One Issue Illuminates It All

Some Issues Bring a Laser Focus On Our Politics. Here is a Big One

Déjà Vu, All Over Again

 Several years ago, I read a fascinating, if discouraging, series of articles in The Atlantic. The writer did a thorough job, literally going all around the world, to determine the cost and quality of medical care for a common medical procedure (if I remember correctly, it was a knee replacement).

In the end, he determined that were you to deliberately design the most dysfunctional system imaginable (too expensive, poor overall national health, too complex, etc.), it would look familiar. It would be pretty much the American health care system.

As I look at the current mess that is America’s border and immigration systems, I felt as though I am back reading that Atlantic article, only now on a different policy issue. It would be difficult to imagine a worse mess.

And like that early review of the medical component, once again we have a challenge made much worse by human decisions. Sometimes it is all made worse on purpose.

Is This a Real Problem?

Sure, it absolutely is. It would be disingenuous to claim otherwise. People are flooding in border communities that are overwhelmed. The system is incapable of processing or even doing basic logistics in some cases, so many people.

The border forces feel overwhelmed. People are dying trying to get here, many walking – walking- over 1,000 miles and being attacked and taken advantage of along the way.

Mixed in with refugees are criminals, probably some would-be terrorists. Heck, the fastest growing population among illegal refugees are Chinese! Ever think you would see that? Me, neither.

Most people at the border are just trying to live a better life. But with numbers like this, it is harder to catch and sort out the dangerous ones.

Is This An Invasion?

No, it is not. Those who choose to use that term do so with the purpose of frightening and angering people. Those who love to use that phrase quickly slide right into the ugliest path of racism. Remember Trump’s first presidential run speech, when he talked about all the terrible people crossing our border?

He still feeds that trough, and he has lots of company. Such elements are infecting our nation, infecting our national character, lowering our standards, etc. would make Hitler proud. It’s embarrassing as an American hearing this kind of thing.

We even hear those tired old claims that refugees are stealing our jobs. Pure nonsense. What jobs many refugees and immigrants find are jobs that no one else will take. While Trump clamped down on the border, crops rotted in the fields, construction support jobs went undone, and more. It’s nothing more than another line to anger people and to isolate the vulnerable.

Is This Solvable? Maybe. Is It Manageable? Absolutely

We pretty much know what is required for policy, resources, funding, systems to at least get a handle on this set of problems and to move towards long term, deep root solutions. So why is that not happening? Several factors are at work, but one is the cornerstone of failure.

Politicians of both parties have failed to come to grips with this for far too long, for several reasons. But we are very much at a tipping point now. The bipartisan bill – the one that took four months to produce- was surely not perfect, but it was a pretty darn good plan to get things under control.

There were, of course, things that Left or Right did not like, but in my view, it passed the test. As a bonus, it was bundled as legislation with much needed funds for Ukraine, as well as funds for Israel and Taiwan.

The legislation looked ready to go. It seemed assured to go in the Senate and possibe in the House, albeit with a fight. The President said he would sign it the day it passed, noting it had the resources and authorities he needed.

Echoing earlier comments from the House, he called for legislative solutions, not Executive Actions that could be abandoned at any time by any president. Actual governance and bipartisan cooperation were about to happen for real. Imagine that!

And then Donald Trump said this would be seen as a political victory for President Biden. Can’t have that, can we? Better that communities suffer, and that people keep dying to keep the issue alive until the election. And be sure to blame Biden.

Now those same legislators are calling for Executive Action, the same ones that rejected it months ago. The hypocrisy and failure to lead is as bad an example as I have ever seen. Overnight, Trump’s minions, also known as Republican members of Congress, once again kissed the ring and failed to act like responsible adults.

They know this is wrong on so many grounds, but they meekly submitted.

This will, of course, fire up the Trump base, and the public in general holds the government responsible, but if the Democrats address this well and correctly, this is an issue that could well turn on the Republicans.

The Democrats have offered over and over to work on bipartisan solutions, and they gave up a lot to get the aforementioned legislation. Republicans are censuring their members who dared to work with the other side.

At some point, the majority of voters may figure out that one side is busting its chops to solve a problem, while the other side uses the problem as a stick to poke voters.

The Democrats proposed real solutions. The Republicans are wasting time trying to impeach a cabinet officer for not doing more – the same one they have consistently denied the resources and authorities requested.

I have always admired the two party system. How I miss it.

Now we just have one party. I don’t know what one could call the Republicans at this point, but it certainly is not a political party. It is something of a national infection, a cult.

Nelson Mandela used to note that evil is most powerful when good people remain silent. For years, we watched that happen here. What has resulted should be neither a surprise nor considered an irresistible force.

People let this happen and history will hold them accountable. May that accounting begin in earnest the first Tuesday in November.

Bill Clontz

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