More GOP debates, too few glimpses of decency

Public discourse in the 21st-century USA sometimes forgets clear fundamentals, and the problem is most acute in the Republican Party sector.

Yesterday I wrote that I would post a follow-up after watching last night’s GOP lineup on Fox Business News, to see whether any of the candidates would refer to mass deportation. Discussion of the debate is below, at bottom (scroll down).

Meanwhile, forgetfulness has clearly set in among people who oppose any kind of “regulation.” These people are inwardly divided. Some of them want to deport children whose parents were not born in this country, for example, forgetting that there would have to be careful fact-checking before anyone’s parents could be proven not born in this country.

Deportation: more regulation, more government, more cost, more taxes

Note to other writers and journalists: not to join in media-bashing, but why doesn’t some moderator or television reporter or interviewer ask the obvious question, when one of these guys comes out whaling on deporting children of “illegals”? Question:

How would you know that their parents are ‘illegal’?

Follow-up questions:

Who would determine that the parents of a five-year-old are undocumented?

Who, if anyone, would check?

Who would verify?

As we live now, under the Fourteenth Amendment, a person born in the United States is an American citizen. Under the Fourteenth Amendment, who my parents are, or were, is my business. Who your parents are, or were, is your business. (This is America.) Expunging the Fourteenth Amendment would make it anyone’s business, or someone’s business. Exactly whose has not been designated. Donald Trump never mentions who would handle a mass shipping-out, but the facts would have to be checked by duly constituted authorities. The authorities in turn would have to be monitored–Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? There would have to be oversight. There would have to be a route for appeal, in cases tainted by (inevitable) error or corruption. There would have to be meticulous records, documentation (this being the concept, after all), preferably supported by video recording. All of this (nightmarish) process would involve regulations.

Not that deportation is the only work site requiring regulation. (I cannot believe I’m having to write these words.) Fuel manufacturing, handling, and storage require oversight, monitoring, and concern for public health and public safety; and not every human being can or will provide these prompted by conscience alone. In other words, they have to be regulated. So do the manufacturing and handling of all other explosives. The same goes for airplane maintenance; airplane parts should not fall off in the air. Fruit juice fed to babies should not contain pesticides and herbicides. Meat and bread should not catch mold and worse from grocery shelves. Children’s toys, cribs, and car seats should not be accidents waiting to happen, causing the deaths of an actuarially predictable number of toddlers each year. The contents of prescription medications should be what the label says they are, in the proportions specified and prescribed. All of the foregoing are sites where regulation is necessary. So are manufacturing and storage for fertilizer and the many other household and construction products, whether or not created for demolitions, that turn out to be flammable and/or explosive.

Here and there

Fortunately, there are good-faith ways to reduce the need for regulation. Organic farming and local buying alleviate problems connected to toxins, transportation and freight. If any of the current presidential candidates are actually interested in reducing ‘excessive regulation’, they could consider helping the environment. The need for regulations could be made less urgent, and big areas to build improvement include food and water, travel and shipping, and health and medical care. There will be less difficulty regulating toxins and other hazards, when they are not disseminated into the environment in the first place.

(Side note: Look for Hillary Clinton using these or similar words in the next couple of days. Her campaign people are constantly on the lookout for lines she can appropriate. As a voter, and a viewer, I do wish she would stop trying to sound like Elizabeth Warren. My own sense is that if she were going to ‘fight for you’, she would have done it years ago.)

Back to illegal immigration–the undocumented immigration so vilified is a perfect example of lack of forethought, lack of clear thinking, and lack of rational prevention beforehand creating back-end problems. The hysterical eagerness to deport millions of people forgets that such a process would require the ‘regulation’ vilified as much as immigration itself. More importantly, the anti-immigrant hysteria also forgets why this immigration happens in the first place.

The immigration stems from the wish for survival. People risk their lives, and many of them lose their lives, to slip across our border hoping to be able to make a living, hoping for freedom from poverty and worse, hoping to move farther away from imminent danger and the threat of starvation as well as from local dictators. Some of the world’s poor people put themselves into the hands of human traffickers, sometimes getting scammed and virtually always in danger en route. They do so to survive. Heartbreakingly, survival in Latin America is jeopardized by the flood of weapons shipped south of the border, weapons sourced overwhelmingly from the United States. But American citizens have been prevented from taking rational measures to stem the flow of weapons south–largely by the NRA and its bought-and-paid-for operative, the GOP; partly by self-advancing Dems like Rahm Emanuel and the Clintons. Yet the most vehement opponents of gun control also tend to be the most vehement critics–to put it nicely–of illegal immigration.

This failure of logic in the public discourse is not entirely accident. It is intensified by deliberate assaults on logic, information and common sense mounted daily by lobbyists. The loosely defined but well funded gun lobby pressures elected officials; pressures media outlets; pressures schools, colleges and law schools. Scientists and researchers are under pressure. So are scholarly journals. The assault has been blatant, intense and profitable for the last thirty years.

So, back to last night’s debates–in which shootings and weapons were mostly not mentioned, while “regulation” and “free market” were much in the air. Anti-“regulation.” Pro-“free market.”

One quick comment on that “free market” meme. As I wrote years ago–in a small community newspaper that has since been sold out, speaking of markets–“free market” is an oxymoron. If it were free, there wouldn’t be money in it. In economics language, constraints are part of the market. One person or entity has something; another person or entity wants it. Party A conveys same to Party B, for a consideration. Something of value changes hands in each direction.

But the big question going into last night’s debate, for me, was whether any of the candidates would refer to mass deportation, and if so, who, and in what way.

The good news: a couple of prominent Republican candidates did indeed mention mass deportation, and mentioned it to oppose it–forcefully.

The bad news: I am so reduced by the level of discourse in general that I for one am pathetically grateful when any GOPer says something decent in public.

Let’s start with the good news. In the primetime debate, when Donald Trump reiterated his ‘plan’ to ship out illegal immigrants, even Trump softened the position somewhat with a throw-away “They can come back.” Neither other candidates nor moderators pursued that softly spoken “come back” line of thought, but he said it.

Better yet, Ohio Governor John Kasich blasted the idea of mass deportation. In a forceful and eloquent statement, Kasich characterized shipping out 11 million people as “silly.” High time someone said it. Following up, Jeb Bush said that “to send them back” is simply impossible. He also pointed out that the plan is not who we are, not in line with American values. Again, high time someone said it. Bush also pointed to the inartful politics–saying that the Clinton campaign was watching this and doing “high-fives.”

(From my living room: I watched the debates with my son and his girlfriend. We all noticed that the GOP mentioned Clinton exclusively. They’re salivating at the chance to run against her, and with good reason.)

Ironically, given the destructive rhetoric Trump has unleashed on the public, at this point I think it’s possible that Trump is better than most of his supporters. Trump is a salesman. He knows his market components. He’s playing to them. That’s why he said “I like this guy,” in a room with the man who accused President Obama of being Muslim rather than Christian, etc. Trump is a salesman. I have no experience in his field myself, but as I understand it, if you as a salesman are in a room full of people, making your pitch, that’s what you focus on. If you catch sight of some guy wearing a white costume with a white pointed hood, you don’t seize that moment to condemn the Klan; you sing out, “Hey, Jim, nice toga.”

But that’s the moment when you’ve gone too far. Trump has unleashed something in the Republican Party that its leaders have long known about–none better–but have long sought to deny and to conceal. I am by no means sure that a President Trump actually would deport millions of people, as declared by my correspondent yesterday. But in the interim, his campaign has exposed a nasty wish to do so, among the electorate courted by the GOP.


More later.

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