Andrew Sullivan: The Issue That Could Lose the Next Election for Democrats[Comment at Unz.com]
By Andrew Sullivan, October 20, 2017 9:21 am
I don’t believe it’s disputable at this point that the most potent issue behind the rise of the far right in America and Europe is mass immigration. It’s a core reason that Trump is now president; it’s why the AfD is now the third-biggest party in the German, yes, German, parliament; it’s why Austria’s new chancellor won by co-opting much of the far right’s agenda on immigration; it’s why Britain is attempting (and currently failing) to leave the EU; it’s why Marine Le Pen won a record number of votes for her party in France this spring. A critical moment, in retrospect, came with Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to import over a million Syrian refugees into the heart of Europe. I’ve no doubt her heart was in the right place, but the political naïveté was stunning. How distant from the lives and views of most people does an elite have to be to see nothing to worry about from such drastic social and cultural change? Michael Brendan Dougherty elegantly explains here the dynamic that followed. There are now new borders and fences going up all over Europe, as a response to Merkel’s blithe misjudgment.You would think that parties of the center-left would grapple with this existential threat to their political viability. And some have. One reason Britain’s Labour Party has done well in the last couple of years is that it has recognized the legitimacy of the issue. During the Brexit referendum, their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, expressed ambivalence toward remaining in the EU, careful not to lose his working-class base to the Europhobic right, recognizing the fears so many of his own supporters had about the impact of mass immigration on their lives, jobs, and culture. Even someone as leftist as Corbyn chose to be a pragmatist, trying to gain power, rather than a purist who might otherwise condemn his own voters as deplorable.
And this is one reason why I have dwindling hopes that the Democratic Party will be able to defeat Trump in 2020. Instead of adjusting to this new reality, and listening to the electorate, the Dems have moved ever farther to the left, and are controlled by ever-radicalizing activists. … Lind spells out the state of play:
Democrats in 2017, in general, tend to criticize the use of immigration enforcement, and tend to side with those accused of violating immigration law, as a broad matter of principle beyond opposing the particular actions of the administration … Democrats are no longer as willing to attack “illegal immigration” as a fundamental problem anymore.This is, to be blunt, political suicide. The Democrats’ current position seems to be that the Dreamer parents who broke the law are near heroes, indistinguishable from the children they brought with them; and their rhetoric is very hard to distinguish, certainly for most swing voters, from a belief in open borders. In fact, the Democrats increasingly seem to suggest that any kind of distinction between citizens and noncitizens is somehow racist. You could see this at the last convention, when an entire evening was dedicated to Latinos, illegal and legal, as if the rule of law were largely irrelevant. Hence the euphemism “undocumented” rather than “illegal.” So the stage was built, lit, and set for Trump.
He still tragically owns that stage. What Merkel did for the AfD, the Democrats are in danger of doing for the Trump wing of the GOP. The most powerful thing Trump said in the campaign, I’d argue, was: “If you don’t have borders, you don’t have a country.” And the Democrats had no answer, something that millions of Americans immediately saw. They still formally favor enforcement of immigration laws, but rhetorically, they keep signaling the opposite. Here is Dylan Matthews, also in Vox, expressing the emerging liberal consensus: “Personally, I think any center-left party worth its salt has to be deeply committed to egalitarianism, not just for people born in the U.S. but for everyone … It means treating people born outside the U.S. as equals … And it means a strong presumption in favor of open immigration.” Here’s Zack Beauchamp, a liberal friend of mine: “What if I told you that immigration restrictionism is and always has been racist?” Borders themselves are racist? Seriously?The entire concept of a nation whose citizens solely determine its future — the core foundation for any viable democracy at all — is now deemed by many left-liberals to be a function of bigotry. This is the kind of madness that could keep them from power indefinitely.