ROSS DOUTHAT GETS THE FJM TREATMENT

It has been a while since I've done the FJM Treatment because it is a very time-consuming format. It also requires responding to writing that is so bad it barely merits a response. Something special took place this weekend, though, when resident NY Times Conservative Intellectual Ross Douthat penned a missive about the necessity of bringing xenophobic populism and scientific racism "to the table" when crafting immigration policy. Because how can you make immigration policy if you're not accounting for the preferences of the large part of the population that, like, hates foreigners?

Seriously. That is his argument Get ready for a fantastic voyage into the world in which that not only makes sense but passes for an argument worthy of inclusion in the Newspaper of Record for the Western world. Ladies and gentlemen, "The Necessity of Stephen Miller" by Ross Douthat, deemed worthy of inclusion in the New York Goddamn Times.

Hint: Stephen Miller is not necessary, for this or anything other than an exhaustive list of every man who owns a sex robot he named "Bitch."

After 12 years of failed attempts at immigration reform, the current round of negotiations are turning on a strangely personalized question: When a deal is being made, should Stephen Miller be at the table?

No. Are we done here?

Miller is the White House’s point man for immigration policy (and for strange and strident encounters with the press). He is also an immigration restrictionist: He wants a policy that favors skills-based recruitment over extended families, and he wants a lower immigration rate overall. He says he’s concerned about assimilation and crime and native wages; his critics say he just wants to keep America as white as possible, and that by even bringing him to meetings Trump is making a deal impossible to reach.

Yeah he's also, like, super 1910s-era xenophobic racist "restrictionist" with a lengthy history of having, to put it charitably, some problems dealing with people who are not exactly like him. Every word out of his mouth about immigration is shades of Madison Grant, the eugenics movement, Lothrop Stoddard, and the Immigration Restriction League of the WWI era. "Nordic Stock" has been replaced by "skills based," since we can safely assume that if those skills belong to Indian and Chinese people they will be deemed less relevant than the skills of (wink!) Norwegians.

The critics are right about this much: Having someone like Miller involved is a change from the way prior immigration negotiations have proceeded.

Yeah the government has either been composed of flaming racists or have, for brief intervals, recognized the general lack of usefulness of bringing flaming racists to the table.

As Jim Antle points out in a column for The Week, those negotiations have been consistently bipartisan, bringing together John McCain and Ted Kennedy, Marco Rubio and Chuck Schumer, now Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin — but “they have mostly taken place between people who are fundamentally in agreement on immigration,” who favor both amnesty for illegal immigrants and reforms that would probably increase immigration rates.

What a diverse group of old white guys and Marco Rubio.

The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t represent the actual divisions in the country.

This statement is true, except for his baffling decision to describe this as a "problem."

Can we really set policy without bringing the anti-Semites and racists to the table? Yes Ross. Yes we can.

Americans have become more pro-immigration since the 1990s, but there is still a consistent pattern when you ask about immigration rates: About a third of Americans favor the current trend, slightly fewer want higher rates, and about a third, like Miller, want immigration reduced.

One third, huh? Funny how when large majorities favor some liberal policy it's mob rule, but with right-wing knuckle dragging positions a decent sized minority is more than enough reason to grab the erasers and start making changes.

And there are various reasonable grounds on which one might favor a reduction.

mmhmm.

*makes j/o motion*

The foreign-born share of the U.S. population is near a record high, and increased diversity and the distrust it sows have clearly put stresses on our politics.

The distrust it sows when non-white people join the population? Is "distrust" the right word here?

To reiterate, the entire thrust of this Intellectual argument is that immigration makes racist white people uncomfortable and that viewpoint should be treated as legitimate. This is where the bar is for getting in the New York Times on the right these days.

There are questions about how fast the recent wave of low-skilled immigrants is assimilating, evidence that constant new immigration makes it harder for earlier arrivals to advance, and reasons to think that a native working class gripped by social crisis might benefit from a little less wage competition for a while. California, the model for a high-immigration future, is prosperous and dynamic — but also increasingly stratified by race, with the same inequality-measuring Gini coefficient as Honduras.

Ahh, the low skills argument. As someone who has studied and read quite a bit on the restriction / eugenics / scientific racism movements of the late Industrial Revolution and early part of the 20th Century, this language is essentially verbatim from that era. Maybe they didn't name-drop the Gini Coefficient, but the "unskilled, unwashed hordes" stuff is boilerplate.

With that said, illegal immigration has slowed over the last decade, and immigration’s potential economic and humanitarian benefits are still considerable. And it’s also clear that many immigration restrictionists are influenced by simple bigotry — with the president’s recent excrement-related remarks a noteworthy illustration.

OK both of these sentences are very true, and since they are true and the author seems to recognize their fundamental truth I don't really understand what we're talking about here.

This bigotry, from the point of view of many immigration advocates, justifies excluding real restrictionists from the negotiating table.

Uh oh. Here's comes a "but."

But

Sigh.

The limits of this strategy are evident in the repeated failure of “comprehensive” immigration reform over the last decade and more, doomed each time by the gulf between the plans of Republican negotiators and the actual preferences of their voters.

In other words, illegal immigration is falling (see: two sentences ago) and the aging American population really needs more younger workers and the titans of capitalism all but demand cheap foreign manual and skilled (H1-B type) labor, but…somehow immigration policy has "failed" because what we haven't tried is letting some backwoods foreigner-hatin' degenerates take a crack at buildin' them a real big fence and keepin' out the people who talk funny and look different.

Noted.

The present view of many liberals seems to be that restrictionists can eventually be steamrolled — that the same ethnic transformations that have made white anxiety acute will eventually bury white-identity politics with sheer multiethnic numbers. But liberals have been waiting 12 years for that “eventually” to arrive, and instead Trump is president and the illegal immigrants they want to protect are still in limbo. So maybe it would be worth trying to actually negotiate with Stephen Miller, rather than telling Trump that he needs to lock his adviser in a filing cabinet, slap on a “beware of leopard” sign, and hustle out to the Rose Garden to sign whatever Durbin and Graham have hashed out.

Thanks for the confirmation. We need to stop trying to think about the role immigration plays in our society and economy and instead give a louder voice to people who just don't like it and have no defensible reason for not liking it other than a distaste for the many-tongued hordes of the lesser races.

Especially since last week, Trump and Miller actually made an interesting offer: an amnesty and even a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and other Dreamers, more generous than what many restrictionists favor and with no promise of the new E-Verify enforcements conservatives often seek, in return for a shift (over many years) to a skills-based policy and a somewhat lower immigration rate.

So what was proposed would give people who recognize the role of immigration nothing (a phase-out, essentially) and give Stephen Miller and his Cletus Caucus everything they want (racist immigration policy). Wow, quite a deal.

If you’re committed to the view that restrictionists can and must be steamrolled, you’ll respond to this offer the way many Democrats have — call it a “white supremacist ransom note,” punt on policy, and use the issue to rally your base in 2018.

To my knowledge, conservatives have never used immigration crudely to rally their base of provincial, angry, not terribly bright rural white people who are repeatedly told explicitly and implicitly that they are the only Americans who count and they are the modern version of God's Chosen People.

But if you think that lasting deals are forged when all sides are represented, you might consider making a counteroffer: for instance, the same rough blueprint but with more green cards for skilled immigrants, so that Miller gets his cuts to low-skilled immigration but the overall rate stays closer to the status quo.

"Skills" is such a totally disingenuous canard in this argument that I can't imagine anyone, especially anyone on the right, fails to see it for the obvious dog whistle it is.

And no, Ross Douthat of the New York Times, "all sides" being represented is not a precondition of creating effective laws, policies, or anything else. We leave out the shitty sides. Including the shitty sides doesn't make the final product better. It makes it shittier, because it will be informed at least slightly by people and ideas that are shit. Look at how much it has helped to include science denialists in the creation of public health and science policy! And of adherents to totally discredited economic theories with zero evidence to support their validity in the formation of tax policy! Yes, we have ample evidence that when you include voices that are dishonest about their motivations and intentions, factually incorrect, and relentlessly dedicated to an ideology around which every aspect of reality must bend, the end result is better, stronger policy. I mean, how could a nation make energy policy without bringing some Alchemists to the table to represent the 25% of the population that believes the Earth produces oil in its core?

You can't, dummy. Get smart like Ross Douthat, stupid.

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44 thoughts on “ROSS DOUTHAT GETS THE FJM TREATMENT”

  • I will be 68 this year and am growing more and more horrified by the people around me and the actions of the people in DC. It's one thing to put up with a ranting racist bigot who spews his uninformed, illiterate views from his front porch. It's quite another to see those same trailer park attitudes spewed from officials in DC.

  • Damn, I cracked a lip by grinning at this right from the start:

    <Hint: Stephen Miller is not necessary, for this or anything other than an exhaustive list of every man who owns a sex robot he named "Bitch."

  • Ross Douthat is so fucking despicable I can't take it sometimes. Hey Ross: Replace every instance of the word "immigration" in your piece with "civil rights" and see how you feel about it.

    Conservative intellectuals love to retcon themselves on the right side of history in every moral challenge this world has ever faced, but as soon as they're confronted with a moral challenge that hasn't been squarely decided one way or the other, their moral compass turns out to be as horribly corrupt as anyone else's.

    I do wish the Dems would just take a leaf from the Republican playbook and pound the message that their views on immigration are un-American (which they are). Say it until it loses all meaning. Stop trying to compromise with vipers and toads.

  • I saw the headline and was like, “nope, no, absolutely not worth my time reading it.” Of course, it was worth it to read the fjm, but I could’ve gone through life just fine never having read that claptrap. I usually come away from Douthat articles with a little bit of understanding of the other side’s perspective. Not agreement, but a little something. This one was exactly what the headline led me to believe. Mental contortions to justify the reprehensible.

  • "The present view of many liberals seems to be that restrictionists can eventually be steamrolled — that the same ethnic transformations that have made white anxiety acute will eventually bury white-identity politics with sheer multiethnic numbers. But liberals have been waiting 12 years for that “eventually” to arrive, and instead Trump is president and the illegal immigrants they want to protect are still in limbo. So maybe it would be worth trying to actually negotiate with Stephen Miller…"

    How does this make sense? Could the fact that liberals have been waiting twelve years have anything to do with an intransigent and bigoted Republican Party? Is the fact that Trump is president supposed to legitimize intransigent bigotry? Why not solicit actual exterminationist Nazis, by that rationale? "Assholes are poisoning our water. Isn't it time that we all drank some, so we can at least have something to drink?"

  • The foreign-born share of the U.S. population is near a record high

    LOL. All 4 of my grandparents immigrated here as children and moved into ethnic enclaves where not a word of English was spoken. Seems to me the foreign-born share was plenty high back then.

    Also, if we're ready to deport the foreign-born, why don't we start with the unskilled, non-English-speaking-even-though-she's-been-here-20-years First Lady and her parents?

  • Charles Eicher says:

    I think you are misattributing Miller's fundamental evil. He is not a bigot or restrictionist, except insofar as it is a byproduct of his core value: anti-Cosmopolitanism. I first noticed this when he lashed out at CNN's Jim Acosta for "Cosmopolitan bias." If I heard correctly, Miller called Acosta a "Cosmopolite."

    Cosmopolitanism as a political philosophy is summarized by one author, "..the objective of cosmopolitan hope is a world in which some fundamental principles of justice governing relations between individuals and groups at the domestic level also govern such relations at the global level. To hope for the cosmopolitan ideal is to hope the persons extend their commitment to some fundamental principles of justice at the domestic level to the global level.."

    "Hard Cosmopolitanism" is the belief that we owe the same responsibility for justice to everyone, based on a common membership as world citizens. Obviously this is completely contradictory to everything Miller believes, and in fact, is the core of the Trump administration philosophy (if they could be said to have any philosophy at all). Trump and Miller believe "America First" means "Screw You." It is a sort of hyper-Randianism, their belief that their position of power entitles them to special treatment. Maybe you can buy your way into their clique (like Kushner selling EB-5 visas to the Chinese for $500k) but no man has inherent dignity without an ability to purchase their rights and privileges.

    This is a far more subtle and far more destructive philosophy than mere bigotry or isolationism.

  • Yes, liberals have been waiting for the multi-ethnic coalition to finally pay some electoral dividends for some time. And I think it's coming at last. Weird that Douthat sees Trump as a counter to that trend instead of what it is, the GOP firmly in the "rabid racoon in the corner" phase of its demographic extinction.

    That racoon knows it's doomed but it's willing to try anything and will take everyone out with it if it has to.

  • Amateur Socialist says:

    Like @Leon above, I avoided the piece in question but did appreciate your willingness to take it apart. Having said that (and not really wanting to sidetrack this discussion) I have to wonder WTF is happening at the New York Goddam Times? I can't understand anything about the decision to pay for, much less publish this crap.

  • For "skilled immigrant" read Chinese graduates of Chinese "universities" (which are mostly a sham) to come over and take science and engineering jobs at way lower pay from qualified Americans. One of the greatest and most pervasive lies of the late 20th century to today is "America doesn't have enough scientists and engineers." That's so much bullshit you could hide a whole ranch in it.

  • I never thought much of Ross Douthat, who always seemed to me to be an unctuous little creep one slight step above the Rod Drehers of this world, but to see him test-driving his inner racist so obviously was disconcerting. As for the NYT, I haven't regarded them as a quality source of news for decades now, so I am less surprised by their publication of this latest excretion.

  • Asshat is a typical conservative. Basically, his minority should get what it wants and god damn the majority.

    I'm in favor of having better control of immigration. Immigration does hurt workers at the bottom of the food chain. Look at the formerly unionized meat packing business that employed illegal immigrants as scabs and now mistreats and underpays workers with impunity. Illegal immigrants are too easy to exploit. Whether we decide we want more or less immigration, we need to get newcomers up to speed on their rights quickly, and we need to normalize people who have flown under the radar for all too long now. (I'm with Ronald Reagan on this, as weird as that sounds to me.)

  • It seems to me that we're seeing at the times is the inevitable result of what happens when two phenomena collide: First, the drift of the right in this country well past the Pillars of Hercules into the Sea of Batshit ("Here There Be Dragons")–what was once the realm of Lyndon LaRouche and the Birchites is now par for the course among the Republican establishment, and however much the (giggle) intellectuals of that establishment want to feign some kind of rationality, the fact is that between the cracks, all can see the shine of "Seriously, what WAS so wrong with slavery?"

    Second, the Grey Lady has, for some time, prided herself on being Above The Fray–a theoretically noble stance that has, in the face of Republican insanity, become the contemptible cowardice of Both-Siderism. "I am in favor of a marginal tax hike on the 1%–my opponent favors burning the poor as a fossil fuel." "OK, well, now, let's hear what he has to say about this–we must be fair!"

    This overlap–Batshittery and Both-Siderism (not to mention that the Times is now much more click-driven, and what's more appealing than a headline like, oh, I don't know, "The Quiet Radicalism of Melania Trump"?)–have yielded an editorial page that is stunning in its willingness to print madness and evil and call it "Impartiality."

    It's also worth pointing out how SERIOUSLY BAD the level of writing is on that page. With a few exceptions (Krugman comes to mind), you don't have anyone there who can push a noun up against a verb without throwing hyperbole in between. It's been shitty since Clinton, and gotten worse with every succeeding administration. First, because the defense of Bush required worse and worse characters to stoop to that level. Next, because the indictments of the banalities of Obama required greater and greater levels of faux-hysteria–"OH MY FUCKING GOD A TAN SUIT BURN HIM BURN THE WITCH."

    And now we're in the land of "Trump's not so bad." Which requires such a nauseating disregard for basic fact that we've bypassed Orwell and gone straight into Lewis Carroll…

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Shitty Op-ed's like this, and cheering on wars and occupations – I'm lookin' atchyou, Judith Miller – are why I haven't spent a cent on the NY Times in the last decade or so.
    Oh, and their obsession with the Clinton's.

    What a difference from the great newspaper I read from the late 60's to the early-mid 00's!

  • Don't worry guys, just wait until the Dems are in power!

    Their historical record of success should inspire us. Last time they:
    – Doubled the budget for ICE (you know, our modern Gestapo)
    – Increased the budget for Border Patrol
    – Deported roughly half a million people
    – Offered a worthless deal where a million people turn their identities over to the state for a worthless offer instead of actual amnesty
    – Fail to pass any substantive immigration reform

    Oh wait.

  • I suppose there are smart, articulate conservatives out there who could make reasonable arguments about some policies, but the NYT editorial page provides no evidence of this possibility. And Ross Douthat is the biggest mystery of all. He really is just your average schmo who for some reason gets a job writing on the premiere opinion page in the country. It's like someone looked up and said, "you know, David Brooks is just too darn insightful and courageous. Let's find someone who's even less so and let him (of course him) have a shot"

  • Literally everything Douthat says or does is the result of his choosing to suppress his fertility fetish.

    Google "chunkier Reese Witherspoon," and Douthat's oeuvre will be fully explained.

  • Re what Kaleberg said: So let's crack down on companies that hire illegal immigrants. Fines that actually hurt the bottom line, personal responsibility (i.e., jail time) for those who make the decisions to hire illegals, loss of government contracts if applicable – there's lots we can do to discourage illegal immigration without coming down like the Gestapo on people who are here already.

  • Amateur Socialist says:

    @Rugosa: Right on. I have believed for decades that illegal immigration in the US could be ended in a single day. The day the first CEO gets indicted for hiring one. Which is of course illegal.

  • K' Who's gonna' pick your avocados?

    As the weather in the equatorial, tropics, sub-tropics and temperate regions of the world continues to deteriorate, as ongoing drought, mega-fires and periodic floods "of biblical proportion" render those parts of the world uninhabitable, people are going to move. Get over it.

    Who do you think picked the lettuce on you Taco Bell taco?

  • They may or may not be able to BE steamrolled, but they SHOULD be steamrolled. Nazis and other racists should always be steamrolled.

  • JDryden – next time the NYT reminds me that I've used up all my free visits, I intend to quote your post as to why I'm not subscribing.

    All I read is Krugman, actually.

  • So if we have to invite nazis to draft up immigration laws, does that mean that we can bring communists in to help write the budget?

  • Nobody seems to have mentioned it yet, but the Douthat article ran on Holocaust Remembrance Day. How do you like them apples?

  • If Miller gets a seat at the table, I say we flank him both sides with American Indians, heavily armed.

    As to that "concession" on E-Verify, Trump's Hotel in Vegas would have to close if that were in place.

  • I feel dumber for having read the original Douhat source, with the possible notable exception of chuckling at his attempt to subtly drop a Hitchhikers' Guide To The Galaxy reference, ostensibly to get the Silicon Valley brogrammers to climb on board his logical fail-train.

  • Douche Hat once wrote a column in which he patted himself on the back for turning down a chance with a girl that looked to him like a chunky Reese Witherspoon. And the NYT presumably paid him a salary for this.
    I checked out on the times back when DICK Fucking CHENEY was crowing about how they were backing him up on his claims about Hussein's scary boogyman weapons program. They are the Pravda of the Potomac.

  • Charles Eicher @3:43, 28th: interesting points re cosmopolitanism. I didn't know that.

    Another (oversimplified?) way to put it could be might makes right versus justice (and rule of law) as methods to organize societies. For Miller (and the Dump) justice isn't even on the radar. The might involved is mostly money, not military power, but that doesn't change anything.

    As you say, a fundamental chasm. Bigotry is a mere subset.

  • @ mago:

    "You know those paper toilet seat liners in public lavatories? They're called Ross Douthat party hats."

    I'm sorry but you did not make a distinction I think is quite important.

    Those liners are NOT Ross Douthat party hats–untill after they'be been used.

  • @ Steve Holt!

    I wouldn't go that far (they also are the employer for many of our allies) but they really, really have it out for the Clintons, and seem to be the life-support unit for a wide array of the Unusual Gang of Idiots of which Rust Dumbhate is a sadly typical loyalist.

    The whole anti-cosmopolitan movement also stems from anti-intellectualism endemic to the current junta – most deep thinkers have empathy for those outside their tribe, which the Trumpistas certainly don't. (Their 19th-century mindset makes me wonder where they were in the 20th, and when they plan to commence the war with Spain to annex Cuba).

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  • I can't believe that a piece of shit like Douthat has the stones to quote Douglas Adams in his mouth-diarrhea. Adams, the man who effectively presaged Trump with such passages as

    “If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.” – Zaphod Beeblebrox

    and

    “One of the major difficulties Trillian experienced in her relationship with Zaphod was learning to distinguish between him pretending to be stupid just to get people off their guard, pretending to be stupid because he couldn't be bothered to think and wanted someone else to do it for him, pretending to be outrageously stupid to hide the fact that he actually didn’t understand what was going on, and really being genuinely stupid."

    and of course, "Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job."

  • "… their base of provincial, angry, not terribly bright rural white people …"
    It drives me nuts that Democrats lock themselves into this vision of the Republican base. Sure, this describes the ones that the MSM generate clicks by depicting, but you're ignoring the reality that the median income of Trump voters was $70,000. That means that half of them made more than that. The inbred, genetically damaged, mentally deficient, unhygienic image that you conjure up is not your real target. It's a caricature, and it may be satisfying to pretend those are your enemy, you're misdirecting your efforts as long as you insist on holding that image. Douthat is not addressing them anyway. He's addressing the prosperous, suburban, Republican housewives that Schumer and Wasserman-Schultz and Perez say they want to court while throwing people who make less than the median out of the party.

  • This article is blinded by bias. It's just boosting the trend to insulated bubbles.
    I'm not boosting Douthat, but this post didn't actually learn me nuttin'…
    I subscribe to both the Washington Post and the NYTimes.

    What do you think of Jordan Peterson?

  • Ormond – Shame you can't provide the slightest trace of evidence for your claims. Is that because you are being paid to promote the Right's designated hip "intellectual"-du-jour?

    Peterson is actually less impressive than other rightwing intellectuals, in that he doesn't even have the religion excuse for conflating sex and gender.

  • If by "lasting policy" he means "won't be unmade next time the other side is in power" then, yes, he's right. Sure, they can be steamrolled, but so can we. These people are not going anywhere, and the demographic tidal wave that leads to a permanent Dem government seems to be Godot. Further, if low-skill (as officially classified) immigration, H1-B visas, and illegal labor are the desires of the corporate overlords then we should look at them with deep suspicion.

  • Craig Gooding says:

    "Assimilation" is a reliable bugbear, and has been for over 150 years. A conservative friend of mine rants about Arabs not assimilating in the Detroit area.

    He has an Italian surname. Proof that one of the first things to go when you find a cause that makes you go red in the face is a sense of irony.

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