OPINION

OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Maneuvers on the border


We languish in an American era of a double political whammy.

We are beset by irresponsible Republican leadership that concedes to Donald Trump's ego disorder. That coincides with Democratic leadership that cowers in Joe Biden's reactive and weak political essence.

So, we end up with this border situation, which nearly everyone now admits is a crisis or at least unsustainable.

Illegal entries into the country are at a record level. Even Democratic mayors of major cities--or especially Democratic mayors of major cities--are pleading for help.

And we endure ever-heightened government dysfunction because all efforts exploit the issue to win an election rather than deal with the raging governing problem.

That's except for the part that has Biden forced to get tougher on the border to pursue the entirely separate goal of sending more money to Ukraine.

Let's size up all that maneuvering as concisely as possible.

House Republican right-wingers will not vote to spend more on Ukraine unless and until that money is tied to strict security measures on the southern border.

Senate Republicans, with more moderate and manageable leadership, likely would go along with an ongoing negotiation with the White House that would let the president singularly shut down the border under certain circumstances, such as a week's average count of border-crossers exceeding 5,000 per day, which is currently the case.

Biden says he'd shut the border down the minute this Senate negotiation becomes law, because, he now says, the border indeed is out of control.

But the Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, says the deal, which he supports, is a no-go in the House, especially with Trump saying he wants no deal. A solution now would hurt Trump's campaign messaging. His position is that the only way really to shut down the border is to reinstate his greatness in the Oval Office.

Trump has established himself through Iowa and New Hampshire as the absolute leader of all things Republican. A few thousand white conservative voters in two small states have ratified American dysfunction.

Biden, sensing a political opportunity to turn the tables on the Republicans' best issue, gets to boast under current developments that he's ready to close the border at once. But now he gets to explain with tactical glee that the Republicans won't let him do that because they want the political edge--the one he's now newly trying to seize for himself.

In his defense, Biden also is angling in part for real and important policy, meaning aid to Ukraine.

I think that sums it up, except for the judgments. So, let's make those.

Republicans are more to blame for acting in the first place to tie one unrelated need to another unrelated need, and leaving neither need met.

They are, after all, the minority, with Democrats controlling the Senate and White House. That's supposed to mean that certain concessions must be made to the last election.

But nowadays concessions must be made instead only to tactical convenience for the next election.

Biden is to blame for waiting until now to tell the tough truth about the border. He could have acknowledged months ago the out-of-control situation. He could have sought previously a clean pro-active measure allowing him and his Homeland Security Department to shut down the border based on the rate of crossings. But that would have conceded to Republicans and offended liberal sensitivities.

It's now commonly accepted practice for both sides to combine issues for leverage. That way, both sides can credit themselves for one part and blame the other for the other part.

You don't vote on Ukraine up or down. You don't vote on a border plan up or down. You mix and muddle for political cover for yourself and fodder for attack ads on the other.

In the dreaded Biden-Trump debates this fall, the two old men will shout over each other to accuse the other of being the obstacle to a border solution. Both will be right enough for presidential work. We will have left our governing problem unsolved for the utter political joy of beholding that racket.

No matter which way you adjudge relative blame, surely we could agree this is no way to choose America's leadership for most of the rest of the decade.

"Less blame-worthy than the other" is a bumper-sticker message with small, hard-to-read letters.

It doesn't soar as a rallying cry at election time to say the country is better because we compromised. It's more effective to say it's the other side's fault.

The essential foundation currently for effective American politics is government failure. Neither party would have a clue what to do if immigration was solved.

If anyone is writing civics textbooks anymore, I'd like to nominate the preceding for the opening paragraph in the opening chapter.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected]. Read his @johnbrummett feed on X, formerly Twitter.


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