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Politics & Policy

Some Problems Can’t Be Fixed by Just Reversing the Process That Created Them

If you can get past the theatrics, it seems pretty obvious to me that asking Congress to fix DACA is the right thing to do. As Rich notes below, Democrats love to say that Trump is violating constitutional norms. Well, Obama violated them when he unilaterally implemented DAPA and DACA. The Supreme Court threw out DAPA and — if Gorsuch had been on the court — it probably would have quashed DACA too. By winding down DACA — slowly — and asking Congress to find a legislative fix, Trump is returning us to a constitutional norm. That liberal congressmen are scandalized by being asked to fulfill their constitutional duties tells you more about the expediency of contemporary liberalism than it does about Trump (as Jay Cost explains well in this Twitter thread).

Trump’s approach seems morally and politically better than what you hear from some hotheads who simply want to scrap the program immediately and start deporting people. As Noah Rothman lays out, that would be a political and social sh**show. The government encouraged these people to make themselves known to the authorities. Wheeling around and deporting people who never chose to come here, who’ve been here for decades, and who acted in good faith would be politically and morally grotesque.

This raises a point I’ve been meaning to make since this whole story broke. Some problems can’t or shouldn’t be fixed by simply reversing the process that created them. If you see a man with a knife sticking out of his chest, you can’t heal the wound by just yanking the knife out. Indeed, sometimes that’s the most dangerous thing you can do. Let’s imagine big swaths of the New Deal are unconstitutional — hardly a stretch. I would be in favor of repealing them. But I wouldn’t be in favor of repealing them overnight. Lots of institutions have built up around the New Deal. If you demolish the New Deal, as opposed to dismantling it, you create all sorts of unnecessary collateral damage. Or think of it this way. There are some people who argue that paper money is unconstitutional. Let’s assume they’re right. No reasonable person would argue for getting rid of paper money overnight.

Barack Obama cynically got the country into this mess by doing something that he insisted was unconstitutional on numerous occasions. He gambled that it would be too hard to reverse the decision. Whether it’s too hard remains to be seen. But it is hard. And that difficulty requires some careful effort to fix it. Let’s hope Congress is up to the task. I am not overly optimistic.


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