Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Saturday, September 5, 2015


Having been in Europe during the early stages of the crisis, I can attest that this is straining Europe's vision of itself.  Europe sees itself as the seat of true civilization, having ceded power to the US about 70 years ago (no matter what DeGaulle thought).

But Europe isn't immune to the same fractious racial identity politics that the US has.  Donald Trump would be quite at home in the UK Independence Party or perhaps even the Tories, given Cameron's position on migrants.

The fact is it is far simpler and safer to oppose migration, because the people who vote for you are already in the country that you are a politician in.  It can hurt you with those citizens who were once immigrants (or whose recent relatives were), but it's pretty clear the GOP, to take an example, is trying to maximize its share of the white vote, rather than reach out to Hispanics, African Americans or Asians.

But the Nativists have a point, which is that a country has a right to secure its own borders and determine its own immigration policies.  That's a little harder in Europe with the EU, but it's still an issue.

It is not at all surprising it took an especially heartbreaking photo to change the tenor of the conversation.  Nativist demagoguery depends on us denying the humanity of the migrants.  Once you see them as that small, lifeless body in the surf, you can't easily deny their humanity without denigrating your own.

But it will only take one Syrian emigre to shoot a police officer, or a Libyan refugee to commit an act of terrorism for the voices of nativism to drown out those whispers of shared humanity again.

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