I wish it were not so, but I’m afraid this weekend is a preview of what American politics will be in the Trump era.
There seems little room for rational, reasoned discourse. It’s either Trumpian bombast and bluster on one side or angry, unhinged mobs headlined by ranting celebrities and journalists inclined to prove they really are the opposition party on the other.
Those of us who are skeptical of Trump, but aren’t inclined to think he’s another Hitler warming up the ovens for Muslim refugees, are on a bit of an island these days.
The Trump administration implemented a half-baked plan to address refugee and immigration security through ham-handed means. This provoked a hysterical response from Trump’s critics (more on that in a moment), but it shouldn’t have. As David French writes for National Review (a publication which opposed Trump’s election), “Trump’s order isn’t a betrayal of American values.”
French provides a bevy of facts and analysis which serve as a splash of cold water on the overheated response to Trump’s actions. “Applied correctly and competently, it can represent a promising fresh start and a prelude to new policies that protect our nation while still maintaining American compassion and preserving American friendships,” he writes.
Only will Trump apply the policy correctly and competently?
At Reason Jacob Sullum documents the “casual cruelty” of Trump sweeping up immigrants holding green cards in his order. “Over the weekend, hundreds of people who had permission to enter the United States as students, researchers, tourists, refugees, immigrants, and legal permanent residents were stopped from boarding their flights or detained after arriving at U.S. airports because of the new restrictions,” he writes. “Thousands more were left in limbo, their plans to move, visit children or ailing parents, take a job, or attend school suddenly canceled or on hold, all based on one man’s whim.”
The inclusion of green card holders made no sense given what Sullum describes as the “formidable” process necessary to get a green card. All Trump did was victimize those people, many (most?) of whom are on a track to becoming U.S. citizens.
That’s both bad policy and bad politics. No doubt why Trump is already backing off it.
There’s also the harm is doing to America’s reputation in the world. One of our great moral high grounds as a nation is our status as a nation of immigrants. Our status as a shining “city upon a hill”. The inscription on the Statue of Liberty calls that edifice the “mother of exiles.”
“From her beacon-hand, Glows world-wide welcome,” it reads. We rescind that welcome at our peril.
But while Trump deserves criticism, the completely out of proportion response from his critics probably did more to galvanize the President’s political base than undermine it.
On social media the hashtag #MuslimBan was trending, but Trump’s order wasn’t a Muslim ban specifically. Using that term is both unfair and inaccurate. “Fake news,” as the kids say these days.
There were claims that immigrants and refugees were being disappeared into black prisons by the Trump administration, only that turned out not to be true.
Whether it’s perpetuating more fake news about Trump gagging the EPA, or attacking Uber for not being sufficiently anti-Trump, in recent weeks the American left has done a lot to remind Trump voters of why they voted for Trump.
Instead of limiting themselves to valid criticism over the efficacy and implementation of Trump’s policies they carried on as though Trump were implementing a permanent ban on immigration And not, you know, a temporary moratorium on visa entries from seven countries identified by the Obama administration as posing serious risks to national security.
Speaking of President Obama, remember that time he ordered a stop to the processing of Iraqi refugees for six months? I don’t remember anyone taking to the streets outraged over that policy. But that was Obama, and that’s different I guess.
There is plenty of room for dissent over Trump’s policies. What’s objectionable isn’t the dissent itself but rather the form it’s taking. From bullying private businesses to angry mobs congesting travel and disrupting our peaceful communities, the left has made it clear that civil unrest – distinct from peaceful assembly – will be their weapon of choice against Trump.
We here in North Dakota got a preview with the #NoDAPL riots which saw political extremists from across the country flock to our state to attack law enforcement and foment violence.
Politics is the art of persuasion. Angry mobs and sanctimonious social media messaging aren’t very persuasive. So while I don’t think these tactics will ultimately be successful, they can cause a lot of hurt and pain before they fail.