Victory for Stephen Miller
Stephen Miller’s set-to with CNN’s Jim Acosta showed if nothing else that he has absorbed the most important lesson that Campaign Trump taught conservatives – to find success you never apologise, stick to your guns, and attack. For Trump supporters, the set-to vs CNN’s Jim Acosta was an immortal, golden moment and one to be cherished. In its short life-span this admistration hasn’t accomplished a whole lot, so this might be as good as it gets – someone standing behind a podium with the president’s seal, articulating a vision for a restricted immigration policy, taking the blows of the outraged media and calmly defeating them. Stephen Miller is a Jewish man that has to listen to people compare him to Joseph Goebbels and Patrick Bateman every time he stands in front of a camera, so it takes more balls than most to put himself in that position.
While the immigration vision being defended is Miller’s, the most interesting party in this debate was Jim Acosta. The questions he asked laid bare the assumptions at the heart of the “no immigration restriction under any circumstances” stance held by many on the left. Jim thinks that a poem carved into to the statue of liberty is a legally binding contract or a sort of unofficial article of the constitution. But there’s more to it than that.
It’s important to remember what a moderate approach the White House is taking here. These are the broad strokes of the policy being proposed – you only get to come here if you’re really needed; if you want to come here you should be highly proficient in the language most people speak, and the simple fact that we admit you doesn’t mean that your whole family will eventually be allowed come along. In the face of such moderation, which represents views any member of the public might hold, Acosta became apoplectic with rage disguised as concern. In advance of being passed and actually becoming law, this may be the most valuable quality of this bill – it forced him, and will force other people, to articulate what they think and expose their assumptions, and what they have and haven’t thought about.
What are Acosta’s assumptions?
His view of America is as follows; it is less a country and more a sort of canvas upon which disadvantaged people of the world can paint their dream, the more disadvantaged the better. The true function of immigration is to bring as many people who meet that description into the country as possible. Any attempt to restrict or change that, or even seriously discuss the value of that, is deeply immoral. While he might say that is it immoral because it conflicts with America’s history, what he actually believes is that it is immoral because it conflicts with the requirements of Social Justice. By bringing in poorer, browner people and letting them share in the wealth and increase their numbers we are levelling a moral tax on white America and sowing the seeds for their eventual erasure, a just outcome we all long for. While it goes mostly unarticulated, the ultimate purpose of immigration is to create a human tide that will wash away the poison of white America as punishment for their historically unparalleled crimes.
It goes without saying that that’s nuts. But Acosta has never had to argue with anyone in an official capacity espousing a moderate and well thought out restrictive line on immigration policy. As a result of that he has never had to question this understanding of the purpose of America or the value of immigration to existing American citizens.
His failure to question these assumptions is emblematic of his class, his profession, and his political orientation. The disadvantage left wing people have with regard to immigration is that they consider certain avenues of thought to be essentially wicked and therefore forbidden to even turn over in their mind, even privately and in a neutral way. Jim Acosta can no more seriously quiz himself on the validity of immigration restriction than an 17th Century puritan can contemplate whether they’d the better off as a Satanist. To hold the thought in one’s mind is utmost wickedness.
In any debate, the person who has had the ability to acknowledge a wider range of arguments examine is at an advantage. That’s why Miller had the upper hand here.
We may increasingly find that Miller had Acosta at a disadvantage that all right wing people have all left wing people at on cultural issues. Left wing people consider it forbidden to contemplate certain ideas. Right wing people are heretics in polite society and are free to contemplate restrictionist ideas, and to become acquainted with their weak and strong points. Left wing people only know that those ideas are forbidden and wrong and any who wield them must be considered the enemy. They can’t articulately defend a position they’ve never contemplated.
This failure to consider the arguments of the opposite side is refelected in the quality of the questions Acosta asked, and in the left leaning commentary afterwards, in the tactics that people adopt to counter what Miller says. Let’s recaps Acosta’s arguments:
1) There’s a poem written on a famous statue that says we take everybody, so that means we have to, right?
2) If you insist people speak English this country will be full of British and Australians – why would you do that to us?
3) Why are you such a Nazi?
4) That’s it.
Yes, really – these are the best arguments this long time professional journalist of national standing can muster against what Miller was proposing. The commentary afterwards similarly flailed to find any chinks in Miller’s armour and in truth didn’t try. Having never seriously considered the validity of an immigration-reductionist stance the stance itself can’t be directly refuted on its merits. The best an opponent can do is fruitlessly (and crazily) state is that to have the knowledge to articulately refute these points is to be a White Nationalist.
At Wednesday's White House press briefing, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller was pressed on whether…thinkprogress.org
The idea of “White Nationalist talking points”, is the classical liberal debating style – I’m not going to say whether you’re wrong or not, but only an evil person would make that argument so by default that means that your argument is defeated, because in making it you have placed yourself beyond the bounds of civilised discourse. That approach is only succeeds to the extent that media gatekeepers can use the shame it inspires to repress discussion of the issues. But by the time the gets to Bill level on the national stage, something more robust is needed.
Miller’s talking points in this debate – do we want immigration at all, what kind, what is the purpose of it, what is the impact on culture, are we happy with that – should be familiar to all of us. But watching Miller work you realise that it’s not common to hear at all out loud on a national political stage. Certainly no one on the open borders/diversity left has any familiarity with these arguments. They have no experience refuting them. They are hoist by their own petard – the social success of their worldview means that the other side is familiar with your arguments, but you have no idea about theirs. The left have had so much success making your their ideas the accepted ideas of the time that when someone confronts them with the opposing idea in it’s mildest form their shriek like a Victorian matron confronted by a man in a dirty raincoat. Whether this bill will eventually pass is not certain. But the way this exchange was conducted bodes well for Miller and people like him, and bodes ill for the Acostans and their ideas.