Magazine | July 29, 2019, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

• The Canadian newspaper the National Post reports, “Ancient life awakens amid thawing ice caps and permafrost.” Good news for Joe Biden.

• One of the strangest issues to arise in the first round of Democratic debates was forced busing. Senator Kamala Harris brought it up, in order to flay Joe Biden for his opposition to it as a young politician in Delaware in the early Seventies. Forced busing was a mad combination of sociological scientism and judicial overreach. Did black children suffer at substandard public schools? Why not improve the schools then, rather than shipping the children elsewhere? Was their education bettered simply by contact with white people? A rather racist assumption, that. How many parents of either race were pleased to have their kids make twice-daily long marches to remote neighborhoods? Damn few. Willie Brown, former San Francisco mayor and one of the shrewdest pols on the planet — also a former Harris paramour — nailed it in a post-debate column: Harris’s “case against former Vice President Joe Biden boiled down in some ways to a ringing call for forced school busing. It won’t be too hard for Trump to knock that one out of the park in 2020.”

• Harris’s exchange with Joe Biden over busing raised another issue: the viability of Biden. His response was slow-footed, an impression compounded by his admitting, a week later, that he “wasn’t prepared” for such an attack. He has run for president twice before; was he expecting the debate to be a roast? Biden has since developed a two-pronged response: tacking to the right of the field on a few issues (declining to endorse Medicare for All, criticizing Antifa thuggery) while apologizing, in South Carolina, for seeming to whitewash the old segregationists he cut the occasional deal with as a young senator. He needs both unwoke white voters and a solid black base to win the nomination, and possibly the election. Some front-runners are obliterated by early stumbles, some — Ronald Reagan in 1980 is the classic example — recover and prevail. But Reagan had great strengths to draw on: He incarnated a movement, and he had star power. Biden has only name recognition, and eight years as a loyal veep.

• Harris has veered from saying she would outlaw private health insurance to denying it, and then back and forth again. A lot of reporters and commentators are confused. Let us help: She has endorsed Bernie Sanders’s plan, which would outlaw all private insurance that covers what the new national health-insurance program will cover. And that program will cover nearly everything, including vision and dental benefits. What would be left are things like cosmetic surgery, for which no insurance market exists or is likely to be able to exist. It’s that mostly theoretical possibility to which she alludes when she denies that she would outlaw all private insurance. Harris wants the Left to believe that as president she would work to outlaw private health insurance, but she would rather that the bulk of Americans stayed unaware. To the extent journalists are confused, she is succeeding.

• The Democratic presidential aspirants are having a cash-giveaway arms race, coming up with creative ways to shovel public funds into the pockets of likely primary voters. Bernie Sanders’s most recent idea is to forgive all $1.6 trillion of student-loan debt currently on the federal government’s books. It would be a benefit for people who attended college, who on average earn tens of thousands of dollars a year more than those who did not. It’s even more tilted to high earners than that, since most student-loan debt is held by those with graduate degrees. The plan, if implemented, would create permanent perverse incentives for young Americans to take on even more debt. For now, it is merely a reminder that poor people are not as important to the Democratic coalition as they once were.

• Pete Buttigieg proposed an expansion of national service, which was a cause of William F. Buckley Jr. Their versions of the idea were, however, different. Buckley envisioned a modest federal role: The government would, for example, create incentives to participate in the program, such as making Pell grants conditional on service; but it would not direct or manage a program. The purpose of national service, for Buckley, was less to elicit good deeds than to elicit gratitude from the volunteers. Buttigieg wants the federal government to spend an estimated $20 billion over a decade on national service, and the service would include “climate action” — which sounds like it would either be, or rapidly become, taxpayer-funded government activism. Many conservatives disagreed with Buckley about national service; all should with Buttigieg.

• Donald Trump added tanks and an airshow to the federal capital’s celebration of the Fourth of July, and you might have thought republican government trembled on its foundations. “Leave tanks for Red Square,” scolded retired Marine general Anthony Zinni, one of many critics. But Trump’s desire for a big parade displaying military hardware was stoked not by dictators but by the Bastille Day celebration he attended on one of his first presidential trips abroad. If you’re not a Bourbon loyalist, don’t complain. Trump highlighted the proceedings, however, with an appearance of his own, giving a speech on the National Mall — something no president has done since the Korean War. The Fourth should be a day to celebrate the U.S., not POTUS.

• Justin Amash left the Republican party. A libertarian and founding member of the Freedom Caucus, Amash has always been drawn to the politics of quixotic gesture, and this is the most extravagant example yet. When he quite sincerely (but wrongly, in our view) interpreted the Mueller report as containing clear evidence obliging Congress to impeach the president, and said as much, his days as a Republican congressman were obviously numbered. We would prefer if the party had more room for dissent on Trump-related matters, but when elected officeholders come into conflict with their voters, the voters usually win. Now, the big question is whether Amash will launch an even-more-quixotic independent or third-party run for president, and take his go-it-alone approach on to the national stage as a potential 2020 spoiler. 

• Hell hath no wrath like that of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter account. There is a growing rift between the young socialist’s so-called squad of four — Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayana Pressley, and AOC herself — and House speaker Nancy Pelosi. The clique dissented from their more moderate Democratic peers by voting against a June 27 bill that provided $4.6 billion in humanitarian aid at the border, objecting to its funding of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The bill passed anyway, but Pelosi’s frustration with the AOC-led group spilled out in a July 6 interview with the New York Times in which she scoffed that the squad of four “have their public whatever and their Twitter world, but they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.” Everyone’s favorite democratic socialist fired back on Twitter, writing: “That public ‘whatever’ is called public sentiment. And wielding the power to shift it is how we actually achieve meaningful change in this country.” So far, her most impressive achievement is making Nancy Pelosi seem reasonable by comparison.

• The activists of “Antifa” pride themselves on being anti-fascist, but many a fascist would find much to admire in them. Lately, on the streets of Portland, some Antifa activists attacked Andy Ngo, a reporter, sending him to the hospital with, among other injuries, brain bleeding. He is a native of Portland — the son of Vietnamese boat people — who has often covered protests in his hometown. In this latest incident, the police were nowhere to be seen. This struck many as dereliction. Also, the Antifa people were masked, leading some to call for an anti-masking law in Oregon. That call makes sense to us. We think of an old line: “Show yourselves.” Antifa has shown itself to be an anti-democratic, illiberal menace, and they should show their faces, too.

• There’s nothing wrong with asking about citizenship on the census questionnaire. The question has been asked numerous times, dating back 200 years; other countries ask it too; the decennial census, because it counts everyone in the country, is far more precise than alternative data sources such as the American Community Survey. But the Left went apoplectic at the Trump administration’s plan to include such a question, claiming it would suppress response rates and thus congressional representation in heavily immigrant areas, and fought the plan all the way to the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts, with the help of the Court’s liberals, found that while the administration had the authority to add the question and had provided a good reason for doing so (improved enforcement of the Voting Rights Act), there was too much evidence that this was a pretext — that the administration had started with the goal of including the question and gone out in search of a reason. This is a problematic precedent, opening the door for judges to second-guess the stated rationale behind numerous policy decisions. But the Trump administration itself deserves much of the blame, thanks to a chaotic and unprofessional process that has continued even after the decision: As we go to press, the administration is scrambling for another route to including the question, either via a fresh reason the Court will accept or some other workaround. The administration is also trying to switch legal teams mid-case. If it is important to ask the citizenship question on the Census, it was important enough to cross the “T”s.

• The Court rightly ruled that partisan gerrymandering is not an issue for the judicial branch to address. Under the Constitution, the legislature of each state gets to decide how congressional elections are handled, subject to any laws the federal Congress chooses to enact. It was clear to the Founders that politicians, being politicians, might draw district boundaries in ways that served their political interests; they made this the rule anyway. Moreover, even if the practice of partisan gerrymandering violated the Constitution somehow, it would be impossible for courts to decide when it had happened and how much of it is too much. As Chief Justice Roberts noted in his majority opinion, the decision does not put an end to efforts to fight gerrymandering: Congress is empowered to change federal-election rules at will, and states may restrict their legislatures in numerous ways as well. The issue now falls to the people’s elected representatives, where it belongs.

• The Peace Cross has graced the landscape of Bladensburg, Md., since the 1920s. An imposing monument, 40 feet tall, it’s dedicated to 49 local men who lost their lives in the First World War. The land on which it’s built was private but donated to a state park commission in 1961. Half a century later, the American Humanist Association went to court, arguing that the cross, now that it stands on public land, violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment. A district-court judge said it did not. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed but in June was overruled by the Supreme Court, which in a 7–2 decision held that the state may maintain the cross on public land if it wishes. Most of the seven justices in the majority offered unique but overlapping rationales. Justice Samuel Alito noted that in the French republic, “which rigorously enforces a secular public square,” Notre Dame Cathedral is honored also as a national monument. Europeans have something to teach Americans after all.

• Judge Amy Coney Barrett has now weighed in on the campus due-process wars. The facts of the case are extraordinary. After a female college student accused her ex-boyfriend of groping her in her sleep, Purdue University conducted a strikingly biased investigation and hearing. The plaintiff alleged that he was “not provided with any of the evidence on which decisionmakers relied in determining his guilt and punishment,” his ex-girlfriend didn’t even appear before the hearing committee, he had “no opportunity to cross-examine” his accuser, the committee found his accuser credible even though it did not talk to her in person, the accuser did not even write her own statement or provide a sworn allegation, and the committee did not allow the plaintiff “to present any evidence, including witnesses.” Barrett not only found that the process was legally insufficient, she wrote that the ideological statements of investigators and hearing officers could be used as evidence of anti-male bias. Her opinion is a warning shot to campuses in her federal circuit — and, through persuasive authority, to campuses across the nation. Plaintiffs hunting for evidence of university hostility against men will find a target-rich environment across the land.

• George Soros and Charles Koch are not usually allies, but they are teaming up to back a new think tank dedicated to opposing intervention abroad. It will be called the Quincy Institute, an allusion to the sixth president’s famous comment that the U.S. “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Skeptics of military engagement should always be heard out before the country makes a commitment — and there are already think tanks, from the Cato Institute to Defense Priorities, that ensure that they will be. We hope that the institute will keep in mind that this skepticism should sometimes be overcome. It should also consider a sentence John Quincy Adams wrote five years later, referring to George Washington’s advice about steering clear of foreign entanglements: “I can not overlook the reflection that the counsel of Washington in that instance, like all the counsels of wisdom, was founded upon the circumstances in which our country and the world around us were situated at the time when it was given.”

• The Trump administration’s policies are often tougher on the world’s despotisms than those of his predecessors were. But words also matter. At the G-20 summit in Osaka, Trump joked about the surrounding journalists with Vladimir Putin. “Get rid of them. ‘Fake news’ is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia but we do.” Putin answered, in English: “We also have. It’s the same.” But it is not the same, because Putin murders journalists who displease him. Days later, after a photo-op in the DMZ with Kim Jong-un, Trump tweeted that the North Korean looked “really well and healthy.” This of a tyrant whose people are so malnourished that their soldiers are stunted and their defectors diseased. Despots and their victims both listen to American presidents, but too many despots like what they hear lately.  

• Hong Kong protests continue apace. The protests were sparked by a law that would extradite Hong Kongers accused of a crime to mainland China (a law since suspended). The overarching desire of the protesters is to maintain their autonomy. Many have unfurled the old colonial flag, as a symbol of freedom. (That is an interesting development on the world stage.) Some broke into the legislative building, smashing glass as they went. They painted slogans on walls and generally wreaked havoc. We understand the frustration and the urgency — these people do not want to be swallowed by a police state, namely the PRC — but vandalism still tarnishes a righteous cause.

• Istanbul held municipal elections in March, and they looked as though they would be an open-and-shut affair. In power for 16 years as either mayor of Istanbul, prime minister, or, now, president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been uprooting the country’s hard-won democratic liberties and turning Turkey into a one-party state. Tens of thousands are in prison without trial, the media are under state control, and one of Erdogan’s cronies was his preferred candidate for mayor. The luckless opposition party put up Ekrem Imamoglu, a modest and bespectacled 49-year-old of whom few Turks had ever heard. Lo and behold, he won by the very narrow margin of 13,000 votes but was then allowed to occupy the office of mayor for only 17 days. The enraged Erdogan hit upon a pretext to have the election annulled. The rerun, he insisted in the campaign that followed, was “a matter of survival for Turkey.” This time, Imamoglu won with a majority of 800,000. It was a real vote that survived this time, and the rebuke to Erdogan had the Istanbulis dancing in the streets of their city.

• The U.N. secretariat has an office for human rights, and it is not to be confused with the U.N. Human Rights Council. The council is made up of member states, and it is often a cruel joke. The secretariat’s office, meanwhile, does valuable work. This office recently reported on death squads in Venezuela, which are part of the government’s strategy: The Maduro government uses these squads to silence — to kill — political opponents, who are made to be seen to have resisted arrest. The U.N. blew the whistle on this practice, to which we say, good.

• In the United Kingdom, the so-called Court of Protection ordered a pregnant, mentally handicapped, 24-year-old Nigerian immigrant to have an abortion late in pregnancy. Though the unnamed woman herself did not wish to have an abortion, and though her mother had volunteered to care for her grandchild in addition to her daughter, Justice Nathalie Lieven asserted that a coerced abortion was in the young woman’s best interest. “I think [she] would suffer greater trauma from having a baby removed [from her care],” Lieven said, because “it would at that stage be a real baby.” Mercifully, this decision was overturned by an appeals court, and the woman and her child were spared. That the state came this close to such a wicked exercise of the power over life and death — over this unborn child, over and against the mother’s wishes — remains frightening.

• Surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic operated on an unborn child last spring, to repair her spina bifida. She was delivered near full term on June 3, a little more than 13 weeks after the surgery. Darrell Cass, the lead surgeon, explained that the operation gave the patient her best chance of being able to walk and to “be as good as she can be with spina bifida.” It was a first for the Clinic, a renowned hospital with a global reputation, although doctors performed the first fetal surgeries nearly 40 years ago. The practice continues to grow and improve. About 20 hospitals in the United States offer the specific surgery now available at the Clinic. This development has obvious implications for the abortion debate. You don’t need us to spell them out. Advances in fetal surgery are an unalloyed good. Take a moment to salute them.

• For many years, Jeffrey Epstein has been one of the most notorious figures in America — accused of forming a network of underage girls, for their sexual exploitation. He is a hedge-fund billionaire, a friend of the great and the good. In 2008, he received a scandalously light deal from authorities in Florida. Now Epstein is being charged again, in New York. His attorney complained, “This is ancient stuff,” with the government seeking a “re-do.” A re-do seems very much in order — as does the scrutiny now being given to Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s role in the past leniency. Let the chips fall where they may, and let the victims of Jeffrey Epstein and any of his associates get some measure of justice.

• When Colin Kaepernick advised Nike that the field of the Betsy Ross flag, with which the company decorated sneakers for the Fourth of July, represented a time of enslavement, Nike withdrew the design. Kaepernick then tweeted a line from Frederick Douglass’s 1852 oration, “What Is the Fourth of July to a Slave?”: “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine.” Kaepernick’s history was doubly wrong. The Revolution was a time of liberation: Three states ended slavery while it was being fought, followed by four in its wake. Douglass’s oration concluded by declaring the Constitution, “as it ought to be interpreted, . . . a glorious liberty document.” Nike’s behavior was far worse. A week before the Fourth they pulled a line of sneakers from China because the Japanese firm they partnered with to make them had tweeted “Go Hong Kong” during recent protests there. Nike accepts smears of liberty in America while trembling before despots in China.

• Many great men have evil sides, and certainly any assessment of Thomas Jefferson must acknowledge that he kept human beings in slavery. Yet if any city should celebrate Jefferson’s legacy, it’s Charlottesville, Va., where Jefferson lived and founded the University of Virginia. Despite this history, the city council has removed our third president’s birthday from the calendar of official holidays and replaced it with the anniversary of the freeing of Charlottesville’s slaves — an event very much worth remembering, to be sure. Jefferson’s reputation will not rise or fall depending on whether city employees get a day off, and Charlottesville has a much greater living monument to him in UVA. Still, the council’s action is foolish. Thomas Jefferson was a man of great accomplishments and great flaws, and it falls to us to celebrate the good and learn from the bad. There are enough days on the calendar to draw attention to both.

• It seems that Harvard has gone from teaching its students how to get hired to teaching them how to get other people fired. A few months ago, when law professor Ronald Sullivan decided to represent Harvey Weinstein in court, a group of students forced the college administration to remove the prominent civil-rights lawyer from his additional position as dean of a residential college. This time the victim was Rick Snyder, and the man didn’t even have the chance to unpack his suitcases. The Harvard Kennedy School offered the former governor of Michigan a fellowship; after a backlash over his role in the Flint water-contamination crisis, he declined it. Whatever you think of Snyder, there can be no doubt that Harvard students could have benefited from hearing about the highs and lows of his experience. But the mob cares only about honing its skill at silencing and deposing its targets. 

• The AfroFuture Fest is a Detroit-based music festival that, in its own words, seeks to create a space to foster “intersecting narratives co-creating the future necessary for black thriving.” In their wisdom, the organizers planned to charge white attendees double the price of attendees “of color,” in order to facilitate “equity.” The backlash to this antediluvian racialized scheme forced event organizers to change their plan, equalizing prices for white and black attendees. “For safety, not anything else but that, the new ticket structure will be a standard set price across the board of $20,” organizer Numi Ori said. “However, there will be a suggested donation for non–people of color.” How much do white attendees have to donate to access the water fountains? 

The New Statesman, Britain’s left-of-center political weekly, has finally issued an apology to Sir Roger Scruton. In April, George Eaton, then deputy editor, published an interview with the eminent conservative philosopher that the magazine now admits included “partial quotations” in a way that grossly misrepresented Scruton’s views as racist and anti-Semitic. Without so much as a phone call, Scruton was then promptly sacked by the Conservative government from his unpaid role as an adviser on architecture. Eaton then posted a picture of himself on Instagram, drinking champagne from a bottle, with the caption “the feeling when you get right-wing racist and homophobe Roger Scruton sacked as a Tory government advisor.” This move soon backfired, after National Review Institute’s Douglas Murray got hold of a recording of the interview, which he subsequently detailed in The Spectator (The New Statesman’s conservative rival). Honest brokers condemned Eaton’s hatchet journalism. The New Statesman retreated in embarrassment, reluctantly published the full transcript, demoted Eaton, and has finally apologized. However, until Scruton has been reinstated, and Eaton admits he lied (or is sacked), this episode remains a low point in British journalism. 

• Knitting is complicated enough without adding politics to the mix. Ravelry, an online knit-and-crochet community with over 8 million members, recently issued a statement “banning support of Donald Trump and his administration” from the website. Ravelry’s powers-that-be called the Trump administration a “hate group” and accused it of supporting white supremacy. Projects, forum posts, and other items seeming to back the president will be removed. In a gesture toward inclusivity, Ravelry said that silent Trump supporters are permitted to remain on the site, but they are still asking that other members rat out conservatives still in the group. Knitting the country together does not seem to be on the agenda.

• A Ford dealer in Chatom, Ala., decided to offer a free shotgun, Bible, and American flag with every purchase of a vehicle. The promotion made quite a stir, even though, this being Alabama, most prospective buyers already have several of each. The dealer pointed out that to redeem the promotion, buyers would have to pass all necessary requirements for firearm ownership, as they would for vehicle ownership. But Ford quickly directed the dealer to omit the gun from the deal, letting the flag and Bible stay in place in the belief that they would be uncontroversial (at least until Colin Kaepernick decides to go shopping for an F-150). But since good ideas are so often adaptable, we confidently expect that someday soon a car dealer in Cambridge, Mass., will offer each purchaser a rainbow flag, a yoga mat, and a copy of Rules for Radicals with a Tesla.

• The U.S. team’s victory in the Women’s World Cup was stirring and inspiring, even though it was soccer. The only sour note was the squabble over whether the players deserved the same pay as members of the men’s national team. People on both sides of the dispute weighed in with discussions of per-game vs. total revenue, wage rates in comparable professional leagues, even the labor theory of value, but it all comes down to the simple fact that men’s soccer makes a lot more money than women’s soccer does. Stalwarts point out that in this championship year, the U.S. women’s national team brought in slightly more revenue than the men’s, but if they used that standard in other years to determine salaries for each team, the women would still be far behind. To a team coming off such a dominating performance, a raise would certainly not be out of line, but in the end it all comes down to attracting more fans. After their win over the Dutch, the women will have to win over the American consumer as well.

• To the news that Mad magazine would soon cease publication (except for occasional reissues of archival content), some may have been surprised to learn that it hadn’t already shut down. Those born after 1990 were more likely to ask, “What’s Mad magazine?” As a headline in the New York Times put it, “Irreverent Baby Boomer humor bible.” Launched in 1952, Mad reached a circulation well over 2 million at its peak in the 1970s, when the market for what it offered was not yet flooded: satire laced with youthful knowingness and aiming simply to make readers laugh, not jeer, at whatever in the contemporary American scene lent itself to humor. The magazine leaned heavily on the contributions of the comic artist Mort Drucker, who in the 1980s donated to SMALLCAPSNational Review a drawing of Alfred E. Neuman, Mad’s gap-toothed mascot and cover boy on just about every issue. We used it for our own cover art, for a fortnight. Sure, some readers might have considered it too pop and lowbrow for NR, but what? Us worry?

• Americans love their cars and their carmakers, and they loved Lee Iacocca — at least many of them did, for a long time. For good reason. He ran Ford Motor, bringing out the Mustang. When Henry Ford II tired of him, and fired him, he went to Chrysler, reaching new heights, and a few lows. Thus did this son of Allentown, Pa., and son of immigrants, run two out of the Big Three. In 1984, he published an autobiography, Iacocca, which sold tens of millions. When it reached about 600,000, he turned to someone and said, “Is that good?” (He knew cars, not books — and yes, it was very good.) WFB, an author, loved that story. Lee Iacocca, one of the business legends of America, has died at 94. R.I.P.

• Rarely do tabloid columnists get profiled in Rolling Stone, the New York Times, or The New Yorker, but writers for all three came looking for Steve Dunleavy, a man who was so entertaining he was effectively a tabloid come to life. “Mate, I’ve never had a bad day in journalism in my life,” he would say. “You win, you get drunk because you won. You lose, you get drunk because you lost.” Dunleavy, an Australian who was a correspondent for the syndicated tabloid-TV show A Current Affair (for which he once wrestled a bear) and an indestructible editor and conservative columnist for the New York Post, was among the last of the old-school hacks whose veins ran black with ink. Like many classic blue-collar newspapermen, he skipped college and learned his trade on the street, chasing scoops in his native Sydney before arriving in New York City in 1966. Attired like a Guys and Dolls wise guy, topped by a silver pompadour, he roared around the city, forever taking the side of firefighters, police, and the military in the controversy of the day and then retiring to a booth at his favorite pub, where he held court until closing, regaling younger reporters with hair-raising stories of slashing his dad’s tires or sneaking into a hospital in surgical scrubs to secure an interview with the family of one of Son of Sam’s victims. Not infrequently, his revels ended with him missing the last train home and retreating to the office to sleep under a desk, where a staffer might discover him with a shriek the next day. His boss of many years, Rupert Murdoch, called him “one of the greatest reporters of all time.” We’ll call him the embodiment of the swaggering, rollicking, popular press and all its fizzy neon-lit gusto. Dead at 81. R.I.P. 

Left Turn at the Border

There didn’t seem much room for Democrats to move left on immigration, but they’ve found it.

On the first night of the Democratic debates in June, Julián Castro made a big issue of repealing Section 1325 of Title 8 of the United States Code, which makes it a crime to enter the country without authorization. This call felt like a ploy for attention from the periphery of the second-tier-debate stage, yet the next night seven out of the ten candidates raised their hands for the idea, including top contenders Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg.

The collective posture of the party is getting closer and closer to open borders, only without embracing the label.

Illegal immigrants aren’t typically prosecuted under Section 1325, although the Bush administration started a program called “Operation Streamline” to increase prosecutions, hoping to discourage would-be crossers and especially to create a deterrent against illegal re-entry (illegal entry is a misdemeanor often punished by time served, whereas illegal re-entry is a felony). Such prosecutions were a key element of the family-separation policy that Trump imposed and had to abandon quickly last year.

The repeal of Section 1325 would send a message of permissiveness that would create another incentive for migrants to come across the border, and remove a tool for going after smugglers (it can be difficult to prove their offense, so prosecuting them for illegal entry is a backstop). Section 1325 has been on the books for 90 years, and it reflects the commonsense view that entering the United States without lawful permission should be a crime. Yes, it would still be a civil offense to be present in the United States without papers, and in theory, the offense could still trigger deportation — but this brings us to the rest of the Democratic approach to immigration.

Asked if an illegal immigrant in the interior of the country who hasn’t committed another crime should be deported, Joe Biden replied that such a person “should not be the focus of deportation.” Kamala Harris said he “absolutely” should not be deported. This is a promise to gut interior enforcement that, coupled with the latitudinarian attitude at the border, would do much to render our immigration laws pointless. 

As if this weren’t radical enough, every candidate on the stage the second night promised to provide government health insurance to illegal immigrants. This, obviously, would be even more of a magnet for illegal immigration, and would erode the difference between U.S. citizens and people who literally showed up the day before yesterday in violation of our laws. 

The Democrats’ extremism on immigration is certainly a political mistake that will give President Trump ready fodder next year. We’d say it’s impossible for Democrats to go any farther out on this limb, but the next round of debates is coming soon enough.

NR Editors includes members of the editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners




After Harvey Mansfield's disinvitation from Concordia University, a professor writes in to NR to clarify. Plus, Fred Schwartz on baseball.
The Week

The Week

The Canadian newspaper the National Post reports, ‘Ancient life awakens amid thawing ice caps and permafrost.’ Good news for Joe Biden.

Girth Dearth

According to the Left, it is bad to stigmatize the mentally ill, but unless you have the proper opinions on social issues, you have a mental illness.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith Resigns

Fox News Channel's chief anchor, Shepard Smith, announced on air Friday that he would be resigning from his post after 23 years with the network. “This is my last newscast here,” said Smith. “Recently, I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News. After requesting that I stay, they obliged.” He ... Read More
NR Webathon

Don’t Let Michael Mann Succeed

I  enjoyed the running joke of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in the great Dickens novel Bleak House, back when I first read it. Little did I know that one day I and the magazine that I love would effectively be caught up in a version of that interminable case, courtesy of a litigious climate scientist with zero regard ... Read More
White House

What Is Impeachment For?

W hat is impeachment for? Seems like a simple question. Constitutionally speaking, it also appears to have a simple answer: to cite and remove from power a president guilty of wrongdoing. Aye, there’s the rub. What sort of wrongdoing warrants removal from power? I’d wager that the flames of ... Read More

Beto Proposes to Oppress Church with State

Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign is within the margin of error of non-existence, but in his failure he has found a purpose: expressing the Democratic id. His latest bid for left-wing love came at a CNN forum on gay rights, where he said that churches that oppose same-sex marriage should have to pay ... Read More