Immigration and the Essential Cravenness of Joe Biden

Nothing so surely signals the essential emptiness of Joe Biden than his rapid flip-flop Friday on raising the cap on the number of asylum seekers the United States will accept. At first the Biden Administration announced that they would not lift the relatively low cap that Trump had adopted, but following “outcry” from “Progressives,” Biden did a pirouette worthy of Bolshie ballerina and said he’d now lift the cap. One reason Biden had held the line, however briefly, on the asylum cap is that he’s polling terribly on immigration. But all it took was a gust of hot wind from “Progressives” to make him retreat.

Do you remember the Time magazine cover from 2009 which depicted Obama “the Lightworker” as the second coming of FDR, with the headline, “The New New Deal”? Well, now comes The Atlantic with the “Welcome to the New Progressive Era,” which aims to express the pleasant (for them) surprise that Biden has sold out so fully to “Progressives.”

Washington in the first days of the Biden administration is a place for double takes: A president associated with the politics of austerity is spending money with focused gusto, a crisis isn’t going to waste, and Senator Bernie Sanders is happy.

People like to tell you they saw things coming. But as I talked to many of the campers in Joe Biden’s big tent, particularly those who, like me, were skeptical of Biden, I found that the overwhelming sentiment was surprise. Few of us expected that this president—given his record, a knife’s-edge Congress, and a crisis that makes it hard to look an inch beyond one’s nose—would begin to be talked about as, potentially, transformational. ..

The conversations I’ve had in recent weeks have painted a portrait of an improbable coming-together of people and forces: a moderate president, with an ascendant progressive movement at his back and at his throat, facing a once-in-a-generation window of opportunity.

This raises a further question: once upon a time, leading Democrats—and even some “Progressives” like Bernie Sanders—opposed unlimited immigration. Partly this was on account of the fact that labor unions, for all their rapacity, understood basic labor market economics, and know that a large inflow of cheap labor undermines wages for the working class.

Check out, for example, Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, from 2009, saying “illegal immigration is wrong, plain and simple” (just 2 minutes, which I know is 1:55 longer than anyone wants to listen to Schumer):

There are lots of other examples of this, such as Barbara Jordan’s attack on illegal immigration in the 1970s, Bill Clinton in the 1990s, Bernie Sanders saying open borders is a “Koch brothers idea,” and even Barack Obama as recently as 2012 or so. But now “Progressives,” and the supine Democratic Party they now control, are effectively for open borders. What explains this rapid turnabout? I suggest two principal causes—one theoretical, and one practical politics.

The theoretical reason is the growing view on the left that the very idea of national sovereignty itself is obsolete, along with the idea of citizenship, and hence “artificial” borders should come down. Some on the left actually believe this; others believe it because it is yet another means to bring down the United States.

The practical political reason can be summed up in one word: California. California used to be a fairly reliable Republican state in presidential elections even though it has long had a Democratic majority in registered voters; indeed it was the anchor of the GOP’s dominance of the electoral college from 1968 through 1988. But following decades of large-scale hispanic immigration, California is now a rock solid Democratic state (or so the legend goes—I think there is much more to this story than merely changing demographics). Thus Democrats think that with enough hispanic immigration to the rest of the country, they can flip Texas and Florida, solidify Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada, and rule forever. Hence the worry of Democrats that Republicans improved their performance with hispanics throughout the country in the latest election. Maybe the traffic lights are broken at the Democrats’ four-way intersectionality?

Meanwhile, I’ll await the Time magazine cover depicting Biden as the new Woodrow Wilson. Which would certainly fit.

Responses