hate brown poors” as it is “closing this loophole applies to everyone equally, and if illegal immigrants get hit harder than anyone else it’s only because they used it more than anyone else, and I’m not going to cry harder for illegal immigrants than for actual American citizens”.

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              • There are illegal immigrants, and then there are illegal immigrants. The former is the group of people their home country didn’t want. The latter is the group of people their home country wants dead.

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                • This is where I cite The Last Psychiatrist, who commented about the number of people who, upon arriving in America, suddenly discovered that they were political refugees who were forced to flee their home country because they were homosexual.

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          • What “improper benefits” did Gonzalo Curiel receive?

            This argument is much, much harder to defend since the border hawks decided to make Donald Trump their standard bearer, but it’s not like Mark Krikorian wasn’t wringing his hands about how terrible Hispanic immigrants were because of their anti-Israel attitudes years ago.

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            • I didn’t say that their arguments were completely valid.

              What I’m going for is to show how they’re something beyond “hate brown poors”.

              Because these really are not people who would use weasel words and coded phrases to subtly cloak a sentiment like “hate brown poors”.

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          • I’m not talking about the effects of different policies; I’m talking about the revealed preferences of political actors. We’ve had net negative immigration, increased deportations, and no comprehensive reform for years now, but BH’s still demand enforcement first as a show of good will. I’m suggesting that no plausible amount of enforcement will be enough.

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            • The somewhat natural abatement isn’t really sufficient, in their view. They want the system to be ready for the next surge when it comes.

              While some of their views/demands do seem unreasonable to me (above and beyond disagreement), this doesn’t.

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    • Exactly. What would “enforcement first” possibly consist of? If several years of net negative immigration doesn’t cut it, it’s hard not to draw some uncharitable conclusions about what the hardline anti-immigration folks actually want.

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  8. You’ll note that often you get a border hawk to discuss what kinds of reforms they would be amenable to discussing once the border is hypothetically secure enough, “assimilation” or some cognate word gets deployed with frequency. And this tells you what the priority really is.

    If the economic realities were that we had an obvious national labor shortage, such that the minimum wage wasn’t a concern because demand for labor were high enough to price nearly every job above statutory minimum, would we see the same sorts of anxieties and concerns about “securing the border”? I can’t reasonably imagine other than that yes we still would.

    The concerns about people coming here from Mexico and other points south is not strictly economic and it surely isn’t based on concerns about security. (If we really cared about keeping turrirrists out of ‘Murca, we’d be treating the Canadian border and airports with the same level of anxiety and concern as is being assigned to Mexico. If you were a turrrirrst, especially one with brown skin, wouldn’t you judge your chances of entry as higher by posing as a bass player from a Vancouver band doing a gig on Seattle’s Waterfront than as a migrant agricultural worker looking to pick grapefruit in Yuma?)

    Much of the anxiety driving demands to reduce immigration across the Mexican border is cultural. People from Mexico and points south are seen as culturally dissimilar from people already here, in a way that Canadians are seen as culturally similar. So no one is asking for a wall from Grand Portage to Blaine, just one from Brownsville to San Ysidro. (Not that the wall itself will do a damn bit of good other than being an expensive theatric. It would have gates, after all.)

    And although it’s clear enough that there are a handful of industries — jantiorial, construction, food service, and domestic services — where there is a significant impact of foreign workers holding a large number of jobs, it’s not at all clear to me that citizens and green card holders cannot reasonably compete for jobs in those industries or that whatever unemployment we have as a systemic matter in the economy as a whole has really been damaged. If we didn’t have the 11-12 million “illegal immigrants” here that we do, I have difficulty believing that our unemployment rate would be substantially different than it is now.

    So despite acknowledging that a) foreign workers both documented and not do seek and hold jobs in significant numbers here, particularly in a handful of highly impacted industries, and b) it is not only theoretically possible but an actual reality for a Border Hawk to base concerns about tighter controls on the Mexican but not Canadian borders on economic issues, I nevertheless read whatever anxiety border hawks have about Mexico as 1) grounded in a view of the economy based on assumptions incongruent with economic reality, 2) viewed through a lens ground in the 1930’s when there really was systemic unemployment at a dangerous level, which are 3) too conveniently and too often applied as a tissue over what are actually concerns about cultural changes.

    “Concerns about cultural changes” is as nice a phrase as I can come up with for a phenomenon that has many less pleasant sorts of labels.

    And that’s why border hawks insist “We must stop people from coming in to the country first, and only will we even discuss how to reform the process.” It’s not that the jobs are all being gobbled up. It’s not that there is systemic crime. (Yes, there are some foreign nationals who are criminals and who do very bad things. There are many citizens who are criminals and who do very bad things too.) It’s that the new people are culturally different from the people who are already here, and the people who are already here don’t want their culture to change.

    It’s not that a border hawk is (necessarily) racially bigoted. It’s that a border hawk views her hawkishness as an act of preventing cultural change. It’s no wonder, then, that border hawkishness occurs coincidentally so often with other kinds of cultural conservatism. Which is why border hawks should react to Trump’s pivot (assuming he sticks to it) by feeling their blood turn to ice. Trump 2.0 has just signalled that he doesn’t care about the kind of cultural change that necessarily comes with the people he’s indicated he’d allow in notwithstanding his expensive, silly, ineffective wall.

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  9. Excellent post Will. Really. It’s outstanding. Here are some jumbly thoughts:

    – In recent history, the common, conventionally accepted view/complaint of the GOP identified an inherent split in the party comprised of fundamentally irreconcilable camps: voters who wanted more restrictive immigration policies and enforcement, and pro-business interests (directly or indirectly via their political proxies) who wanted the opposite, in particular, an easy flow of illegal across the border.
    – Another common, conventionally accepted view recently was that the GOP was split into two dominant camps which potentially could be reconciled: social conservatives and the pro-business financial funders of the party.
    – What your post makes me wonder is to what extent the social conservatives have always been (well, in recent history at least) a demographic which fundamentally opposes immigration and specifically illegal immigration from Mexico and further south, something Trump identified and brought “into the light” so to speak.

    More simply put, I’m rethinking a bunch of views about conservatives and the GOP which I’ve held for some time (none of them very flattering given recent politics), in particular, the emerging realization of the fundamentally central role border issues, in all their political complexity! (including outright racism!) play in shaping conservatives’ social and political views.

    So thanks for that. I guess.

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    • Hey Stillwater, sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you on this. You’re asking bigger questions than I can answer. The best I can do is:

      – I think this is true, but I think it goes beyond “business interests.” I actually think a lot of Republicans genuinely blanch at the sort of enforcement that anti-immigration folks appear to want. (On that, I believe a lot of them do want the worst of it, the Deportation Force, but aren’t demanding it to the extent that people think.)
      – I think the conventional wisdom is wrong and that there are essentially three camps in the GOP and not two. Once I realized this, things started making a lot more sense. The tricky thing about immigration is that it pulls *some* from all three groups, but not proportionally.
      – Notably, very few of the border hawks I know are social conservatives, in the sense that we think of the term (ie Christian, anti-abortion, etc). Quite the opposite, in fact. Most are pro-choice. This isn’t a random sampling, of course, but Trump did pretty poorly among church-going Evangelicals (he did well among self-identifiers who don’t go to church). I don’t know that their views on immigration are more liberal than the average Republican’s, but it’s at least not as central to them. Now, between Trump and Clinton, they’re definitely going to embrace Trump along with most other Republicans.

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      • Church going evangelicals, Church going Catholics, and, in general, people most seriously engaged with Religion tend to be more supportive, or less opposed, to immigration and immigrants

        For instance, Russet Moore, one of the Southern Baptist’s most influential leadears today has spoken quite forcefully against being anti-immigrant in general. And the BH have always pointed out the Catholic Bishops support of immigrant communities.

        In that respect, it seems that being Church engaged correlates negatively with being a BH, even if it doesn’t necessarily mean support for free movement. There a big space between free movement and BHs.

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  10. (there’s an origin story involving him reading Ann Coulter’s book)

    “Bruce, we’ve found a different origin story for you. The good news is, your parents live! But the bad news is you have to go through something else equally traumatic.”

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  11. They tried cooperating, and it didn’t work. They tried rebelling, and it didn’t work. It didn’t work when the polling numbers on immigration were favorable to them, and it won’t work now that they are as unfavorable as they have ever been.

    This is when you shake your head, admit that you are in an unsustainable minority on this particular policy stance, and throw it in the bag with the other “things Americans reject that I think are important” issues, and move on.

    My bag is full of some pretty important issues. The American public manifestly does not care about them. The American public probably has never cared about them and they won’t care about them tomorrow, either.

    My choices are either become a crazy person in a street with a sandwich board or admit that this is something I ain’t never gonna get.

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    • I’m not at all convinced that their problem is that they are a minority position, or that it doesn’t poll well. Polling has not always been as bad as it currently is, and is usually pretty muddy. The attitudes of the political class, though, don’t change. There is simply no reason to believe that they are going to cooperate, Democrat or Republican.

      This isn’t an altogether bad thing, depending on your popular preferences. A political class can prevent a public from going down some bad roads. But it is what is it is.

      (To pick another country’s example, a rockin’ 71% of Brits believe that there is too much immigration in that country, including about half of Remainers. Yet the likelihood of any significant reduction in immigration even after Brexit is very low.)

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