Some of my liberal friends here are constantly on my case for what they call my “false equivalence.” They believe they are not contributing to the careening, irrational polarization of our era — it’s the extremists on the other side who are entirely to blame.
Which, of course, isn’t true. Yep, the Republicans (or a lot of them) have been getting weirder and weirder in recent years, but there are plenty of people on the left who are happy to keep pushing them away.
Conservative columnist Ross Douthat of The New York Times wrote a provocative column a day or two back. Basically the thrust of it was this: As objectionable as Stephen Miller is, maybe he needs to be at the table if a viable immigration compromise is to be reached. For years, we’ve tried fashioning a comprehensive solution without the nativists at the table, and nothing has passed. Maybe it’s time to try something else.
He concludes, “But a bargain that actually reflects the shape of public opinion, not just the elite consensus, can only happen with someone like Stephen Miller at the table.”
This sent a lot of people ’round the bend, causing Douthat to spend much of the next few hours answering critics on Twitter. Some engaged what he actually wrote. But here’s what Salon said:
In case that Tweet embed doesn’t show you what I’m seeing (a frequent problem I’ve noticed), the headline of the Salon piece is “To Ross Douthat, white immigration is the only good immigration,” and the subhed is “A New York Times columnist praises the whites-only rhetoric of Stephen Miller.”
I responded to that Tweet by saying, “That’s not what he wrote and it’s not what he meant. He was WRONG, but he didn’t commit the evil of which you accuse him…”
The closest Douthat comes to “praising” Miller is when, after nothing that about a third of Americans, like Miller “want immigration reduced,” he writes this:
And there are various reasonable grounds on which one might favor a reduction. The foreign-born share of the U.S. population is near a record high, and increased diversity and the distrust it sows have clearly put stresses on our politics. There are questions about how fast the recent wave of low-skilled immigrants is assimilating, evidence that constant new immigration makes it harder for earlier arrivals to advance, and reasons to think that a native working class gripped by social crisis might benefit from a little less wage competition for a while. California, the model for a high-immigration future, is prosperous and dynamic — but also increasingly stratified by race, with the same inequality-measuring Gini coefficient as Honduras….
But that is immediately followed by this:
With that said, illegal immigration has slowed over the last decade, and immigration’s potential economic and humanitarian benefits are still considerable. And it’s also clear that many immigration restrictionists are influenced by simple bigotry — with the president’s recent excrement-related remarks a noteworthy illustration.
This bigotry, from the point of view of many immigration advocates, justifies excluding real restrictionists from the negotiating table…
… which leads to Douthat’s point that doing so hasn’t worked; maybe actually negotiating with these people could.
I read that as damning Miller with something harsher than faint “praise.”
Overall, I consider Miller and what he wants to do beyond the pale, because of the ugly nativism that animates the anti-immigrant position (and yes, in this case we’re talking anti-immigrant, not just anti-illegal immigrant). What he wants to achieve shouldn’t be dignified with serious consideration.
But it doesn’t make you a racist or a fan of racism to suggest that he should be let into the conversation.
And saying, in no uncertain terms, that it does is itself an example of the kind of extremism that’s driven our country apart.