The Dispensibility of Steven Miller

I have tried to resist Fisking this op-ed by Ross Douthat, but I can’t resist. Whole post after the jump to avoid lowering AngryBear relevance index.

“The Necessity of Stephen Miller” (title chosen by an editor not Douthat)

He writes

negotiations “have mostly taken place between people who are fundamentally in agreement on immigration,” who favor both amnesty for illegal immigrants and reforms that would probably increase immigration rates.

The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t represent the actual divisions in the country. Americans have become more pro-immigration since the 1990s, but there is still a consistent pattern when you ask about immigration rates: About a third of Americans favor the current trend, slightly fewer want higher rates, and about a third, like Miller, want immigration reduced.

This is the same problem ignored by advocates of the 13th Amendment, the 14th Amendment, the 15th Amendment, the 1964 Civil Rights act, the Voting Rights act, the Taft-Hartley act, the Wagner act, the Medicare act and the ACA.

The principle that reform should not be imposed on a minority of one third of the population would rule out almost all historical reforms (actually US independence too now that I think of it). Douthat argues that reformers must negotiate with restrictionists because “if you think that lasting deals are forged when all sides are represented, you might consider making a counteroffer:”. Notably he presents no examples of lasting deals or deals which didn’t last because not all sides were represented. He can’t. His appeal to history is totally ahistorical.

There are four other fundamental deceits in the op-ed. First he describes Democrats’ have failed because “the illegal immigrants they want to protect are still in limbo. ” But he is discussing a debate over legislative DACA with or without concessions granted to Republicans to convince them to support a policy (which they claim to support). In fact Democrats want amnesty for, at least, the millions more covered by DAPA. The idea that bargaining should take place between a policy Trump says he supports and a mixture of that policy and other policies which he also supports is absurd. Douthat attempts to argue that Democrats should make massive concessions for DACA completely ignoring the fact that it is just one step towards their goal. He does not concede that there is any difference between the Dream act and comprehensive immigration reform proposed by Democrats. This is in a column allegedly about bargaining and bargaining positions. He isn’t stupid, he assumes his readers are too stupid to notice the blatant equivocation.

Second, he introduces Steven Miller then shirts to arguing that Democrats should negotiate with Ross Douthat. He doesn’t mention the fact that the President is a restrictionist and would be at the table even if he fired Miller. Douthat brought up Miller to troll, then didn’t defend his stated position. He distinguished between racists and other restrictionists. He doesn’t discuss the possibility (actually the demonstrable fact) that Miller is a racist.

Third, he appeals to a poll, again eliding the distinction between Dreamers and other “illegal aliens”. of course he knows that support for DACA ranges from 70 to 87% in polls. He simply asserts that the relevant poll is one on a different topic.

Finally he assumes that the current deal offered by the Trump administration was offered in good faith and that they would take yes for an answer and even consider a counter offer. Assuming this is absurd. Trump has accepted 3 tentative deals then reversed himself. It is simply not true that whenever someone makes a offer in bargaining that that person is bargaining in good faith. I guess Douthat is too young to remember health care reform in 1994 when Democrats said they now accepted the Chaffee proposal (cosponsered by minority leader Dole) then Republicans voted against the bill they co-sponsored.
He should remember how for Grassley, the individual mandate went from uncontroversial to unconstitutional. Republicansì threats are worth about as much as their promises. They have confronted the Democrats then caved (I am thinking of the 2013 shut down). There is no reason for Democrats to trust any Republican promise, threat or ultimatum. Attempting to Jam them (using the overwhelming popular support for DACA) is the only sensible strategy.

Someone wrote that those who praise Douthat confuse cleverness and thoughtfulness, but I think he has been very unclever — his op-ed has been widely denounced (there is no point in denouncing it further but I can’t resist). The day before yesterday, he was close to being considered a respectable interlocutor for non-conservatives. He isn’t today.