Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trump's Unnecessary Travel Ban Simply Repeats Our Past Mistakes

I've noticed a lot of folks on social media have taken to posting images and memes of 9/11 as "justification" for Trump's travel ban. So I think it's important to point out that the countries that the 9/11 hijackers came from are not included in the ban and no one from the country's covered by the ban have ever attacked anyone in the United States.
I am reminded of a quote offered by General John L. DeWitt, head of the U.S. Army’s Western Defense Command during WWII, in which he defended the forced internment of Japanese Americans. It was a policy driven by racial prejudice and ignorance masquerading as national security. It is also considered to be among the greatest injustices ever perpetrated by the U.S. government.
DeWitt said, "The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on American soil, possessed of American citizenship, have be come ‘Americanized,’ the racial strains are undiluted.
…It, therefore, follows that along the vital Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies, of Japanese extraction, are at large today.
The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken."
Pay especially close attention to that last sentence - the lack of any hostile actions was portrayed as "proof" that such hostile acts will happen. Today, we're banning refugees from Syria and travelers from several majority Muslim countries and the justifications is very much that the lack of any hostile acts committed by folks from those countries is simply proof that such hostile acts will happen.
We can choose to learn from our past mistakes or we can ignore those lessons and repeat our past mistakes. Trump appears to be committed to repeating past mistakes. History will likely be very unforgiving in its assessment of the choice he made.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Democrats Cannot Win By Employing Republican Tactics

I understand the urge among Senate Democrats to oppose all things Trump and make most of his nominees party line votes. They are replicating the GOP strategy under Obama. But Democrats need to be cautious when using Republican tactics. Republicans made major legislation under Obama appear to be very partisan by turning most votes into strict party line votes. Republicans filibustered Obama's lower court nominees to the point that Democrats decided to eliminate the filibuster.
But Republicans had a clear strategy - undermine confidence in government. Make people question the legitimacy of Obama policies. As the party of small government, the anti-statists, Republicans improve their electoral chances when confidence in government is low. Voters doubt government so they look to candidates that share their doubts and advocate limited government.
But Democrats are the pro-statist party. They believe in the positive power of government. As such, they suffer when confidence in government is low. Democrats need for people to have confidence in government. It was an upsurge in confidence following the 2008 financial collapse that delivered unified control of Congress and the presidency in 2008. Republican obstruction of the stimulus bill, the Affordable Care Act, and Cap and Trade very effectively undermined confidence in government - leading to their victories in 2010 and again in 2014 and 2016.
So when Democrats employ Republican tactics they actually imperil the electoral strength. People will not vote for a pro-statist if intense partisanship, party line votes, and attacks on the legitimacy of Trump actions convince voters that government is still ineffective and broken. As contradictory as it may sound, Democrats would actually improve their electoral chances by finding areas of common ground where they can vote to support some policies and nominees. Unfortunately, that's not what the party's activist base wants them to do.So in the Senate, Chuck Schumer is in a real bind - does he look to bolster Democratic prospects in 2018 or does he give in to the demands of "the resistance?"