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“It’s All Fun And Games Until The Mass Roundups Begin”

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Re Trump’s immigration plan: Conservative commentators raise red flags while GOP candidates raise white flags 

As Donald Trump rises in the polls, conservative commentators are becoming alarmed, and not just about his impact on the 2016 race.  They are growing concerned that his ultra-nationalism and xenophobia threaten conservative ideals and American exceptionalism.

After all, the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, promises to  build a great wall at our border with Mexico, and claims he will round up 11 million undocumented immigrants, take citizenship away from 4.5 million children, and deport them all.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “What’s truly remarkable to us is that leading lights in the conservative commentariat are raising red flags while GOP candidates seem to be raising white flags.  The thought leaders worry about Trump’s xenophobia and what it means for the election of conservatives, the future of the Republican party and the future of the country.  Meanwhile, even so-called ‘moderate’ GOP candidates call for more enforcement against ‘anchor babies’ (see excellent post by Greg Sargent on this, here). Perhaps the lowest moment this week came when two men, claiming to be inspired by Trump’s hard stand against ‘illegals,’ beat up a homeless Latino man.  When he heard of this hate crime, Trump acknowledged it was a shame, but quickly added an outrageous note of explanation and justification: his followers are ‘passionate.’  Response from his competitors?  Crickets.”

Here are some excerpts from recent writings of conservative thought leaders.

Michael Gerson, Conservatives should stay far away from Trump’s ethnic polarization, August 20, 2015

It is all fun and games until the mass roundups begin. This summer’s main form of public entertainment is proposing a contraction in the protections of the 14th Amendment and a continent-wide dragnet to capture and deport more than 11 million men, women and children, overwhelmingly of Latino background because, in Trump’s view, they are taking the country and causing it to go to hell.

This is jarring, or should be. It is like “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” but with divisive, politically motivated ethnic stereotyping. The Mexicans, according to Trump, are “cunning.” Latinos without papers are out to rape our women. They are predators and burdens. They are ruining the country. They. They.

When it comes to Trump, some conservatives have adopted the strategy of saying “There are some good points here, but . . . ” and “He is tapping into some real anxiety, but . . . ” It is an approach that effectively legitimizes Trump’s disturbing enterprise. He is not making a series of arguments about the role of immigration in depressing wages or increasing unemployment. He is choosing an enemy in order to organize and direct public anger. There is a difference between striking a populist chord and feeding cultural resentment with racial overtones.

Conservatives who support restrictionist immigration policies, above all, should distance themselves from Trump’s ethnic polarization. He has become the discrediting stereotype of their views, using rhetoric and arguments more suitable to European right-wing populists. Ethno-nationalist. Conspiracy-minded. All our humiliating national failures result from treacherous foreigners or a stab in the back by our own weak and corrupt leaders. All our problems can be solved by a strong leader who embodies the national will.

No conservatives should be playing with this ideological nitroglycerin — unless they truly want to blow up our political order. And then they have ceased to be conservatives at all.

Charles Krauthammer, The immigration swamp, August 20, 2015

Mass deportation

Last Sunday, Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd that all illegal immigrants must leave the country. Although once they’ve been kicked out, we will let “the good ones” back in.

On its own terms, this is crackpot. Wouldn’t you save a lot just on Mayflower moving costs if you chose the “good ones” first — before sending SWAT teams to turf families out of their homes, loading them on buses and dumping them on the other side of the Rio Grande?

Less frivolously, it is estimated by the conservative American Action Forum that mass deportation would take about 20 years and cost about $500 billion for all the police, judges, lawyers and enforcement agents — and bus drivers! — needed to expel 11 million people.

This would all be merely ridiculous if it weren’t morally obscene. Forcibly evict 11 million people from their homes? It can’t happen. It shouldn’t happen. And, of course, it won’t ever happen. But because it’s the view of the Republican front-runner, every other candidate is now required to react. So instead of debating border security, guest-worker programs and sanctuary cities — where Republicans are on firm moral and political ground — they are forced into a debate about a repulsive fantasy.

….At its best, these frustrations would be articulated by the Republican Party in ways that lead to more freedom and less government. At its worst, these frustrations cast aside Constitutional principles, encourage dictatorial behavior, and become the toxic political equivalent of the two Southie brothers who claimed Trump inspired them to beat up a Hispanic homeless man.

George Will, Donald Trump is a counterfeit Republican, August 12, 2015

He is an affront to anyone devoted to the project William F. Buckley began six decades ago with the founding in 1955 of the National Review — making conservatism intellectually respectable and politically palatable. Buckley’s legacy is being betrayed by invertebrate conservatives now saying that although Trump “goes too far,” he has “tapped into something,” and therefore. . . .

Therefore what? This stance — if a semi-grovel can be dignified as a stance — is a recipe for deserved disaster.

Conservatives who flinch from forthrightly marginalizing Trump mistakenly fear alienating a substantial Republican cohort. But the assumption that today’s Trumpites are Republicans is unsubstantiated and implausible. Many are no doubt lightly attached to the political process, preferring entertainment to affiliation. They relish their candidate’s vituperation and share his aversion to facts.

….conservatives today should deal with Trump with the firmness Buckley dealt with the John Birch Society in 1962. The society was an extension of a loony businessman who said Dwight Eisenhower was “a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.” In a 5,000-word National Review “excoriation” (Buckley’s word), he excommunicated the society from the conservative movement.

Buckley received an approving letter from a subscriber who said, “You have once again given a voice to the conscience of conservatism.” The letter was signed, “Ronald Reagan, Pacific Palisades, Cal.”

Ben Domenech, Are Republicans For Freedom Or White Identity Politics? August 21, 2015

Dismiss Donald Trump if you will, but tonight in Alabama he is expected to draw 35,000 people. Try to do that with any other presidential candidate. The phenomenon is real, and the danger Trump presents for the Republican Party is real. Even without winning the GOP nomination, which is still a remote possibility at best, his statements have tapped into a widespread anger that has the potential to transform the Republican Party in significant ways. Ultimately, Trump presents a choice for the Republican Party about which path to follow: a path toward a coalition that is broad, classically liberal, and consistent with the party’s history, or a path toward a coalition that is reduced to the narrow interests of identity politics for white people.

For decades, Republicans have held to the idea that they are unified by a fusionist ideological coalition with a shared belief in limited government, while the Democratic Party was animated by identity politics for the various member groups of its coalition. This belief has been bolstered in the era of President Obama, which has seen the Democratic Party stress identity politics narratives about the war on this or that group of Americans, even as they adopted a more corporatist attitude toward Wall Street and big business (leading inevitably to their own populist problem in Sen. Bernie Sanders). What Trump represents is the potential for a significant shift in the Republican Party toward white identity politics for the American right, and toward a coalition more in keeping with the European right than with the American.