Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Reacting off discussions with Trump supporters - and some others - on other sites, I am struck by how often the argument is raised on the Right that some action or another is justified because we are currently in a crisis, and more timid solutions have not availed. Supporting Trump is merely the latest in a long line of such recommendations. In the current case, it is primarily the immigration situation that is held to be so dire as to allow solutions that we might in more rational times not countenance. A commenter I often agree with, in some fit of overexcitement claimed that immigration is even an existential crisis in America.

Let's review: Two of my four/five sons grew up in peasant villages and orphanages in Transylvania until their teenage years. I still have other Romanian friends who lived under such conditions well into adulthood.  We also know a bunch of missionaries and ex-missionaries who have lived in some bad places. My vision of what Lost, Unlivable America is drops well below what America will look like in a couple of decades even if immigration controls are even more lax and nobody much gives a damn.

Next, America did have a Civil War and a Great Depression that seemed to inconvenience a few people, but somehow we got through that and still have a US of A. In fact, not only do we have lives that are unimaginably free and prosperous to the rest of the world (still), they could not have been understood even by Americans of a hundred years ago.

Everyone starved for at least part of the year everywhere, died painfully when they sickened or got hurt, and were entirely vulnerable to what powerful people nearby might do to them, for the entirety of human existence.

There's no crisis. Ukraine had a crisis in the 30's. People in wars have a crisis. We do not have to suspend ordinary good judgement - and we certainly do not have to suspend morality - in America in 2016.

BTW, I know the Left talks "crisis" like this as well.  Perhaps they do it even more, I don't know.  But I'm not talking to them just now.


james said...

I think they mean crisis in the sense that "we can deal with the problem now while it is small." The model seems to be something like: It wouldn't have cost much to mobilize a little to push back when troops marched into the Ruhr; it would have cost more when they wanted the Sudetenland; and it cost a whale of a lot when they went after Poland.

Similarly: We can start locking down uncontrolled immigration now, or wait until there's a large constituency of illegals fighting against it. OR We can cut emissions now and delay the big warm-up, or wait a couple decades and have to issue portable AC and waders to everybody. (depending on your political persuasion)

I agree with Wilson that when 10 troubles come down the road to meet you, 9 will go in the ditch before they arrive. But I think our economy is more fragile than we want to believe, and when the bill comes due on this past decade's escapades we'll be permanently worse off--for permanently as measured in decades. I do not get the sense that people are going to be stoic about that. _That's_ a crisis of character that worries me. I don't think Trump or Sanders are fascists, but their successors seem likely to be.

In any event, there are always clouds no bigger than a man's hand. Claiming that this one or that one requires that we continue the abusive precedents in government is, as you say, just a way of giving up freedom permanently.

Trimegistus said...

The United States was fundamentally different after both the Civil War and the Great Depression. Both crises led to increased centralization, less autonomy for the states, and greater influence by government in people's daily lives. Reasonable people may disagree about whether those changes were ultimately for the better, but they were nevertheless transformative.

We may well get through the current crises -- there will almost certainly be an entity called "the United States of America" afterward -- but how much will it have changed? And if you like the current USA, will the changed version be an improvement?

I think a big part of the current sense of crisis is "buyer's remorse" among a lot of people. The newer, better America we've been promised since the Sixties never arrived. Instead we have a society less rich, less free, less secure, less peaceful. And the changes the political class is trying to cram down our collective throats (or whatever orifice metaphor you prefer) all look to make those even worse.

Unknown said...

"A commenter I often agree with, in some fit of overexcitement claimed that immigration is even an existential crisis in America.

Let's review: Two of my four/five sons grew up in peasant villages and orphanages in Transylvania..."

I don't think the unfair framing was intentional, but it is undoubtedly there: You say that the Trump supporters are concerned about immigration, and proffer an example not just of immigrants we want, but ones where you have a personal relationship -- so we would be churlish to disagree.

Trump and his supporters are constantly framed in the press as anti-immigrant, but where one can find video of the actual speech or interview, the "anti" is often very clearly anti=illegal-immigrant and anti-bogusrefugee. In Glenn Greenwald's "The Seven Stages of Establishment Backlash", stage 4 is "Smear the candidate and his supporters with innuendos of sexism and racism". In an inversion of philosophy's "principle of charity", the words of the candidates (from Trump and Cruz to Sanders) who are unfavored by the journalists are always interpreted in their least favorable light -- Politifact will unfairly excerpt a quote, use it to build a straw-man position, and then declare that position to be false or "pants on fire". Trump is especially easy to caricature in this way because his stream-of-consciousness style of speaking often leaves clarifying clauses quite distant from juicy quotes, and because of his frequent use of hyperbole.

For example, everyone knows that trump called Mexicans "rapists". Even though he has been clear about this in interviews, somehow only his supporters grok that he was talking about the high probability of being raped among young women who are brought into the country by people-smugglers. By leaving this avenue wide open (even this week, reducing border surveillance flights by 50% and instructing the border patrol not to detain anyone who doesn't already have a felony warrant), the US is creating an attractive nuisance. We know we are creating a situation where people will be exploited, but to argue against it shows that you are a bigot.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm pro-immigrant, pro-refugee, and anti-Trump. And I'm pretty much with the meaning you intend -- I've had peers telling me "this is the most important election ever" for every presidential election since I've been conscious. All of the elections went the "wrong" way for about half of my friends, and yet we are still here, able to use our free speech rights to talk about it on the miraculous internet which has only existed for a fraction of that time.

But I'm with James too -- I lived in England when Labour, knowing that 80% of Caribbean and African immigrants to the UK vote Labour, put in place their secret policy of using mass immigration to reinvent both the culture the composition of the electorate, and keep the headline inflation rate low by suppressing wages. Now that there are vocal opposing factions within that party-out-of-power, lots of documents are being revealed just like after the fall of the USSR. It was their specific policy to downplay the effects of immigration and to label anyone who disagreed as bigoted. I'm as much in agreement with their 2000 internal report about the economic and cultural benefits of open immigration as I am with the prescient report from a London Labour constituency worker who feared they would loose their majority among the British-born urban working class who were suffering from wage reductions and unemployment as a result of the policies. It would be great if we could have open and frank discussions about the benefits and detriments of mass immigration, especially as the benefits seem to accrue mostly to the already rich and the detriments disproportionally harm the already disadvantaged.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Apologies. When I mentioned immigrant sons, I was not trying to say "therefore you should like immigrants." I was putting their lives out as a comparison when people are talking how bad it is here. It just isn't.

As for nipping a problem in the bud, sure. Great strategy, James, and I don't disagree. But that's not the rhetoric I'm hearing. I'm hearing that we are on the brink of disaster and need to do something now now now. Immigration is not exploding at present.

I'm not convinced we are less free, less rich, etc. since the 60's.

james said...

When pressed, the "brink of disaster" folks I heard tended to say something like "it will soon be too late to stop it."
Sometimes that's true. Claiming that the catastrophe is just days away doesn't inspire trust, though.

I'll take up the devil's advocacy for a moment, and say that uncontrolled immigration doesn't have to have exploded the way it has in Germany to have caused systemic problems, especially in black communities.

We are certainly richer than in the 60's, in general. The 60's weren't an economic catastrophe--but I suspect they'd feel that way if we went back to that level.

"Free" is a bit more complicated--in some ways maybe yes, in others maybe no.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Point taken on the black community. For that alone, perhaps it is a crisis, even though they don't see it as clearly as I'd like.

Sam L. said...

"But I'm not talking to them just now." Aren't they talking to you?

Texan99 said...

I think this is an incredibly important election, and yet immigration is so far down my list of priorities I rarely think or talk about it. All I really can say about Trump is that I'm certain I'd hate practically every decision Hillary Clinton would make, and in Trump's case I'll probably occasionally not be horrified by something he did. Neither of them gives me a good feeling about S. Ct. nominees. We're going to be hosed there unless Cruz wins, or possibly Rubio.

james said...

WRT rich and free: a little historical perspective...

icr said...

Here's what Orthodox Jew (convert) Luke ford says:
"There aren’t going to be any pogroms in America under Donald Trump. He shows no evidence of anti-Jewish bias, but his interests are American. He cares about America’s welfare more than he cares about Israel’s welfare.

Donald Trump will get north of 40% of the Jewish vote come November.

A Jewish friend tells me: I am feeling nauseated from the lefty Jewpremacist posts against Trump. Trump represents an insurrection against Jewish tribal power. Since the 1980s, Jews have disproportionately owned and operate both political parties, to disastrous consequences. Trump is the goy taking back one of those parties.

It’s Trump now, or Hitler later. Organized Jewry (who are not representative of American Jews) will always choose Hitler later, because that is what they know, understand, and respect. The organization Jew, the tribal Jew, the professional activist lefty Jew, wants total defeat and destruction, without ever admitting he wants total defeat and destruction.

I want the ADL Jews, the SPLC Jews, the big organization Jews (who are not representative of American Jews), to stop showing everyone what tribal assholes they are but that’s like expecting a dog to stop licking its balls"