What Does the President Really Want at the Border?

The Economist (UK) thinks Biden is kowtowing to ‘activists’ pushing ‘his party’s worst ideas’

By Andrew R. Arthur on July 18, 2022

It’s clear that the Biden administration is unlike any prior one, particularly when it comes to immigration and the border. For example, “deterring illegal entrants” is not in its plans; facilitating the asylum applications of all comers is. The voters did not elect the “administration”, however — they elected Joe Biden, and UK journal The Economist suggests that Biden is not on board with such policies, but rather is just kowtowing to extreme elements of his party. Is that true?

The Economist. For those who aren’t familiar with The Economist, Encyclopedia Britannica explains that the journal is a “weekly magazine of news and opinion published in London”, “generally regarded as one of the world’s preeminent journals of its kind” that provides “ wide-ranging coverage of general news and particularly of international and political developments and prospects bearing on the world’s economy”.

Founded in 1843 at the point Britain was first gaining preeminence around the globe, it provides analyses on forgotten countries in overlooked regions (many previously British held). While its coverage includes the United States, its “Lexington” column (all articles are published anonymously; regular features have names), which focuses on U.S. politics and society, didn’t start until early 1990.

To paraphrase Carl Sandburg (possibly quoting Lincoln), for those who like what The Economist has to offer, I should think The Economist is just about the sort of thing they would like. If nothing else, the droll captions are worth a chuckle, assuming you can afford the $199 annual digital fee ($24.90 per month for the digital and print version).

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the journal “is known for its social-libertarian slant and maintains that free markets provide the best method of running economies and governments”.

That said, the New Yorker (which often tries and fails to emulate its UK counterpart in tone and analysis) has criticized The Economist’s brand of “liberalism”, while the AllSides Media Bias Chart lists the journal as left-leaning.

Unsolicited Political Advice from Across the Atlantic. That left-of-center slant is apparent from the article in question, captioned “The Democrats need to wake up and stop pandering to their extremes.” It offers what it implicitly admits is unsolicited political advice (which the journal explicitly admits it “does not usually hand out”), and essentially writes off any hope that the GOP will “repair” what it describes as “America’s sickly democracy” in need of “urgent repair”.

I will avoid a tu quoque response that points to the ongoing political miasma hanging over the UK (Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resigned but is still running the government, and the minority Labour Party tried but failed to defeat an attempt by Johnson’s Tories to introduce a “no-confidence” vote against itself), and which suggests The Economist get its own country’s political affairs in order before offering solutions on what to do in ours.

That said, however, the venerable journal’s curt dismissal of Republicans, a party Gallup estimates 46 percent of Americans either belong to or lean toward, is a bit jejune. The Economist’s assessment is based on congressional GOP support for Donald Trump (never a favorite of the journal) but overlooks the fact that the GOP is a coalition of social conservatives, fiscal hawks, and libertarians who don’t always see eye-to-eye on many things (especially immigration).

Does Biden Believe that “Borders Should Be Kept Secure”? Turning to Biden and his fellow partisans, however, The Economist makes some valid points. It explains that on numerous issues, Democrats “have fallen prey to their activists”, particularly as relates to crime and social issues, while it attempts to disabuse the Party of Jackson of certain “cherished myths that empower its idealists”.

Among those “cherished myths”, the journal asserts, is the idea “that a rainbow coalition of disaffected, progressive voters is just waiting to be organised to bring about a social revolution”, explaining: “The truth is that those who do not vote are politically disengaged and not very liberal. Some black, Hispanic and working-class voters may well see each other as rivals or have conservative views on race, immigration and crime.”

I have made many of the same observations myself with respect to immigration. Particularly along the heavily Hispanic Southwest border in Texas, Biden’s version of lax immigration enforcement is not a popular stance, or one that has won Democrats many converts.

Speaking of the border, The Economist advises the president “to be louder and clearer in defending ideas that used to be uncontroversial”, including that “legal immigration is better than the illegal sort, and borders should be kept secure”. That of course presumes Biden believes such traditionally “uncontroversial” ideas are reasonable.

Does he? When asked about a spike in illegal entrants early in his watch, Biden asserted that “[n]othing has changed” at the border. Similarly, his DHS secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, has been quick to deflect claims that there is a “crisis” at the Southwest border, contending instead that the situation there is a “challenge” to be “managed”.

Conversely, Mayorkas told Congress in late April that the border is secure, and what’s more, that his department has “operational control of the southern border”. As even The Economist admits, though, those contentions are in error.

The journal’s article is similar to the appeals for reform that peaceful demonstrators in St. Petersburg attempted to bring Czar Nicholas II at the Winter Palace in 1905. Surely, they believed, if the “Little Father” knew the truth about their desperate situation, he would make their conditions better.

In much the same way, The Economist seems to think that Biden’s views logically align with what it believes (correctly) must be done when it comes to immigration, but that he has simply acceded to his party’s extreme left wing on the subject. The journal offers no proof Biden is on the same page it is, and notably, the president hasn’t advanced any new proposals to staunch the flow at the border.

That 1905 march resulted in the massacre known as “Bloody Sunday”, and although Nicholas’ culpability in that massacre is questionable (he wasn’t home), the czar also offered only ineffectual and half-hearted reforms in response (paving the way for the 1917 Russian Revolution).

This analogy is somewhat inapt, though, because our political system ensures that what happened in St. Petersburg 117 years ago can’t happen here. Unlike the czar, presidents are elected by the voters, and when the electorate is discontent with executive branch policies, their recourse (always) is to the ballot box.

And there is plenty of evidence that voters are unhappy with the president’s immigration policies. A Morning Consult/Politico poll conducted between July 8 and 10 revealed just 36 percent of respondents approved of Biden’s handling of the subject (11 percent strongly), compared to 56 percent who disapproved (42 percent strongly).

That disapproval will have electoral consequences if nothing gets better at the border. In its own latest poll (conducted between July 9 and 11), The Economist found that immigration was important to 80 percent of respondents in November’s mid-term elections, with half (50 percent) stating that it was “very important”.

The Economist is attempting to avoid a wipe-out of Democrats — whom it describes breathlessly as “the only remaining guardians of America’s political system” — in November by pleading with the president to adopt the more mainstream views on immigration (among other things) it believes he ascribes to. There’s only one problem.

There is nothing to suggest that Mayorkas and the rest of the president’s immigration advisors are out of step with their boss when it comes to the border. The supposed “seasonal surge” in illegal migrants at the Southwest border is now the “new normal” as the administration has jettisoned deterrence as a policy. Voters may like that new normal, but all signs are they don’t.