America Is On The Mend, So Here Come The Caravans (Again)
Send Us Your Huddled Masses, Please
The economy is booming, crime is down, inflation is down, and while his approval rating is underwater, these things are all good news for Democrats – especially President Joe Biden. So, if you might be wondering why the right is once again trying to bend the national discourse to their preferred topic of immigration – with a healthy assist from the New York Times, as usual – that’s why.
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I’ve been following the topic of politics and elections from the time I launched my blog back in 2000, the dark ages. I’ve professionally covered elections since 2004. This is the same old tired playbook.
When Republicans are in trouble electorally, its as if there’s a glass box at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and it reads “in case of electoral emergency, break glass to release racism.” That is what the right’s fearmongering about the border is all about and has always been about.
Sometimes this takes the form of hyping up “caravans” of migrants surging north but in these troubled times, any type of migrant is automatically a part of a caravan, even if it’s just a solo traveler. The caravan is a malleable term that works as a catch all for xenophobes.
The right doesn’t get freaked out about racism when its white Europeans coming into the United States (aka many of their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents because they aren’t Native Americans). They begin clutching their pearls when the immigrant population is Latino, and in some instances Black.
Of course, they won’t directly admit to this because we’ve progressed (somewhat) to a point in American history where conservatives can’t just throw out slurs and directly say that the brown skinned people are the problem. So they insist that crime is on the upswing, that resources are being consumed, that Democrats are importing votes hooked on government handouts, or that they’re bringing in Ebola or COVID-19 or a culture of sexual assault (we have quite enough of this on our own, thank you very much). But the right’s immigration position is essentially: I’m afraid of brown people.
Donald Trump is the perfect avatar for this mindset because Trump never saw a person with brown skin that he thought was his equal, from Barack Obama to Ben Carson, who he put in charge of HUD because the department had “urban” in the title (prove that I’m wrong about this).
Of course, this bigotry train is being led by the incubation laboratory for most of what has gone wrong in America for the last almost-thirty years: Fox News. The lifeblood of Fox News is whipping up its audience of older conservative reactionaries about Something The Brown Skinned People Did, and when conditions look likely to elect a Democrat, it automatically becomes “go” time.
To the average Fox News viewer, it isn’t just that they have a slight dispute with the wonky details of immigration policy. They have had it pounded into their heads by Fox, the Republican Party, and the rest of the conservative movement that even before Biden took office, he flung the border wide open. And in this lurid conservative fantasy, Biden didn’t just import over the average scary Latino, but the worst kind of person from the other side of the border – crime-obsessed MS-13 gang types who want to kidnap white women, stuff ballots for Democrats, and turn America into a giant trash pile (again, we do this quite fine on our own without foreign interference).
Voting for Republicans is depicted as an act of cultural survival for this crowd, and if you try to speak to them on a logical level about the topic, you may as well be speaking to a brick wall. They aren’t even capable of understanding that their own harebrained solution, Trump’s wall, couldn’t have been that great if all it took was “Sleepy Joe” Biden to fling the doors wide open. This is why its foolish for liberals/Democrats to think once again they can talk sense into this crowd, either by burning money on ads that won’t change their minds or by the futile act of appearing on Fox News.
When Republicans need an election scare tactic, they start going down this road. I, however, question whether it truly works. Even in polls where Democrats or liberal voters have expressed immigration concerns, notions like ceasing immigration or building Trump’s wall don’t tend to be super popular and especially in this cycle where abortion access is being criminalized and the right has embraced open fascism, its not an organic top-burner issue.
My suspicion is that its far easier to whip up caravan/border frenzy when the economy is in the toilet and jobs are scarce, not during an economic recovery where America is leading the world. The right’s core voters will be motivated by the fake crisis rhetoric, but these are people who also are willing to crawl through broken glass to vote for Republicans because “they” made the green M&M candy not sexy enough.
Right now it seems that congressional Republicans are about to scuttle an immigration/Ukraine bill because Trump doesn’t want the issue addressed so he can still talk about Mexicans being rapists. I think helping Ukraine is a vital moral goal but I’m okay with the bill being killed. It appears to be another multi-billion-dollar sop to the right in further militarizing the border and demonizing migrants. It’s bad policy and it turns off a core Democratic voting bloc. Democrats need to have some sense pounded into them and realize that if they offer up “Republican-lite” as the Democratic position, voters are always going to prefer the real bigoted thing: Republicans.
Let the right own the xenophobia vote. As America diversifies and collectively gains some common sense, this group of voters will die off. You can’t deprogram them from the cult (because they don’t actually want to leave) but you can outwit and outlast them.
The numbers from recent presidential elections make it clear that most Americans aren’t voting for the right’s anti-immigrant position. They may not see the world from the “borders aren’t real” perspective, but they also compute that immigrants are a vital part of the lifeblood of America (disclosure: I am part of the first generation of my family to be born in America after my parents emigrated from Jamaica), and that reform of the process is needed instead of the right’s sledgehammer approach.
Immigration is too important for racists and their affiliated carnival barker political parties and cable news channels to be in the driver’s seat. Ignore the noise about caravans, quit pandering to the right, and let’s actually do the right thing – without seeking approval from the worst bigoted filthmongers in the world.
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