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Putting Trump, Public Policy, the Republican Party, and American Politics into Perspective: (Part J)
There is a saying and it goes something like this: The technique of infamy is to invent two lies and then get everyone arguing furiously over which one is true.
What I'd like to do today is talk about a few areas of policy: immigration (and its connection to voter suppression); welfare (and government's thirty-five year refusal to emulate the New Deal of the 1930s and directly employ people); torture, specifically in relation to the War on Terrorism (I know we don't call it that anymore); and, let's do the two-party system---I hope to add another perspective.
Good Cop-Bad Cop Squeeze
I'm going to talk about these areas of public policy in the context of something I am going to call the "Good Cop-Bad Cop Squeeze." I'm sure that most of you reading this have watched enough detective films and television shows to know what the "Good Cop-Bad Cop" routine is all about.
The thing to remember is this: they're both cops; they both think you're guilty; they're both looking to destroy you; and they are working in concert so as to hit upon just the right "frequency," if you will, at which to "play" you into confessing yourself into prison.
Bad Cop: For our purposes, this will be the conservatives, the Fox News crowd, as I call them---basically, the Republican party. Let's call them the law and order group.
Good Cop: For our purposes, this will be the liberals, the MSNBC crowd, as I call them---basically the Democrats, and depending on the issue, "reasonable Republicans," or "moderate" or "centrist" Republicans. Let's call them the path to citizenship group.
First of all, let's be really clear as to what we are talking about: Its Mexicans (primarily undocumented migrant Mexican workers).
I think its safe to say that Donald Trump represents the conservative, law and order, "bad cop" position on the issue of "immigration," as I have defined it.
As you know, Mr. Trump has spoken of building a wall and making Mexico pay for it (1). He is, rhetorically, in the law and order camp on immigration (I.e., controlling Mexicans).
I should mention here that, for our purposes, we are not interested in whether or not he "really means it," just that he said it. We are not interested in how "realistic" any of his immigration reform proposals are, again, only that he articulates, rather loudly and colorfully, the law and order position, the "bad cop" position.
The softer, milder, kinder, gentler, liberal-ish, moderate position is represented as "path to citizenship.
There is a third ingredient: Certain business interests like using undocumented migrant (Mexican) workers because they can work them for CHEAP! Undocumented workers are a wage depressant and always have been.
There is a fourth ingredient: Despite their illegal status, undocumented workers sometimes insist on being treated like human beings. They may organize when the exploitative treatment gets to be too much. This is bad for employers.
Now let's call the "path to citizenship" people the Good Cops and the "law and order" people the Bad Cops.
Let's keep in mind something else, a fifth ingredient: As you know, the corporate rich, let's call them, give tons of money to both political parties; oftentimes the same individuals or organizations give big to both parties.
With that said, a question arises: Do we believe that the conservative, Republican fire-breathers on the issue of immigration really want to rid America of every single undocumented Mexican and make sure that not a single "illegal" Mexican ever surreptitiously crosses the border ever again?
Here's what I'm saying
What if the interchange between "right" and "left" on the issue of immigration, in the United States, is a good cop-bad cop dance aimed at disciplining the undocumented Mexican workers, by keeping them confused, off balance, fearful, docile, and compliant?
That way, I, as an employer, might take on an undocumented worker, not pay him for six months; and then when he complains, call the INS and get him deported. Just for spite I might throw in some Patriot Act action and get him Guatanomo-ed.
If I'm right
Then it means that if you are voting for a politician on the basis of her "stand on immigration," you are only voting for the nominal ascension of the good cop or bad cop to a particular political office. It means that the other "cop" remains outside, applying the "squeeze" in concert with the one who happened to get elected.
Does that make sense?
Hey, remember in the 1990s, when we would hear story after story, after story about some prominent person... who suddenly had to let go of her nanny or housekeeper or gardener because of some payroll tax issue that turned up the illegal status of said employee?
The public was told that it was a mistake, an oversight, a misunderstanding. Remember those days?
Without having any knowledge of who knew what and when, I will only comment that an ambiguous legal status is a mighty fine hammer to hold over an employee's head to ensure docility.
If I'm right, then it means that American politics are, on this issue, professional wrestling with pre-designated "heroes" and "villains" that can change every season.
You may recall that when President Obama was running for reelection in 2012, Donald Trump was at the forefront, questioning Obama's legal status, his American citizenship, demanding to see his birth certificate (2).
You may also recall the 2000 Presidential election in which thousands of Florida voters of African descent, were purged from voter rolls, wrongly categorized as felons (3).
As you may also know, Voter ID laws are proliferating around the country. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union seem to think that such laws have a discriminatory and marginalizing impact upon people of color (4).
I suppose that when Mr. Trump had the chutzpah to subject a sitting President of the United States of America---who happens to be a man of color---to the unprecedented outrage of demanding his birth certificate, to make sure he was legal----then this naturally opens the door to an attempt to re-Other-ize and re-Foreign-ize tens of millions of American citizens through voter identification laws.
Taken together, then, the immigration dance I mentioned before and voter identification laws appears to seek the re-imposition of the presumption of Otherness and Foreignness to America, based on the melanin content of the skin.
As I said before, the technique of infamy is to invent two lies and get everybody arguing furiously over which one is true.
The "national discussion" about torture or "enhanced interrogation" centered around its effectiveness in getting the suspect to talk.
What if, as far as our ruling class are concerned, the efficacy of torture in getting information, is beside the point?
Historically, torture has been an excellent way to send a message. Also, if the most powerful country in the world loudly announces that it will not torture, or what it will not do, and so forth---this can have an equally frightening effect.
For example, suppose Alan kidnaps Bob. Alan and his crew take Bob to an out of the way warehouse somewhere. Bob is tied up and strapped to a chair.
Now suppose Alan walks in and says something like: Bob, I don't want you to be afraid. I'm not going to permanently injure you. I'm not going to torture you because that is not what I'm all about. Torture is against my values. I want you to rest assured that I am not going to cut your ears off, or anything like that. I'm not going to cut your toes off and make you eat them because that's disgusting. I'm not going to cut your arms and legs off and sew them back on in their opposite places. After all, we're not Nazis!
Its like asking me not to think of a pink elephant. You tell me what you are not going to do to me, but I know those things are on your mind!
We read this on the CNN Politics blog:
March 4, 2016:
"Republican front-runner Donald Trump moved to staunch scathing criticism of his national security views on Friday, executing an abrupt about-face by declaring that he would not order the U.S. military to violate international laws to fight terrorism.
"After advocating the killing of terrorists' families and the benefits of waterboarding, Trump reversed course after condemnation from former cabinet members, lawmakers and intelligence and military officials, some of whom denounced him as 'utterly unfitted to the office,' of president.
"Other suggested that the military would be within its rights to refuse to obey those orders.
"But in a statement Friday, Trump said that he understands 'that the United States is bound by laws and treaties' and that he would 'not order our military or other officials to violate those laws and will seek their advice on such matters.'
"He added, 'I will not order a military officer to disobey the law. It is clear that as president I will be bound by laws just like all Americans and I will meet those responsibilities'" (5).
Breaking News! Donald Trump announced that if elected President of the United States of America, he will follow the law "just like all Americans."
On the Real Clear Politics website, Ian Schwartz posted an interview that Mr. Trump did with Sean Hannity of Fox News on June 18, 2015.
In part, the interview went like this:
Hannity: Let me ask you, would you be able to get 50 million Americans out of poverty?
Trump: I would. I would -- I would create incentives for people to work. People don't have an incentive. They make more money by sitting there doing nothing than they make if they have a job.
Hannity: You'd take the incentive away.
Trump: We have to create incentives that they actually do much better by working. Right now, they have a disincentive. They have an incentive not to work.
Hannity: You would insist for food stamps, welfare, any assistance, that you have to work for it.
Trump: Well, you could -- you could start looking at things like that. And actually Bill Clinton wanted that, a lot of people wanted that over the years. You know, a lot of Democrats frankly wanted that. A lot of liberals wanted that. The problem we have right now, we have a society that sits back and says we're not going to do anything. And eventually the 50 percent cannot carry, and its unfair to them, but cannot carry the other 50 percent.
There is a incentive government could give to get people working: the direct creation of jobs; a massive, New Deal kind of public works program.
The federal government did it in the 1930s but doesn't do it now. Why not?
Both major parties seem to have given up on the idea of the government creating jobs.
Let me offer a counterintuitive suggestion. It may seem weird at first, but I think it will make sense as you think about it.
What if its conservatives, and not liberals, who really want welfare to exist?
- Business wants to control labor markets, keep them flexible, unable to resist taking whatever management gives them (unions in the United States are rather weak-to-nonexistent these days).
- If government directly hired people, this would put private business in unwelcome competition with the government to raise salaries and benefits and improve working conditions.
- Private business does not want to raise salaries and benefits and improve working conditions.
- Private business wants to be free to hire and fire at will, cut salaries, reduce benefits, and do whatever without having to look over their shoulder.
- If government stays out of the business of job creation and just offers welfare, private business owners and managers don't have to feel like monsters when they arbitrarily fire people; they know that "something" will be available for those poor souls.
- Liberals may want more welfare benefits for the poor and unemployed, but neither side of the aisle wants welfare eliminated. That would be a nightmare for conservative private business interests.
1. Nguyen, T. (2016, April 5). Donald Trump's Cruel Plan To Make Mexico Pay for a Border Wall: By Holding Billions of Immigrants' Dollars Hostage and Imperiling the Global Economy, Of Course. Retrieved August 15, 2016. (Vanity Fair).
2. Eldridge, D. (2011, April 10). Trump Rides Issue of Obama's Birth Certificate. Retrieved August 15, 2016. (The Washington Times).
3. Fessenden, F. (2004, July 10). Florida List for Purge of Voters Proves Flawed. Retrieved August 15, 2016. (The New York Times)
4. Oppose Voter ID Legislation - Fact Sheet. (2016). Retrieved August 15, 2016, from aclu.org. (The American Civil Liberties Union).
5. Browne, R. & Gauoette, N. (2016, March 4). Donald Trump Reverses Position on Torture, Killing Terrorists' Families. Retrieved August 15, 2016. (CNN Politics).