Monday, January 30, 2017

Outrage Fatigue

Trump's opposition is going to wear out public tolerance of their outrage, and then where will we be if (when?) he does something truly, truly outrageous?

Evidently the president issued a travel ban on Friday. Analysis quickly broke into two camps: "Trump Keeps Us Safe!" and "Nazis Did This Very Thing!" Lost in the middle was reasoned analysis, attacked from both sides as providing cover for the enemy.

First: to paraphrase Rick James, the imperial presidency is a helluva drug. It's wonderful when your guy is running rough-shod over the opposition, but terrible when the rough-shod guy is no longer yours. Some might say this could be reason to oppose an imperial presidency irrespective of political persuasion. But we mock those people as fools.

Second: correct analysis of this move isn't intended to argue in favor of this move. It's just a notation of facts. At least that was true back when "facts" were facts and not "talking points we really believe."

Third: this isn't a Muslim travel ban. It applies to national origin, not religion. Christians from Syria and Iraq are just as barred as Muslims from Syria and Iraq.

Fourth: these countries weren't chosen randomly. They are nations that have no trustworthy central government, either because the central government is non-existent/weak, or because it's Iran.

Fifth: the legitimacy of the foreign government shouldn't have any bearing here, because it's the vetting done by the American government that is being undermined. People with American visas and even American resident aliens (holders of green cards) are being kept out. This isn't Trump attacking seven sovereign nations, this is Trump attacking the U.S. State Department.

Sixth: as noted by Tyler Cowen, requiring proof of non-citizenship could be an impossible burden.

Seventh: not including nations that actually produce terrorists goes a long way towards undermining any acceptance the average American might have had for this idea. And not unveiling at the same time a plan for correcting the problems the ban is meant to address undermines whatever acceptance might be left outside the Trump-loving circle. So this is just the way of the world now, forever? If there are problems with the vetting process, outline what those problems are, how they'll be addressed, and a timetable for addressing them. "No Syrians for nine months" is a LOT more politically tolerable than "No Syrians ever again."

Eighth: Trump missed a trick here. What would have happened if he unveiled a temporary (of defined length/measurable actions) ban and said that, after the deficiencies are corrected, the limit on "properly-vetted" immigrants would be substantially higher? Gets the "Trump keeps us safe!" crowd on board and keeps a campaign promise, but also gives the pro-immigrant crowd something to cheer and undermines the "Nazis did this very thing!" crowd.

Ninth: without a provision for the ban's eventual removal, Trump flies in the face of 400 years of American values. A nation of immigrants might have reason to oversee immigration, but never to stop it.

Tenth: I wrote yesterday that I don't like political jurisdictions using arbitrary boundaries as a means of rent-seeking. That applies to South Pasadena and it applies to the United States.

How about making some of these points instead of shrieking, "ZOMG, he's just like Hitler!"? He's only been president for 10 days, people. TEN DAYS. We have at least 1,450 more days to go. Pace yourselves.

1 comment:

Alanna said...

I appreciate the rage-free analysis. Please keep 'em coming.

It's really a shame-- I just can't handle all the anger on facebook any more. I kept thinking it would end after the election, and then after the electoral vote, and then after the inauguration. I'm finally giving up hope of anyone being anything other than furious for the next four years. But maybe that's a good thing-- this will be what finally gets me to break up with the abusive relationship I have with social media...