What to do with “Dreamers”? How to handle the youth crossing the southern border? Should we have detention centers? These are just a few of the immigration issues that fill our news on a daily basis.
Why can’t Americans agree on a solution to these difficult issues? The answer lies in facing the political facts that underlie these issues.
A minority of conservative Americans see immigrants as a threat to jobs and our way of life. The immigrants use the resources of the government while American citizens lose out. They are made up of lazy, stupid, inferior people who will dilute our nation and sap our resources.
Progressives, on the other hand, feel empathy for the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” They take to heart Emma Lazarus’s invitation on the Statue of Liberty to “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
As you read these contradictory perspectives, which camp do you fall into? Why?
A 2017 Fox News Poll found that 83 percent of Americans support providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in this country. Sixty-three percent of Trump voters favor giving “Dreamers”—those who came to this country illegally as children—a path to citizenship. Fox News is considered a conservative network, yet its poll-takers advocate solving the immigration problem in ways that are closer to progressive perspectives.
If there is such overwhelming support, why then isn’t Congress rushing to pass legislation? Why haven’t Republicans agreed to work with Democrats in passing bipartisan bills to end immigration as a national issue?
The answer lies with a vocal minority of Republicans who see immigrants as a threat, especially since many immigrants are nonwhite. Many Republican candidates are fearful they will be “primaried” out of office if they pass immigration laws that give a road to citizenship.
It’s a sad state of affairs, but most Americans do not vote in primaries. Those who do vote do so because they are often hardcore conservatives or progressives. So, the solution seems simple: eliminate primaries and go back to letting party bosses choose the candidates for their respective parties. This is how it used to be before early 20th century progressive reformers came along to free the nation from the grip of those corrupt party bosses.
Those progressive reformers had a view that “the solution for the ills of democracy is more democracy.” While this is a noble ideal, it doesn’t take human nature into account – in this case.
Party bosses had a goal of winning, so they picked candidates who were acceptable to the largest number of voters. Bosses were pragmatic, if corrupt. Today, due to the extremist minorities in both parties, mainstream moderate candidates often don’t get a chance to be selected to run in the general election. The result has been political polarization of the nation.
A second solution is to end gerrymandering and voter suppression in all 50 states through what is labeled as H.R. 1, a bill recently passed by the Democratic House. This bill is designed to counter the 253 Republican-sponsored bills where Republicans attempt to win elections by cheating and supporting ways to make it more difficult for minorities and the poor to vote. The argument is based upon a counterfactual claim of protecting the voters from fraud – a claim that has no basis in fact except that Donald Trump and the Republicans say it is so.
Republicans in Georgia, for instance, have just passed such a law, making it a crime to hand out food and water to those standing in line to vote. It also requires that absentee voters provide valid picture identification. The number of voter boxes has also been reduced. Polls have shown more than 76 percent of Georgian voters oppose the most objectional provisions of the new law (Targetsmart).
Pragmatism should trump politics. Primaries have clearly been shown to be anti-democratic. So have voter suppression laws and gerrymandering. Solving the many issues involved with immigration will open the door to solving a flood of other controversial issues that plague the nation. Getting rid of primaries and passing H.R. 1 will help end the polarization in this nation.
Progressives, in this case, are right: “Solving the ills of democracy is more democracy.”
Legislating these two solutions will make the end of polarization within reach if only we have the vision and the will to act upon them.