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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Perhaps humans are destined by dint of our primal instincts to forever fear the other, to revolt continually against living peacefully in close proximity to those whose skin is a different hue, whose language lends a different sound, whose gods go by different names. Maybe there is no antidote for the evolutionary proclivity to distrust those who don’t look or sound like us.

But it is certainly true that those instincts would be less volatile if they were not continuously stoked and primed by pandering and opportunistic politicians. From the United States to Great Britain to Austria, politicians have found advantage in fueling a dangerous xenophobia that blames immigrants for every lost job, every bad debt, every savage crime.

It was into that climate that the U.S. Supreme Court disgorged its decision overturning President Barack Obama’s temporary reprieve for several million undocumented immigrants. (The vote was a deadlocked 4-4, but its effect was to allow a lower court ruling against the president to stand.) The subject of immigration has been a dominant theme in this
unruly election season. The high court’s action will only serve to make it more incendiary.

In Great Britain, reckless politicians have already ridden anti-immigration fervor to a regrettable vote to leave the European Union, promising, among other things, that the flow of foreign workers would be slowed to a trickle. Here at home, Donald Trump has established himself atop the Republican Party with a campaign of nationalism and unabashed xenophobia. He has branded Mexicans as criminals; he has promised to wall off the southern border of the United States; and he has pledged to bar many, if not all, Muslims from entry.

That’s too bad. The simple truth is that native populations need the industry, the vitality and the ambition of immigrants. The United States, particularly, has a history of accommodating immigrants and assimilating them into the cultural and economic mainstream. Trump’s white working-class supporters hail from immigrant ancestors.

Much of the population of 11 million or so who live among us without papers is trying hard to assimilate: They work, they pay taxes, they even buy homes. They join churches and community organizations. They send their children to school.

Those who came to this country as children usually speak English fluently and consider themselves Americans. Obama’s 2012 executive order targeting the so-called Dreamers, who came to this country without papers before they turned 16, was not voided by the court. It allows about 750,000 young adults without papers to obtain driver’s licenses, to work and to attend college.

Research shows that the benefits immigrants bestow on this country, even those who are here illegally, are greater than the cost of absorbing them. Unskilled laborers may contribute to a depression in wages for native workers, but the effect is slight. They are not the leading cause of wage stagnation or job loss.

Still, the economic uncertainty of our time has made many American-born workers much more suspicious of competition from foreign-born laborers. Those who have suffered job losses, stagnating wages and disappearing savings accounts are looking for scapegoats, and immigrants are easy to blame.

They are also angry about something else: the loss of power and privilege inherent in changing demographics. By the year 2040, as the nation grows browner, white Americans will no longer constitute a numerical majority. Those simple statistics have fueled a furious backlash.

Indeed, the struggle over cultural identity has been the thematic music, the background noise, of Obama’s tenure. He assumed the Oval Office not just as the first black president but also as a harbinger of a much more diverse nation. It’s an accident of fate that Obama’s father came to this country from Kenya on a student visa, hinting of the wave of globalization to come. It’s no wonder that immigration has been among the most volatile issues of his presidency.

It didn’t have to come to this. As recently as the presidency of George W. Bush, Republican elites supported a strategy for giving legal status to undocumented immigrants. But a vicious opposition from the grassroots scared them into a reversal. They didn’t try to lead. They dropped their principles and ran to get ahead of their constituents.

They’re still running. They lack a trait less common than the primal instincts of fear and resentment: courage.

Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement after the Supreme Court left in place a lower court ruling blocking his plan to spare millions of illegal immigrants from deportation and give them work permits at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria 

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on CNN Sunday morning with Jake Tapper on his State of the Union show. In part because Democratic reps, like Republican reps, going on Sunday shows is about this coming election, and in part because newscasters are not particularly deep or creative when it comes to talking about politics, Tapper decided to spend a lot of time trying to get Ocasio-Cortez to attack Joe Biden for their differences of political opinions. Newsflash: Ocasio-Cortez, progressive hero, co-author of the ambitious Green New Deal environmental package, and Vice President Joe Biden aren't exactly on the same page as to how to handle climate change.

More to the point, Tapper asked Ocasio-Cortez whether or not she was bothered by the fact that Biden has not said he would outright ban fracking. The move to ban fracking in states across the country has been a seesaw battle of fossil fuel interests fighting against progressive environmentalism and science. Biden's refusal to provide full-throated support for a ban on fracking is disappointing to many of us on the left, but it isn't surprising. Even more importantly, it is below the most essential first step the progressive movement—and the country for that matter—needs to take: getting rid of Donald Trump and getting rid of the Republican majority in the Senate.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez isn't going to be pulled into a pointless argument about fracking with Jake Tapper. Her position is well-reported. So is Biden's. AOC explains very clearly that this is how politics work in a representative democracy.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: It does not bother me. I believe, and I have a very strong position on fracking. You know, the science is very clear, the methane emissions from fracking are up to 64 times more powerful than CO2 emissions and trapping heat in the air, and just from a perspective of stopping climate change there is a scientific consensus. However, that is my view. Vice President Biden has made very clear that he does not agree with the fracking ban and I consider that, you know—it will be a privilege to lobby him should we win the White House but we need to focus on winning the White House first. I am happy to make my case but I also understand he is in disagreement on that issue.

Tapper wonders whether this will depress the youth vote, a vote that AOC represents more closely than Biden. This, of course, is literally the only reason Trump and his surrogates have been bringing up this difference of positions the last couple of weeks. The hope is that it will depress the more progressive vote, while spooking some more conservative-leaning folks in fossil-fuel heavy states like Pennsylvania and Texas. Ocasio-Cortez points out that the youth vote over the past couple of years has not simply become more sophisticated since 2016, it has brought in more progressive candidates and officials into local elections. The turnout in 2018 showed that, and Ocasio-Cortez believes that this election is very clearly a choice between Donald Trump, someone who is a non-starter of a human being, and Joe Biden.

Tapper then plays a clip of Biden telling reporters that he isn't "getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time," but that he's talking about getting rid of the subsidies the fake free-marketeers enjoy in the fossil fuel industry. While Tapper is hoping that this will illustrate how Biden isn't AOC and the youth vote may be turned off by this statement, she sees it as an important step in the right direction.

REP. OCASIO-CORTEZ: When he says we are eliminating subsidies, I think that is, frankly, an important first step. A lot of folks who like to tout themselves as free market capitalists, while still trying to make sure they get as much government subsidy, and propping up of the fossil fuel industry as possible. ... If you do believe in markets, solar and renewable energies are growing less and less expensive by the day in many areas. They are starting to become less expensive than fossil fuels. When you eliminate government subsidies, it becomes more difficult for fossil fuels to compete in the market. I think while the vice president wants to make sure that he is not doing it by government mandate or regulation. I do believe that we are moving towards that future. I believe that there's a way and that we should push that process along but again, the vice president and my disagreements are, I believe, recorded and that is quite all right.