Is the border situation a crisis or not?
One of the most frustrating things for me in the build-up to the 2022 midterms was the deliberate, extensive efforts by Democratic groups (including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) to secretly help extreme MAGA candidates win their Republican primary races against more traditional, sensible Republicans.
By “extreme”, I’m referring to election deniers (many endorsed by Trump himself) who were not only parroting the former president’s “stolen election” lie, but actually campaigning on it. The Dems were covertly campaigning for them with the hopes of producing weak Republican nominees who Democratic candidates would have an easier time defeating in the general election.
It was dirty politics for sure, but what particularly bothered me about it, as I wrote at the time, was that these groups were spending millions of dollars aiding “the same types of candidates that Democrats have insisted, for almost two years, shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near public office, because they pose a clear and present danger to U.S. democracy.”
If Democrats truly believed that putting MAGA Republicans in office posed an existential threat to our democratic system, they would never have made such a gamble — especially in what was being predicted as a “wave” election year for the GOP.
Republicans were to blame for the “stop the steal” mess, but if that mess would have led to a crisis, the Democrats would have been guilty of fueling it.
I think virtually every Republican, conservative, and probably a majority of Americans agree that what’s been going on at our southern border is a crisis — a genuine one playing out in real-time. It didn’t start with President Biden (it’s been an issue for decades), but it unquestionably got far worse because of his rhetoric as a candidate and his policies as our nation’s commander-in-chief. Biden has also been profoundly negligent in addressing this situation largely of his making, and Republicans, who’ve been describing the southern chaos as “open borders,” have been right over the last couple of years in drawing loud attention to that negligence, and demanding serious border-policy changes.
Biden and his party appear to have finally gotten the wake-up call. Mounting political pressure in the middle of an election cycle has brought them to the negotiating table with Republicans. They’ve been working together for months, and to the surprise of many, the parties have actually been getting somewhere.
Nearly-completed, bipartisan legislation would reportedly make deportations easier, make asylum-claims more difficult, increase the number of Customs and Border Protection officers, expand detention capacity, and place daily limits on the number of people entering our country. Some have described the reforms as once-in-a-generation legistlation on immigration policy.
Despite some Republican opposition to Ukraine-aid funding being tied to the legistlation, a deal was thought to be imminent.
But then, Donald Trump stepped in.
The likely Republican presidential nominee, fearing that progress on the border, on Biden’s watch, may hurt his political prospects going into the November election, is loudly opposing a border deal, and pressuring congressional Republicans to do the same.
Republican senators are heeding his warning.
“We’re in a quandary,” lamented Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He said of the situation that Republicans in the Senate “don’t want to do anything to undermine” Trump’s campaign.
Trump, of course, has been talking tough about border security for years. “Building the wall” was a hallmark of his winning campaign in 2016. Yet, he chose to do virtually nothing on the issue during his first two years in office, when his party held both branches of Congress. Not until Democrats won back the House did he finally move forward on the initiative, trying but failing to negotiate a deal with Nancy Pelosi. His controversial recourse was to direct funding from the Defense Department’s budget to replace about 400 miles of existing barriers along the border. Less than 50 miles of new wall was built.
It was a far cry from what he had promised, but many Trump supporters would argue that it was better than nothing, and maybe they’re right.
Why then would Republicans waste a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to get much more on the border issue than Trump ever produced?
Trump attempted to answer that question on Truth Social the other day: “We need a Strong, Powerful, and essentially ‘PERFECT’ Border and, unless we get that, we are better off not making a Deal.”
So… nothing short of perfection warrants making a deal?
Again the question should be asked: Is the border situation a crisis or not?
If it is, in fact, a crisis, why on earth would Republicans blow off an opportunity to meaningfully address it through law?
“It’s all about politics and not having the courage to respectfully disagree with President Trump,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) explained. “I didn’t come here to have a president as a boss or a candidate as a boss.”
“The fact that [Trump] would communicate to Republican senators and congresspeople that he doesn’t want us to solve the border problem because he wants to blame Biden for it is really appalling,” added Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) added.
If Republicans blow this opportunity, just to help Donald Trump politically, they’ll be undercutting their own “crisis” narrative, similar to what those Democratic groups did back in the midterms.
“But it worked for the Democrats,” some would argue, and maybe they’re right.
We’ll never know for sure just how instrumental the Dems’ plan was in nominating those MAGA candidates who cost the GOP their “red wave.” What we do know is that it wasn’t Democrats who cast primary votes for those individuals.
Either way you look at it, the border situation is a much bigger gamble. If Republicans bend the knee to Trump on this, like they do in virtually every other instance, they’ll effectively be saying that they’d rather the “open borders” situation continue on as it has, for at least another year… as long as it helps a politically-toxic individual who may well lose, who would instantly become a lame-duck (and probably not have Republican majorities) if he did win, and who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) deliver on the same issue last time.
If the situation at the border truly is a crisis, the decision of congressional Republicans should be a no-brainer.