With Trump and Cruz, The Land of the Free Grows Harder and Colder

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Donald Trump and Ted Cruz rush to see who can make America a broken beacon

During the campaign, a fun game to play was “Who is Worse: Trump or Cruz?” You could go around and around, thinking how terrible it would be if Ted Cruz won the Presidency, being unable to imagine anything worse, until you remembered Donald Trump, in which case it was hard to imagine anything worse, and so on.

Well, they are still at it, in a way that defies the cold and cynical comfort of bitter political analysis. This has to do with outright bigotry and contempt disguised as being tough; craven cowardice that masquerades as confidence. It’s about destroying the idea of America as a sanctuary for those who need it, a beacon in a dark world. What’s amazing is how eager these avatars of phony patriotism embrace it.

Trump:

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign executive orders starting on Wednesday that include a temporary ban on most refugees and a suspension of visas for citizens of Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries, say congressional aides and immigration experts briefed on the matter.

(And of course there is his beautiful wall, which we’ll get to another time).

Cruz:

Two Republican lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a measure that would let governors bar refugees from their states.

The State Refugee Security Act requires the federal government to notify a state at least 21 days before resettling a refugee there. Under the law, governors could block refugees from being resettled in their states unless federal officials can provide “adequate assurance” that the individual doesn’t pose a security threat.

These are both horrifying in their own ways. Trump’s policy, of course, was a keystone of his campaign. He vacillated about “Muslims” and then just “countries with terrorism”, but the effect is similar.

Remember, his pledge during the campaign, and after, was that this ban would be in effect “until we find out what’s going on“, which was honestly the most insane promise I’ve ever heard, the implication being that until Trump turned his laser eyes on it, no one had tried to figure it out before. (It’s a good sign of how things work in Trump world: he says something stupid, and they scramble to figure out how to make it official policy.) It is also important to note that “until we find out what’s going on” is entirely open-ended, especially since we already know what’s going on, which is: they don’t want to be killed by ISIS or Asad.

And that’s exactly that point. The refugees are fleeing the dissolution of their state system, which is being filled up by regional tyrants, international bullies, and medieval murderers. They have had their lives ripped apart, family members blown up or beheaded, been thrown into poverty and chaos. They’ve been fleeing through unknown lands often filled with hostile populations and barbed wire and truncheon-wielding police. They’ve been shot at and drowned in an unforgiving Mediterranean. All to make a better life.

And now America has officially shut them out, closed the door. It’s already been incredibly hard to get here from Syria, with impossibly difficult vetting procedures, all of which have been completely ignored by the right, because it didn’t fit their reality of a feckless Obama. America’s standing as a land where the miserable of the earth could aspire to in order to find a life of peace and freedom was already shaky. Now, it is extinguished.

And what does Trump think will happen? Does he think this will make people in the greater Middle East and Muslim world think better of America, drying up terrorism? Does he think that will stop the biggest danger to our citizens, radicalized citizens, from becoming radicalized?  It’s outright lunacy.

If one thinks Trump is smart, you could see that he is playing a game here: shutting off any release valves for Europe, so that the refugee crisis becomes even more fraught, leading to more right-wing nationalist parties taking over, dissolving Europe, and making the world of bilateralism he seems to favor. There may be something there, but I think it is a happy accident, a fortuitous dovetailing with his racial paranoia. (We’ll be having a big multi-parter on his foreign policy coming up soon.)

Ted Cruz plays into this, combining bigotry with devolving federal power (a project, key to the right, which is really only one plank). His plan is to essentially give out humanitarian block grants to the states, subletting our humanitarian policies to Sam Brownback or Scott Walker. And it is targeted: governors can actually reject refugees on a person-by-person or family-by-family basis. This, then, is the Republican governance in full: right-wing governors sneeringly rejecting the broken and battered from finding a better life.

(I can’t find this independently confirmed, but The Hill also has a nice bit where Cruz’s religious bigotry matches nicely with his either flagrant dishonesty or absolute ignorance: “He has suggested resettling only Christian refugees from the region, arguing that members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria would not try to hide among Christians.” Because they’re so honorable, I guess? Or scared of Christians?)

Of course, Trump is undercutting Cruz by not letting anyone in anywhere, but I don’t think Cruz’s bill just bans Muslims. It is anyone who Matt Bevins, with his international wisdom, thinks is a security threat. That doesn’t exactly sound like freedom to me.

But none of this does. While this isn’t unprecedented in American history–indeed, bigotry has been the norm in our immigration policies–one had thought that we were actually making moral progress. With Trumpism, that proved to be a lie. The most deperate people in the world are the one’s in whose face we are slamming the door, and doing so with sneering gusto, with chesty bravado, with pride. To call ourselves the land of the free is a cruel joke; home of the brave is even further off.

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5 thoughts on “With Trump and Cruz, The Land of the Free Grows Harder and Colder

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