Last week, I received a comment about Democratic obstructionism concerning the border crisis. Others are saying that Republicans, urged by Trump are the obstructionists in these issues. Both sides consider themselves the truth tellers in this situation. Neither side is helping the American public reach any kind of consensus on what a good collaboration of efforts would be. Because there are budget limitations, a compromise is needed.
What do voters hear? They are fed various versions of “party line”. What is party line? It is a short description of a public policy issue which has (often) been focus group or survey tested to appeal to a political interest either positively or negatively. The appeal is either to “our” side or against “the other side”. The last three decades have increasingly pushed popular thinking into Us and Them categories labeled Conservative/Republican or Liberal/Democrat. It wouldn’t be discouraging to me if there weren’t mindless negative adjectives associated with all four of those words. Those adjectives are meant to wound, and they do. Somehow, large groups of Us have decided that large groups of Them hate Us. Not only that, They are worthy of the disregard we have for Them. Because the words Republican and Democrat have so many adjectives associated with them, even unbiased news reporting can seem to be against Us if Them is associated with the news item.
The truth is, all public policy has a collection of interests around it, and the real or perceived power of those interests in blocking legislation is what should be considered. When it comes to the complex question of what we should do about the large collection of migrants or asylum seekers at the border, I will attempt to name names or, if you will, interests. 1. People who want to enter the US because: a. They want to have a more prosperous life. b. They want to be safe from gangs who are trying to kill them. c. They have a family connection residing in the United States but have been unable to get permission to join them. 2. Companies and their employees who believe they would have worked building a border wall (and maintaining it). 3. Companies who have employees who work on the other side of the border and depend on daily passage. 4. Ranchers who must handle trespassers crossing the border illegally. 5. An Indian tribe with land on both sides of the Rio Grande. 6. Animals who migrate across the river who would be stopped by a wall. 7. People who are forced or volunteer to care for migrants. 8. Local and state governments who must collect revenue to pay for the crisis. 9. People whose religious beliefs strongly hold to a spirit of hospitality. 10. People who make money smuggling people across the border. 11. Mexico, who has population and crime problems even without migrants. 12. American employers who want more labor. 13. Border and Customs agents who need more backup. There are probably more, but I want to end with 14. Political interests who are collecting money by “keeping up the fight for…..”.
The American public is left with: The Wall, “Hoards of criminals”, “humanitarian crisis”, “children torn from their families”. All of this gets our attention but only appeals to our emotion. Instead of spending any time on thinking of solutions, we the electorate are urged to blame others and vote for Us. Only Us offers only slogans with emotional adjectives. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves,” says Shakespeare. I would elaborate not in Their party, but in our failure to insist on open, fact-based debate. We must look at the way we practice politics in Idaho as well as in the United States and root out the unnecessary posturing, the unnecessary campaigning, the unnecessary commentary by people whose only interest is getting a paycheck for having opinions. We should give our time spent with all media to facts and considered debate we must look for problem solvers, not finger pointers.