Friday, January 26, 2024

MAGA isn't serious about the border

 A lot of what goes on in Washington is political theater. Politics these days is performative art aimed at rallying the base and undercutting the opposition rather than getting things done. Sometimes this fact is more obvious than others. It was blatantly obvious this week when Donald Trump did his best to kill the border security compromise. 

There have been a few times in our recent history when an immigration compromise was possible. One of those opportunities has presented itself over the past few months as a perfect storm of incentives materialized.

a sign warning of trespassing and restricted area
Photo by Greg Bulla on Unsplash


On one side, the influx of immigrants on the border has created a crisis that even Democrats are unable to ignore. The border crisis is one of the issues that is dragging down President Biden’s approval rating and endangering his reelection. 

On the other side, many Republicans want to join Democrats in unlocking more aid to Ukraine. Despite continuing to receive aid from Europe, Ukraine (and Israel) is running short of artillery shells and missiles that primarily come from the US. 

There seemed to be the recipe for a bargain. Democrats had the incentive to compromise on the border and Republicans had the incentive to compromise on Ukraine. There was enough cross-party support for both elements of the deal to make an agreement possible. In fact, Republicans for months sought to tie Ukraine aid to the border, and the proposed bill does just that. The bill would include defense funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan while tightening immigration rules

Then the Great Negotiator stepped in. Trump attacked the deal, calling it “meaningless” and said that Congress would be better off killing it. 

Trump’s motive for scuttling the deal is made plain in a Truth Social post in which he ranted, “ A Border Deal now would be another Gift to the Radical Left Democrats. They need it politically but don’t care about our Border.”

Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) put it bluntly, “I’m not willing to do too damn much right now to help a Democrat and to help Joe Biden’s approval rating.”

The MAGA line is don’t hand Democrats a win nine months before the election. Who cares if the border stays in crisis? That’s actually a good thing because it will hurt Democrats. 

And that’s the core truth of the immigration issue, not to mention a number of other problems. The fringes of the parties don’t want a solution because the problem is valuable as a way to fundraise and rally the base. If the problem is solved, the wedge issue goes away. 

The problem is that these favorable conditions for a deal won’t last forever. After the election, Democrats won’t have as much incentive to solve the border crisis because a) if Biden wins, the threat to his re-election will have passed and b) if Trump wins, they will have more incentive to deny him a win than to solve the issue, much as Trump is obstructing now. Why would Democrats deal with him after the election when he just killed a similar deal? 

But won’t Republicans have the edge if Trump wins the election? Assuming that Republicans win control of Congress (not a safe assumption by the way), Congress is still going to be closely divided. Republicans will not have a filibuster-proof majority. The GOP can introduce its perfect border bill and then watch it die a slow death as it is filibustered. 

Those are the options. On the one hand, Republicans can make a compromise and get the best deal possible to secure the border (I’m in favor of the foreign aid part of the deal as well so it’s a no-brainer for me) or they can propose the elusive perfect bill that will go nowhere. 

So far, every time in my political life that the issue has come up, Republicans have chosen not to solve the border problem because the compromises didn’t give them everything they wanted. As a result, border problems that could have been solved more than 20 years ago continue to this day. 

Hope remains that a bipartisan coalition will find a way to reach a bargain. After Mitch McConnell poured cold water on prospects earlier this week, the Republican leader is still pushing to close the deal.

“I think this is the ideal time to do it,” McConnell recently told reporters. “If this were not divided government, we wouldn’t have an opportunity to do anything about the border. In fact, I don’t think we’d get 60 votes for any border plan if we had a fully Republican government.”

It may be counterintuitive that a border bill is possible with divided government but wouldn’t be if Republicans dominated the government. Nevertheless, this insight reflects the realities of Washington politics and Senate rules. 

The pieces are in place for a compromise that would benefit the country and please both sides. The problems are the fringe for whom the perfect is the enemy of the good and the MAGA faction that is trying to torpedo the deal for their political benefit. 

In a perfect world, if the bill dies Republicans would stop hounding Democrats for doing nothing on the border. You know that won’t happen though. Sometimes getting things done gets in the way of whipping the base into a frenzy.

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TEXAS DEFIES SUPREME COURT: Also on the border, Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott is defying a Supreme Court ruling that requires the Lone Star State to allow federal authorities to remove razor wire that Texas had placed along a 30-mile stretch of border near Eagle Pass. The Court issued an unsigned order earlier this week that granted a request by the Biden Administration to allow it to remove the wire. Immigrants crossing the border have the legal right to request asylum under US law and several migrants have recently died crossing the Rio Grande in the disputed area. 

Those unhappy with US asylum law should try to change it. For example, they could try inserting reform into a bill like the one mentioned above. 

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THE BIBLE ON IMMIGRATION: At the risk of starting a regligous controversy, I want to point out that the Bible tells us to be merciful toward immigrants just as we would toward anyone else. I don’t believe that this precludes controlling immigration, but it does mean that an attitude of “let them die” or “we should bomb the migrant caravans” is wrong. Implementing policies that are intentionally cruel is not biblical. 

There are many verses that address the issue, but two that seem to summarize the biblical position are:

“And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” - Deuteronomy 10:19

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” - Hebrews 13:2

What would Jesus do?

From the Racket News

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