On Tuesday, Donald Trump talked about a “bill of love” for DREAMers.
On Thursday, the US president rebuffed a bipartisan deal proposed by six U.S. senators to address immigration. he then wondered aloud why America should accept so many immigrants from “shithole countries” like Haiti.
It’s a long way from “bill of love” to “shithole,” but we made the trip in record time.
As has often been the case, Trump—once thought to be a consummate deal-maker—is sending mixed signals. One day he sounds like a compassionate conservative, the next day he sounds like an angry racist. How do you negotiate with someone like that?
By the same token, Democrats, as The Washington Post has noted, “remain resolutely opposed to wall funding,” the one issue that seems to be Donald Trump’s white whale.
Donald Trump’s capricious behavior certainly complicates things, but there’s a pretty long history of Republicans and Democrats failing to reach bipartisan consensus that can actually pass both houses of Congress, let alone be signed into law. So how can we do it?
As hard as this is to do, the first step will be to quit viewing the other side as evil, and consider that the other guy might have legitimate concerns.
If we assume congressional Democrats are negotiating in bad faith, then we assume that (a) they view more illegal immigration as a potent source of future Democratic voters (which explains their aversion to a wall), and (b) secretly do not want to solve any problems when doing so would let Donald Trump then take credit for a signature “accomplishment.”
Likewise, if we assume congressional Republicans are negotiating in bad faith, we assume they (a) want to maintain a white electorate that will presumably skew Republican, (b) harbor racist attitudes that influences their immigration stance, and (c) secretly want to scuttle any deal so they can impress donors and talk-radio hosts with their purity.
Yes, there are people on both sides of the aisle who are motivated by these cynical calculations.
No, we shouldn’t attribute these motives to everyone—not if we hope to actually reach a consensus.
Politics aside, many Democrats sincerely do care about the plight of immigrants and refugees. And many Republicans legitimately do worry about the toll of finding ways to assimilate new immigrants into American culture—as well as the potential cost to working-class Americans who are already struggling to make ends meet.