Like many things today, this piece is not actually about immigration.
I can’t believe that journalists and thinking people are wringing their hands about what Trump will do about DACA. For instance, whether he’ll support a bill. A bill? Have I been living in the same universe as other people this year? After an entire trip around the Sun with Trump, the media are still trying to win at Chess on a Poker table.
The sooner we understand this the sooner we can actually defeat him: Trump is playing a different game than the rest of us about immigration, and about most issues. We are dealing with results, and Trump is dealing with feelings.
Yes, as strange as it sounds, what links White Nationalists, Alt-Lite conservatives and Rust Belt workers is feelings.
It must be so, because logic doesn’t have a seat at the table when people who are against immigration generally live in places with no immigrants. And when people in areas with tons of immigrants tend to be pro-immigration. And when immigration is good for the economy.
What Democrats, DREAMers and city-dwellers think about immigration is logical. It’s an actual problem with an actual solution — legislation. If there is actual harm coming to immigrants, you need legislation. Just like if there is actual sewage in your actual water system, only legislation will force a solution.
But immigration is not an actual problem for the people who feel it most strongly. Like that poor sap in Maine, who feels like he needs to fight for white identity in a town with literally one black person. For him, immigration and racial integration is not a tangible problem. For him, it’s a feeling.
Even if Trump passed the most illegal, draconian, unenforceable prohibition of immigration, it would not affect actual lived life of a factory worker in Cuyahoga County. Or an Alt-Righter in Bibb County. If Trump waved a wand and granted total amnesty to all immigrants and loosened our borders to new immigrants, literally no White Nationalists at the rally in Charlottesville would lead a changed life.
Because it’s not about immigration. It never was.
Immigration didn’t close your coal plant, immigration didn’t shutter your factory, immigration isn’t why you take two buses to your first of three jobs to keep your head above water, while your dad could raise a whole family with one job that didn’t require a degree. Immigration is a fucking feeling.
If 2016 didn’t declare itself clearly enough, let me repeat for those of us in media, journalism and politics who live in major cities with stable jobs and no struggle. We are living through a great illness of the American Dream. Our body politic is struggling, possibly dying, and immigration is a form of collective denial and blame — both understandable forms of grief, but both still wrong. The real problem, the real economic-political source of our illness, is made up of so many small moving parts going back so many years that there’s nothing big enough to clench your fist around. But immigration. You can point to it, it involves other people, and it has only two moving parts.
So if DACA comes for a vote, what if Trump signs it? He’ll call it a victory and move on. What if he doesn’t sign it? He’ll call it a victory and move on. DACA and the immigration battle in Washington are about legislation, and legislation is made up of thousands of little nuts and bolts.
But Trump’s base, the people trying to do something about “immigration,” don’t want legislation. They want trump to declare victory after doing something in the Oval Office. Donald Trump knows this. He knows that immigration is, for his people, an unexpressed sadness, an impossible need.
Trump doesn’t have a solution, but he can fill a need.
You can only answer feelings with feelings, and that’s just what Trump sells them. One tweet saying, “Shithole countries” is sweeter than a 1000-page bill. Because these people don’t actually want legislation, they want someone to make them feel better. Make the pain go away today. By making these statements, he’s done his job. It doesn’t matter what is in the bill he signs or doesn’t sign, because those details will slip through the sieve of our understanding like so many grains of sand.
And so whatever happens with DACA, Trump will lead his people in the way they want to be led. Not with policy, but with pronouncements. Not with legislation, but with the roar of an old lion. It will accomplish nothing, and his base will grow poorer still.
A Trump tweet is the Opioid of his masses. And just like a pain killer, it really does wonders for today. He will make sure they feel great, even as they are dying.🔷
(This piece was first published on The Blog!)