Monday, January 29, 2018

The DACA Trap: Donald Trump and the demise of the Democrats.

The current immigration debate in this country centers on four broad topics: 1) amnesty for the "Dreamers", 2) a border wall and border security, 3) chain migration, and 4) the visa diversity lottery.

The Democrats want #1, the Republicans want (or claim to want) #2, #3, and #4. Donald Trump proffers a compromise where both sides give the other side their ask. Democrats get #1, Republicans get #2, #3, and #4.

As a matter of political pragmatism, it is highly likely some form of amnesty provision will be needed to secure Democrat votes for the Republican ask. As a matter of historical appraisal, legislation with bipartisan elements is more successful and more enduring than purely partisan legislation (and one should note that Democrats had ample opportunities to participate in the tax reform legislation, but that their "Resist!" strategy overpowered any impulse to compromise on the substantive issues).

As a matter of political pragmatism, one achieves legislative success by accepting what is possible today, without categorical insistence on what is ideal. For Democrats especially, this would mean accepting the conditional amnesty offered by Trump to at least remove the threat of deportation from the Dreamers.

Why, then, are Democrats so hostile to this compromise? Why is it that when Donald Trump expands the amnesty offer the Democrats expand their hostility?

I suspect it is because the Democrats' self-interest lies more in preventing the Republicans gaining #2, #3, and #4 than in gaining for themselves #1. Amnesty might regularize those who are already here--but border security and moving to a merit based immigration system will change the political dynamics of immigration for decades to come. Merit-based immigration is fundamentally what Milton Friedman termed "immigration to jobs"; the Democrats are unequivocal champions of "immigration to welfare". While Democrats cynically hyperventilate about the travesty of deporting "Dreamers", if they take the deal that is being offered they must surrender all hope of sustaining immigration to welfare (by which they seek to import and otherwise buy votes from the electorate).

What the Democrats have done with their derisive dismissals of President Trump's compromise is admit to wanting more immigration to welfare. What they have made clear is that amnesty is not half as important as perpetuating the current broken immigration system which encourages immigration to welfare and prioritizes immigration to welfare over immigration to jobs. One need not hold a PhD in economics to realize that such a stance is a stance against the economic interest of both America and the American worker--indeed, that's a very easy case to make.

By accident or by design, Donald Trump is steadily branding the Democrats as the party of illegal immigration, the party of immigration to welfare, the party that stands explicitly against obvious American interests and those of American workers--long a traditional bastion of Democratic strength. This can only weaken them heading into the midterm elections, and could do permanent damage to their credibility as a major political party.

It is too soon to tell, but if this debate continues in this fashion, Donald Trump come November could be presiding over the complete dismantling of the Democratic Party, and completely eviscerating progressivism as a political force in this country.