Immigration Reform Wouldn’t Have Stopped Trump

Donald TrumpIn an otherwise interesting article, Jonathan Chait wrote, “In the aftermath of the 2012 election, it was obvious to nearly every analyst outside the Republican Party, and to quite a few of those within it, that the GOP needed to get immigration reform off the table to give it a chance with Latino voters. All House leaders had to do in order to accomplish this was to bring up an immigration-reform bill that had passed in the Senate, and it could have passed with just a few dozen Republican votes.” No, no, no! Jesus, how long are people going to believe this hogwash?! Sure, there were and still are analysts who think this. But they couldn’t be more wrong.

Chait continued, “Anger by the base paralyzed them from acting, and they muddled through instead.” I really wonder what people like Chait think political parties are. Do they think that the parties just make up their platforms and then hope that there will be enough voters for them to win elections? Parties are coalitions. For almost 50 years, the Republican Party has managed to wed the “libertarian” part of the party with the racist part. Is that racist part just going to shut up because immigration reform was passed?

The whole time immigration reform was being debated, it was very clear that even its Republican supporters had the attitude that this was the one thing that they were willing to do for the immigrant community.

This brings us back to Chait, “Not long ago, the prospect of Trump heading the ticket in 2016 was utterly unthinkable. Now it is thinkable…” How is it that the House passing immigration reform would have stopped Trump from gaining so much traction? Indeed, if immigration reform had passed, wouldn’t that have made the base even more angry? Wouldn’t that have made a Trump or Cruz candidacy all that much more appealing? I really don’t get the way that mainstream (usually liberal) pundits see this. It’s like they think that an immigration reform bill — one that was ridiculously harsh, requiring almost two decades to get citizenship — was some kind of magic bullet that would make the Republican Party’s racism problem vanish.

And look at what Chait acknowledges: the Republicans just had to allow the bill to get a vote where only a tiny percentage of Republicans would have voted for it. And it only passed the Senate with a handful of Republican votes. So what would this have said to the Latino community specifically? That the Republican Party doesn’t hate them, just everyone in it?! It’s madness. And it gets worse.

At least by doing nothing, things stay the way they are. But the whole time immigration reform was being debated, it was very clear that even its Republican supporters had the attitude that this was the one thing that they were willing to do for the immigrant community. So the Republicans were offering an incredibly harsh, punitive approach to immigration reform and acting like that was the end of it. It’s like a friend giving a junkie twenty bucks after years of charity, “Okay, but this is the last time I’m doing this!” That’s what the Republicans were offering.

Given the Republicans will not embrace immigrants (legal or otherwise), I do not see how immigration reform helps them. Are we to assume that immigrants are just ignorant? That they wouldn’t know that it was the Democratic Party that somehow got immigration reform passed despite Republicans and not because of them? But regardless of that, how does immigration reform make Trump’s candidacy less plausible?

Idealistic Basis of Liberal Patriotism

The Osterman WeekendYesterday, I watched Sam Peckinpah’s last film, The Osterman Weekend. It is based on the Robert Ludlum novel. It was only his second novel, and from what I understand, it didn’t make much more sense than the film. But the film really is something to behold. It has the feel of porn, with everyone spying on everyone else. And the last act turns the whole thing into a revenge story, with no real clue as to how the first two acts were meant to facilitate this. And it is a shame, because it has an excellent cast, and I’ve never seen Rutger Hauer so good.

But I want to focus on one little thing in the film. The CIA has decided to get well known liberal television journalist John Tanner (Rutger Hauer) to work for them by convincing him that his three closest friends are KGB agents. Laurence Fassett (John Hurt) thinks he will go for it because of Tanner’s politics. He says, “They say that converts make the greatest zealots. He’s more American and Americans. He’s a bigot about truth, democracy, justice.” I think that’s exactly true. The most liberal among us are the biggest believers in those grammar school civics lessons.

For a long time, I thought that conservatives were the same way. But I can’t say that’s true anymore. Conservatism is all about tribalism and hierarchy. America is not great because of its ideals or the things it does; for the conservative, America is great because it is America. And this is why we get this endless parade of jingoism — the constant call for us to use our military to crush some other group or country. I do see in this a certain naive idealism: the assumption that America is great for some vague and gauzy reason.

But if you aren’t willing to pull back the gauze and focus clearly on the reality, then all your patriotism is nothing more than chauvinism. And I wonder if there isn’t a deeper understanding that to look too closely at what America actually is would shatter the illusion. Maybe such naive conservatism is, at base, just the Dick Cheney kind of cynical conservatism. It doesn’t matter, I suppose. Because you can’t love something if you refuse to see it. That’s the kind of adolescent “love” that is weaker the more you know of the object.

The film made me wonder if I would rat out my friends if I found they were traitors. It’s hard to get into the mindset of the Cold War, especially knowing what a ridiculous game it was. But I’ve thought very clearly about whether I would rat out a friend involved in a terrorist plot (and I’ve had a few over the years who I could imagine being involved in one), and the answer is that I would. But even there, that’s probably first an act of humanism. It is second an act of patriotism, but only in the John Tanner version of it: being a bigot about truth, democracy, justice.

Morning Music: Elvis Costello at Woodstock 99

Elvis CostelloAs I like to do when I highlight a particular artist, I end this week with a live set of said artist. This week, it has been Elvis Costello. And do I have a wonderful one: Elvis Costello at Woodstock 99. It will make up for my slighting the early albums at the same time that it is too early for him to perform stuff that I’m not intimately familiar with.

The second song is one that I had thought about using this week, “Mystery Dance.” When I first heard that song, I was still in my teens and I knew exactly what he was talking about. Sex really is an art, and it should not be attempted by two novices. So at the time, it made me feel normal. As an old man, it’s just hilarious, but in the kindest way.

There are lots of things to love about Elvis Costello. He’s got a great voice — capable of conveying any emotion (something I find distinctly lacking in the huge pop stars). Musically, he’s always interesting — never boring, but never too difficult (even on The Juliet Letters). But mostly, he’s just really smart. It’s nice to know what he has to say. I feel like I grew up with him. When he was angry, I was angry; when he started figuring out life, I started figuring out life. I really ought to get some of his newest albums to see if we are still growing together — or more likely, not growing together.

Anniversary Post: Orion Spacecraft

Orion SpacecraftOn this day last year, the first test flight of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion MPCV) took place. Using it, we should be able to go beyond low Earth orbit to, say, the Moon. Indeed, its next test will be an uncrewed trip around the Moon by the end of 2018. And then, some time around 2022, we plan to send four astronauts into orbit around the Moon. And then a few years later, the first crewed trip to an asteroid.

Now you all know me: I love the robotic space program. I’m not that keen on people going up in space because I’m risk adverse. But this is pretty cool. And if people are going to be orbiting the planet… Plus, the potential for the exploration of asteroids really is great, because it is our first real efforts to address the potential catastrophe of an asteroid striking the Earth. On the other hand, given how well humans seem to be doing in creating their own catastrophes, maybe it is unnecessary. Still: it is worth doing.

Also: the cost of the mission is estimated to be less than $3 billion. That’s roughly 50 times less than colonizing the Moon — much less Mars. But I know how all of you are really excited about colonizing Mars, so listen up: Orion is an important step in that too. It seems to me that Orion is about the most exciting thing happening in crewed space exploration. It’s a bit of a return to the Apollo days.

On the other hand, Donald Trump will probably destroy the world before we ever reach an asteroid. Here’s hoping I’m wrong!