I’ve been giving more thought to Trump’s executive order and I’m increasingly convinced that Bannon fucked liberals again. I don’t think everything about this was planned, and I’m sure that incompetence played a role, but I have no doubt that it was Bannon’s intention to provoke the opposition and create a shitstorm.
If the Democrats want to win in 2020, they can’t just hold on to their majority among educated urbanites, they have to swing back enough uneducated whites outside large urban centers and/or convince more white professionals, who traditionally vote Republican, to abandon Trump. I have no doubt that Trump’s executive order will consolidate his margin with uneducated voters, but it will probably hurt him with some white professionals who voted for him last November but hesitated, at least in the short-term. Indeed, as I noted in my other post on this controversy , many of these people will no doubt react badly as they see ordinary people being detained in airports on television.
However, with this executive order, Bannon also induced the Democrats to identify themselves with the refugees, which people won’t forget. As I just explained, the Democrats may well benefit in the short-term, as moderates who voted for Trump are shocked by what they see on television. But wait until a refugee perpetrates another terrorist attack in Europe or even in the US, which is almost certain to happen, given the number of refugees that arrived in Europe since 2015. We’ll see then how much the Democrats like being perceived as the party of refugees…
So I think that Bannon, who is a brilliant political operative, is counting on that. I also think that he is counting on the fact that, once the dust settles, there are a lot of people who are tired of politicians walking back on their controversial proposals as soon as there is some opposition from the sophisticates and, even if they didn’t like everything Trump did in that story, will mostly remember that he didn’t back down as anyone else would have. If I’m right that it’s what Bannon is thinking, then it doesn’t strike me as a bad calculation. But I still think that, putting aside the objections I had on the substance of the executive order, Trump could probably have generated the hysterical response that we now see from liberals and allow the administration to take a stand without risking to alienate moderates, although perhaps I’m wrong.
I also want to come back to the substantive content of the executive order. Priebus said on Face the Nation that Trump’s order wouldn’t affect green card holders, which was one of my criticisms, so there is that. I think there are still things which are morally objectionable in that order, such as the choice of countries, but to be fair the list was put together by Obama’s administration. However, this doesn’t make it a good list, it just means that Trump is just as cowardly when it comes to, for instance, Saudi Arabia as Obama was. I’m also not convinced that it was necessary to stop immigration from any country, even just temporarily, but I’ll leave it at that for now.
Since I’ve been critical of some aspects of the order, I also wanted to point out that it contains good things, which have been completely ignored. In particular, section 7 of the order requires the completion of the Biometric Entry-Exit System, which by law should have been in place since 1996 if every administration since then had not refused to comply with the law. As Roy Beck explained last year, this system is absolutely indispensable to enforce immigration law, because a very large proportion of the immigrants who are illegally in the US entered legally and just failed to leave when they were supposed to. Indeed, in the absence of such a system, it’s pretty much impossible for the administration to know whether someone who entered the US legally has left after they were no longer allowed to stay. I have been arguing that we need that kind of system in France for years, but the establishment clearly wants no such thing, because it would create more pressure to enforce immigration law by revealing how many people overstay their visa. Nobody is paying attention attention to that part of Trump’s executive order, but I actually think it’s hugely important.
Finally, I want to say a few words about the statement released by McCain and Graham, in which they criticize Trump’s executive order. While I actually agree with some of what they say, it drives me crazy that so many people are treating them like saints, even though they have probably done more than anyone else in the US to create the refugees in the first place by pursuing regime change in Syria. McCain and Graham are perhaps the most dangerous lunatics in Washington, which is saying a lot, so it would be nice if people could keep that in mind before worshipping them as if they were benefactors of mankind… They will be particularly dangerous if, as I hope, Trump tries to patch things up with Russia, so I wish people didn’t increase their political capital by congratulating them on their principles.