I didn’t vote for Donald Trump in 2016. I won’t vote for him next year. But as I grew increasingly depressed while watching the Democratic presidential debates this week, I couldn’t help but think: “My God, they’re going to let him win again. They’re going to make it impossible for people like me to vote for a Democrat for president.”
Let me explain why.
Trump’s character has revealed a long list of deficiencies. An example is his response to legitimate concerns about illegal immigration. His draconian rhetoric has shocked the conscience of millions of Americans. Trump, notorious for shattering basic standards of personal decency, has radicalized the Democratic base, which now sees itself as the resistance, called to defy long-established norms for managing immigration, especially the illegal kind.
Trump has been outrageous on multiple fronts. But his ability to drive Democratic presidential contenders to respond to a question about health care for the undocumented with mass self-immolation may prove to be the key to his reelection.
The “Trump in 2020” team at Fox and Friends certainly thinks so. On the morning after the debate, they repeatedly showed the footage of the unanimous show of hands, and they delighted at the New York Post cover that superimposed a question on a photo of the scene. “Who wants to lose the election?” it read in colossal type. Co-host Brian Kilmeade, his finger on the pulse of Middle America, asked, “When you look at our health-care system and how much it costs and how people are struggling to get insurance, why would you give priority to people—maybe as many as 22 million—and give them health care?” Fox showed Trump’s triumphal tweet, which asked “How about taking care of American citizens first!?” And then it gloated, “That’s the end of that race!”
Even over at MSNBC, where "Morning Joe" has become a daily therapy for Democrats suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome, Joe Scarborough was bemoaning the Democratic blunder. Said a disbelieving Scarborough, “You talk about a magnet [for illegal immigration]?” Later, he added in a crescendo of dismay, “This feeds into Donald Trump’s and the R party’s open-borders claim, which I have been saying for the past two and a half years is a lie.” Well, Joe, it may not be literally true, but when the Dems fight off every measure to manage traffic through the door, what’s the difference?
Several years ago, back when immigration-advocacy groups sometimes invited me to make my case for restricting immigration, I had a brief private conversation with an immigrant rights advocate who spoke on the other side of the argument. When I asked if he could accept any principle of restriction on immigration, any notion of restraint, he responded, “My job is to help immigrants. It is not to help you stop immigrants.”
For him, as for many others on the left, immigration must be open to all. They believe that those who enter the country illegally or overstay their visas must be accepted as immigrants, fully entitled to inclusion in the national community. They believe that applies universally, not just to those who have lived here for years.
That now seems to be the policy of the Democratic Party as it ramps up its long process of selecting its presidential candidate. My guess is that many Americans who don’t want to vote for Trump will dissent. I would be one of them.