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The Symbolism of the Border Wall

The Symbolism of the Border Wall

[Ed Note: This January marks the 10th anniversary since the founding of League of Ordinary Gentlemen, which became Ordinary Times about five years ago. In celebration of this, we are inviting people who have not contributed in a while to come back and do a piece. Instead of doing an explicit tribute, we decided the best tribute would be contributing once again with the sort of thoughtful pieces they contributed to build up this site in the first place. Here is the first one.]

One especially unfortunate take on the border wall runs as follows:

1) It’s just symbolic.

2) It’s only $5 billion, which isn’t that much.

therefore

3) Let Trump have his wall in exchange for something else that we want.

A border wall would indeed be more symbolic than effective. As my Cato Institute colleague Alex Nowrasteh has noted, visa overstays have recently grown to make up more than half of all illegal entries.

There’s a reason for that: Border security has increased tremendously in recent years, notably under the Obama administration. This fact annoys both Trump and the Democrats, so it rarely gets mentioned, but Obama’s increased enforcement prompted would-be immigrants to turn to the visa system.

Getting rid of or even restricting the visa system would inflict severe economic damage on Mexico and the United States alike. It’s a gap that we can’t afford to close, and everyone knows it.

It’s also why completing a border fence wouldn’t leave would-be immigrants staring dumbly at a bunch of pointy steel slats. They’d go where millions have already gone, to apply for a visa.

This is a familiar process to anyone who has studied the War on Drugs: There is always a path of least resistance, and people will always converge on it. That path may not be closeable. It may be a more expensive path, but it’s not prohibitively so. And after that, the only things left are symbolic chest-thumping and collateral damage.

But what about costs?–someone might ask–It’s only $5 billion, and that’s not so much in the federal budget!

Here’s the problem: At least at some point, symbols matter. Symbols are a part of reality, and it matters what we do with them. Like all other “real” things, symbols have consequences.

If you doubt this, please ask yourself the following question: Would you accept spending $5 billion of taxpayers’ money to subsidize white robes for underprivileged Klansmen? Would you allow it as part of a deal to get something you really wanted? Would you say “Eh, those robes are just symbolic, robes never killed anyone?”

Probably not. You’d probably fight that pretty hard, even if the other side offered something miraculous in exchange. And even if you’d fold, I could probably think of $5 billion of symbolic awfulness that you’d really want to reject in any circumstances. Maybe we could bury the Statue of Liberty in pig shit. Or erase Mount Rushmore and replace it with swastikas and the words “THE JEWS ARE OUR MISFORTUNE.”

It’s all just empty symbolism, right?

No, it’s not. Symbols are never empty. All three of these hypotheticals would be utterly obscene. I personally would fight them not just with words or votes, but with civil disobedience. I am terrified of heights, but I hope I’d still be out there chained to Abe Lincoln’s nose.

What we need to decide is not whether a symbolic wall matters, but how much a symbolic wall matters. Some purely symbolic policies are worth opposing even when it means sacrificing “real” benefits elsewhere. This may be one of them.

Wait, don’t we already have a whole bunch of border wall? Yes, we do. I don’t mean to say that the current border wall lacks symbolism. It likewise says “Here to work? Get lost!” If it were up to me I would tear it down as soon as I could. Then I’d sell off the land. In small parcels.

And Trump’s border wall is arguably much worse, if not in kind, then in degree. A border wall isn’t even plausibly innocent when its champion is the same guy who takes kids from their parents and puts them in cages. This is what xenophobia looks like, and if you won’t recognize it here, then you might just be a part of the problem. (Paradoxically, Trump might have gotten the wall he wanted if he’d been less of a troglodyte about it, but that’s not the world we live in.)

Now, some anti-wall people might be–shall we say–less than principled. Some of them even signed on to $25 billion in wall funding, and they did it just a year ago.

But now things have changed, apparently. The government is shut down, the press is paying more attention, and Trump’s turned the wall into one of his periodic male dominance fights. Which they can’t really afford to let him win, can they?

I’ve been an open borders guy for many years. Back in 2013, I wrote against what was still quaintly called a border fence. Ahem:

A fence in theory is a thing of beauty: Long, straight, pristine, impermeable, bisecting the United States from Mexico with Euclidean precision. Keeping the other out, except when we want him in. Subjecting the whole messy process to comprehensive, rational — governmental — control.

A fence in practice will do none of these things. We can say for certain that it will however be an eyesore. Crooked in places, graffiti-covered, trash-catching, subject to property disputes, pockmarked with holes. A resting place for countless ladders. It will be 1,954 miles long, most of it through unpopulated areas. This means it must either be guarded round the clock — not cheap — or fall to rack and ruin.

No one in the leadership of the fence party can afford to let such images appear on TV. For them, the fence is best asked for and never received. Asking makes them look decisive. Asking — fiercely, defiantly — makes it look like they have a plan. Receiving would make them look feckless, because the brown people all around us wouldn’t go away, and because the fence would just be one more ugly, expensive, impractical slab of statist architecture — beloved of absolutely no one, a housing project where no one lives.

I guess I could judge the newcomers, if I were so inclined. But I find that all I can say is, well, better late than never. There are reasons to oppose this sort of thing that are a lot more permanent than the current president, and now might be a good time to learn them.

Photo by longislandwins The Symbolism of the Border Wall


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Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and editor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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125 thoughts on “The Symbolism of the Border Wall

  1. I myself was wavering towards something like: let’s build the wall if in exchange legal immigration restrictions are almost completely relaxed and a full amnesty to all who currently illegally reside in the US. Then on the other side, you paint a big sign on the wall which says “welcome to the USA” with arrows which say “Entrance is this way”.

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  2. Symbols do matter – and the wall is just the latest symbol of the desperate attempt y white men to cling to a socio-economic system that prizes and protects them above all others. Their egos will not allow them to see the damage they inflict, largely because that damages is always on the “other” – poorer white men, women, people of color. Its all about harnessing and feeding raw fear – which is why appeals based on facts and statistics (i.e. Obama deported more undocumented migrants then all prior presidents combined) fail to win the day. White men spent 8 years confronting their loss of status and power, and they are willing to destroy the last vestiges of our democracy to try and stall that inevitable march.

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  3. As long as we’re listing negative things, note that Homeland Security has used its authority to waive the environmental impact statements that construction in much of the desert area would normally require. And with good reasons: the wall there will have detrimental effects on various endangered species and increase monsoon-season flooding in some areas*. In many years, following the monsoon, some parts of the wall will have to be reconstructed because flash floods will have washed it out.

    * This is already an ongoing issue. The Border Patrol has been known to block flood-control channels and tunnels, without bothering to inform the flood-control authorities. Some of these activities violate treaties signed with Mexico decades ago.

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  4. Well, I also see “The Wall” as similar to The War On Drugs or Prohibition.

    It won’t work if the definition is “eliminating illegal immigrating” and it certainly won’t if the definition is “preventing crime related to people immigrating illegally” but it *MIGHT* work as a symbol. I mean, drinking did decrease under Prohibition. The organized crime was off the charts and the bootleggers made a fortune (and then got an even *BIGGER* fortune once prohibition ended because they were the ones with connections)… but there was a decrease in people drinking.

    If the Republicans really wanted to do what they claim to want the wall to do, they’d go after all of these members of the Chamber of Commerce who are hiring the people who only want a better life for themselves and their children and are thus willing to cross the border/picket line and do the jobs that the union members are demanding more money and/or protections before they’re willing to do. But the Chamber of Commerce has the legislature and executive in its pocket which means that they’ve got the laws in their pockets (making immigration difficult) and the enforcement of the laws in their pockets (“you’d better work harder or we’ll call ICE!”). So Republicans have no incentive to make things better.

    Well, until their constituents start getting all xenophobic/isolationist, anyway.

    A wall would do a good job of maintaining that whole Baptist/bootlegger attitude toward the intoxicating cheap labor coming over the border. As such, I think it’s more likely to happen than, say, something that would actually help.

    But I agree with you on the morality of open borders, for what it’s worth.

    Sadly, from what I understand, nobody is arguing for open borders.

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    • Yes, this exactly. If the GOP was actually serious about illegal immigration attacking the immigrants themselves or building walls would be the last thing they’d do. Stopping illegal immigration would be most effectively done simply by tripling down on e-verify and hammering on the corporations and wealthy folk who employ illegal immigrants. Since the GOP would never go after their donor class that way they instead square the circle with this idiotic wall nonsense.

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      • Stopping illegal immigration would be most effectively done simply by tripling down on e-verify and hammering on the corporations and wealthy folk who employ illegal immigrants.

        It’s worth reminding everyone that e-verify is offline during the shutdown: https://www.e-verify.gov/e-verify-and-e-verify-services-are-unavailable

        Which means that employees do not currently have verify new employees, at least not until the system is back.

        Likewise, immigration court system is non-functioning in general, which means not only are cases not being decided, but people who have actually had deportation orders issued against them are not being deported.

        Since the GOP would never go after their donor class that way they instead square the circle with this idiotic wall nonsense.

        It’s not just that. Making people who work here illegally fear interacting with society is a good way to make sure people can abuse them. It’s the same reason that human traffickers bring in Chinese women who can’t speak English and live in dorm environment and have no access to anything.

        Well, they can’t really stop illegal Mexican immigrants from speaking English, most of them know it to at least some level and know others who can speak it, but what they _can_ do is make those people fear interacting with legal Americans, because any of them might be a hate-addled Trump-supporter who turns them in.

        This is entirely purposeful. The less political power you give someone (And, yes, the ability to ‘interact with other humans’ is sorta a base-level political power.), the more the powerful can take advantage of them.

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  5. A wall isn’t necessary, but tougher immigration control IS. We get to decide who we want to let in, and as far as I’m concerned, we should be letting in rich folks who are able to start business and create jobs. We should be incentivizing all those chinese who study STEM to stay here and settle down. We really don’t need low wage earners. When their supply drops, wages rise and our current underemployed will have jobs. IF, later we need to do some re balancing, we can, and alter the ratio of who we are letting in. Almost every country has harder immigration controls that we do. I don’t see folks bitching about New Zealand immigration laws.

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    • Several things. When the INA passed, it was based more on the idea of family petitions rather than employment based immigration for several reasons. A big reason was that this framing was necessary to get the INA passed. There were also many Americans who had relatives outside the US they wished to petition for.

      Second, nobody complains about New Zealand’s immigration policy because we only have one New Zealander on this blog and New Zealand is an inconsequential nation. If you go to European nations and Australia, you will find conversations that mirror the American immigration debate.

      Finally, immigration is a big debate in the United States because we are dealing with foundational issues. Pro-Immigrant and anti-immigrant arguments are as old as the Republic. Whether America was supposed to be a White and Protestant country or a diverse country of immigrants is not a new issue.

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      • I wasn’t referring to NZ in these blogs. See anyone in the media or politicians or other groups looking at other countries immigration policies and bitching?

        I don’t give a damn about white or black or brown, or protestant or catholic or muslim. It’s about time we reviewed the Immigration act to decide who we let in going forward. All policies do not endure the test of all times and should be periodically reviewed.

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        • It’s about time we reviewed the Immigration act to decide who we let in going forward.

          The dirty secret of Trumpland is these are they kinds of people we want to let in. People who will work for a pittance here because it’s enough for them to build a house to go back to when they want to return home. There’s a reason employers like people like these migrants, and it’s not because they like to relate to their employees in Spanish.

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  6. The problem is that plenty of people in the United States would agree with you on the symbolism of the wall. Unlike you though, they want that symbolism. After all, lots of people find nothing wrong with wearing a t-shirt that features an outline of the United States and the words “Fuck off, we’re full.”

    https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1231&bih=651&ei=AWIxXKL2OaSu0PEPt-qAoA0&q=Fuck+Off+We%27re+Full+t-shirt&oq=Fuck+Off+We%27re+Full+t-shirt&gs_l=img.3…882.7512..7665…6.0..0.67.1745.33……0….1..gws-wiz-img…..0..0.WAQJwPdyf0c

    I disagree with this message factually and politically. But at the same time, I’m not sure there is any use in confronting or arguing with someone who wears this kind of t-shirt. There are tens of millions of people who would wear it and/or agree with it. Pointing out that Wyoming has something like 5 or 6 people per a square mile is not going to make them less xenophobic. There have always been xenophobic elements in the United States. I don’t know where it is learned. My hometown was filled mainly with second and third generation Americans, most of our ancestors came over in the great waves of Eastern and Southern European immigration from the late 19th century to early 20th century. Some came later. My second grade teacher was born in Germany and came over as a lucky Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany as a child. The education I remember from school was very pro-immigrant and very anti-know nothing. Are WASPier parts of the United States teaching “The know-nothings had a point?” I don’t know. I do know that education can be localized because all my Californian friends fondly recall a Mission project from 4th grade or so. New York did not really care that much about the Western Missions.

    I don’t know if there was ever a universal language in politics or universal agreed upon behavior but it is clearly breaking down. The latest scandal over AOC and her dancing video from college proves the point. What were right-wingers thinking? The only thing I can think of is that they know it will get some cash from their increasing marginal and older base and no one else. Ted Cruz also tried to do this with Beto O’Rourke and his former rock band days. Who is going to be shocked by the idea of a 20 something dancing or being in a rock band except those who would have never voted for AOC and Beto anyway. Did anyone say “This is going to make us look like idiots. We shouldn’t do it.” Apparently not hard enough.

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  7. Walls actually work very well. Note how few people made it across the border from the Warsaw Pact and into Western Europe. That barrier also became one of the best wildlife corridors on the continent. The Korean DMZ is so impassable that most defectors take the route through China. If physical barriers didn’t work then prisons wouldn’t use them.

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  8. The latest reporting indicates that, in fact, the Wall was invented by Trump’s staffers solely as a way to get him to remember to talk about immigration..

    They figured if it was something concrete (pardon the pun), he could remember it. (Which makes sense, because the Wall is quite possibly the single stupidest approach to immigration you could come up with. But it sounds like a great one word rallying cry for “I’m afraid of Mexicans”. Much scarier than “A taco truck on every corner”, the previous attempt.)

    So the government appears to be shut down because the President got criticized by Ann Coulter over something invented solely as a mnemonic device for speech purposes.

    Weirdest timeline ever.

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    • Trump can certainly build the wall as part of national defense, and that doen’t require House approval. The $5 billion is less pricey than forty F-35 fighter jets and will do vastly more for the couintry’s security.

      He’s going to build the wall. The screaming on the left is about the financing.

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      • Whether Trump can say “national emergency”, wave his hand, and repurpose DoD money is an open constitutional question. With the changes that Congress made following various Nixon shenanigans, my belief is that he can’t do it without approval, and certainly can’t move money between Cabinet departments. I admit to a bias on this subject. My time in government has always been on the legislative side, and I regard “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law” as an absolute power, and Congress can control how money is spent as closely as they want.

        DoD money is pretty tightly tied down as to purposes. The usual pile people point at for wall construction is the $10B the Army Corps of Engineers has accumulated from prior budgets. While supporting DHS is on the list of things the Corps can do, it is unclear (at least to me) that money Congress appropriated believing it would be spent on flood control and disaster recovery can be legally used otherwise.

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        • There is precedent, dating back to when Truman tried to effectively end a steel strike by nationalizing it. Hint: It did not work out for Truman.

          Worse yet, for Trump, he’s trying to claim a national emergency to spend money on something Congress is refusing to authorize spending for. The whole shutdown boils down to Trump refusing to allow anything to happen unless Congress spends how he wants, and Congress has refused.

          Those are an order of magnitude worse facts for Trump than what Truman faced, because this boils down to Trump wanting to use a national emergency to spend funds in contradiction to Congress’ desires. That’s pure power of the purse, there.

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          • There are currently ~30 active declarations of national emergency, some dating back to the Clinton years. The large majority of them freeze the assets of foreign individuals/groups suspected of being terrorists or financing terrorists. 50 USC 1431-1435 would allow the President to bypass the normal procedures to sign contracts for defense-related goods and services if an emergency is declared. But it doesn’t appear to me to authorize any sort of spending minus an appropriation, just speeds up otherwise approved spending.

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            • The President *does* have emergency powers. But they are not unlimited, nor are they as simple as shouting “I DECLARE EMERGENCY”.

              Frankly, I can’t imagine even the hackiest of federal judges getting comfortable with the President trying to end-run appropriations by Congress, least of all when there is an actual clear intent of Congress NOT to fund what the President is trying to force.

              Congress has supremacy on spending matters. This is as cut and dried a separation of powers issue as you’ll really get. There’s no actual emergency, the spending isn’t some new or sudden need, and the intent of Congress is crystal clear. The amount of grey area is about as small as it gets.

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      • 5 billion dollars buys you a pretty much worthless from the standpoint of national security amount of wall, so your argument doesn’t follow. That’s no where near enough to build a functional wall over the territory in question and walls themselves are worthless unless they act as force multipliers for the active defenders you have to include with them. As a passive stand alone defense they’re of basically zero value.

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      • Instapundit (& pj media in general) sometimes doesn’t page load right for me either (and they let their mobile adverstising get hijacked)

        The post reads

        FASTER, PLEASE: Trump Considering ‘National Emergency’ Declaration to Build Wall with Military Coffers.

        by Ed Driscoll.

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      • ItsBeen84Years.gif

        A million years ago, insty was a Libertarian hub. This was a “immediate wake of 9/11” thing. Since then, we’ve had all of Bush, all of Obama, and a quarter of Trump.

        For what it’s worth, my libertarianism has evolved too (well, it’s more that it’s been abandoned). But not in the direction of wanting to explore the emergency powers of the president.

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        • I hear you on the evolving thing. 10 years ago I was a blue dog, but the O admin killed that brand. At this point, I am of the opinion that Libertarianism is the only way forward. Sorry for your abandonment, but I get you (and remember the post.)

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                • Yes, I remember you mentioning that re-framing of it, now that you mention it. But, from where I stand at least, even then it is a concept that, to paraphrase John Doe, moves as you play.

                  Mainly, I don’t believe in group guilt, or group superiority for that matter. It is far to easy to apply that which motivates us to the other. and in turn, see their wants and needs only as they apply to us. It allows for some screwed up priorities being put in place, along with disbelief/rage when someone doesn’t share our priors.

                  But I am raging too far afield.

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        • What’s somewhat facinating about instapundit is that he was one of the first blogs to establish a ‘comments culture’, then abolished them entirely as they became too unwieldy to easily police, then brought them back a few years ago (along with I think the permanent co-bloggers), and now that comment section is among the worst cesspools of the internet

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          • While I will agree with you that the comments are a cesspool, I would say that they are no worse (or better) than the cesspools of DemocraticUnderground or Lawyers guns and meathead. In fact, they are typical of any single-point-of-view-site. The worst is Megan McArdle’s, who used to have a very good comments section until she went to the WaPo. It just became shit after that.

            I look at Instapundit every morning, not to confirm my priors, but to see what the general thoughts of the right are. It works very well for that. I do the same with the Guardian. I find NPR, Fox and Vox* to be fairly useless.

            *Great idea for a kids book.

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  9. 1. Is there any truth to the rumor that “the wall” is something Trump’s aides told him to talk about during speeches, fearing he would forget to discuss border security?

    2. Our man Jason is absolutely right that the wall would be much more symbol than deterrent. For that reason alone, it’s worth fighting. America at its best self is not the place that says “Looking for work? Go away! We’re full up!” It’s the place that says, “What can you do? Let’s prosper together!”

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    • From what I understand (and what makes sense to me) is that it’s not so much as he would forget, as it was a anchoring point to bring his stream of consciousness back to the main channel. Again, speculating, this sort of anchoring is the primary thing his speechwriters and briefers have found that has worked over the past 4-ish years, and so use it regularly. (most recently I believe we saw this sort of the thing with the space force push a few months ago)

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  10. Jus a anecdotal question of bubble-ism, how many people here have scaled a thirty foot wall without equipment?

    Because I know there are a ton of people that would look at that and say, ‘yeah that’s a deterent’, if they actually had to climb it.

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    • It’s a deterrent until you have a ladder and a rope. Or a tunnel.

      To echo others here, if there was someone on that wall hurling insults about how your father smells of agave, and lobbing livestock over the wall to discourage the raising of ladders, then the wall is effective.

      But just as an unmanned barrier in the middle of nowhere…

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    • It’s only a deterrent when you’re trying to climb over it. But as I pointed out in the post, would-be migrants already know that there’s an easier way to get across, and it doesn’t involve scaling any walls at all.

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      • Oh, i understand that in full, and i think you did a good job in reasoning that most will take a shot at the chance processes involved in engaging state processes.

        My point is those not willing to take a shot at state processes, a wall is not the same as a sign/symbol saying ‘no trespassing’.

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        • I agree that it’s not the same, but I would argue for it being pretty close. The primary effect of this type of border security will probably be from what it says, because what it does will be minor in comparison.

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    • how many people here have scaled a thirty foot wall without equipment?

      This seems a weird point. How many people _move to another country_ without equipment? And planning?

      Jason is right when he points out people will just come another way, but honestly crossing a thirty-foot wall, from my point of view, is actually less complicated than my fricking recent visit to California, and that was entirely within the same country, and I wasn’t moving there. (Just figuring out the _airports_ is probably that complicated.)

      Who are we trying to stop? People who casually wander into this country by accident?

      I mean…we actually do that, with actual border walls, in the divided cities on the border. We put up a wall, because otherwise people would just wander back and forth.

      But anyone is planning to move to the US illegally and work here has a lot more barriers to overcome than ‘Needs to remember to run by the ladder store’.

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      • Man, I think people are missing my point.

        Has any one here climbed a 30 foot wall and descended on the other side? Please raise your hand.

        If you have raised your hand, explain how much not a deterrence that was?

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        • I have absolutely never scaled a 30-foot wall.

          Why not? Because I’ve always had other options.

          In this I’m exactly like those who wish to live here without papers. They too have other options.

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            • There is an argument that I very much do not like that goes something like this.

              First person:
              My preferences follow:
              I would prefer to live in a high trust society with high collaboration
              If that is not possible, I would like to live in a middle-high trust society with middle-high collaboration.
              If that is not possible, I would like to live in a middle trust society with middle collaboration.

              Second person:
              How about a middle trust society with high collaboration on your part?

              First person:
              No, I would not like that.

              Second person: But you said that you wanted to live in a society with high collaboration!

              Man, I hate that sort of thing.

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              • “The only ground upon which man can know liberty, is that of disconnection, disunion, individuality” J.W.

                That notion was around 13 years before Proudhon started muddling about theft.

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  11. Trump is going to deliver his first Oval Office prime time address Tuesday, and the subject is the national security emergency occurring on the border.

    Going by the economic data on the last partial government shutdown, this one has already cost the country more dollars than the wall would cost, two to five times more, depending on which numbers you go by, and Trump says he is willing to leave the government shutdown for months or years if need be.

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    • Going by the economic data on the last partial government shutdown, this one has already cost the country more dollars than the wall would cost, two to five times more, depending on which numbers you go by, and Trump says he is willing to leave the government shutdown for months or years if need be.

      I take it you don’t work with numbers for a living.

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    • Trump is going to deliver his first Oval Office prime time address Tuesday, and the subject is the national security emergency occurring on the border.

      In other words, Donald Trump is going to treat us with his usual dose of fiction during a prime time address. Nice. Take notes for me.

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          • The only way that would work is if Hitler hosted a reality radio show where he would dramatically select a nation to be invaded with his signature “You’re Invaded!” tagline, but one of his staffers misspelled “Switzerland” as “Swaziland” but he dispatched thousands of stormtroopers to Africa rather than admit a mistake.

            And ordered thousands of Stuka dive bombers, but stiffed the contractors leading to a standoff where the planes were delivered without landing gear.

            And boasted on hot mic about his devious plan to invade Russia, but then after a personal meeting with Stalin, came back and announced that he had crafted a deal for Russian oil by giving them the worthless Rhineland and ten thousand Panzer tanks.

            And after a long winded rant about the French Communists flooding the beloved Fatherland with delicious but subversive baguettes, declared he was protecting Duetchland by rebranding the Maginot Wall, the “Fuhrer Wall”.

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              • Well, slightly more competent, anyway. I guess it would be favorable if…you were rooting for the Nazis, in that scenario? I’m not sure what you’re getting at here, honestly. This is a weird point to make.

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                    • Is this one of those things where we can claim that “competent” is like “brave” or “honest” or “intrepid” and it contains no moral content whatsoever and when we’re saying that Hitler was competent compared to Trump, we’re not trying to imply anything at all?

                      Sure. Let’s run with that.

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                      • Well, since we’re apparently trying to achieve clarity here, I meant Hitler was, at least per Chip’s example, more competent at running Nazi Germany, on Nazi German terms, and insofar as competent just means ‘able to successfully complete tasks’, yes, I think given their respective records it’s safe to assume. Which, and I really didn’t think this needed saying, is a bad thing. Being a lightly competent genocidal maniac is, seems to me at least, clearly worse than being a plutocrat’s buffoonish failson turned conman.

                        So again, I have to ask, when you say “You’re making Hitler sound almost favorable compared to Trump”, to whom is he sounding more favorable? And why?

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                  • I’m not comparing Trump to Hitler. I’m simply pointing out that if Hitler-like symbolism is something not to be tolerated, then we have established an important fact about “mere” public symbols, namely that, at some level of awfulness, we do in fact care about them. They’re not “mere” symbols, whatever that means.

                    After that, we’re haggling about the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable symbolism. It might be that Trump’s preferred symbolism is exactly like a Hitlerist symbolism. Or it might be that it’s NOT exactly like a Hitlerist symbolism, but that it’s still worth fighting. Or it might be bad, but not worth fighting. Or it might be that Trump’s preferred symbolism is a positive good.

                    That’s the debate I’d like to be having. It’s not the debate that’s actually taking place.

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                      • *In which the author proceeds to suck any remaining humor out of a throwaway joke by explaining it*

                        The original comparison was not to the horror of genocidal Hitler, but to the defeated, feeble little man in his bunker rambling incoherently to a weeping circle of aides.

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                    • Jason, in the debate you would like to have about symbolism, what is it that you want to achieve?

                      There are problems of reaching for types of ‘conclusions’ about social objectivity, especially when the sample size of those in the debate are relatively small in number.

                      I would further challenge that conclusions about social objectivity, about whether something is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ are often murky, displays of various factional/tribal preferences.

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    • …and the subject is the national security emergency occurring on the border.

      There is no national security emergency occurring on the border. And as soon as we we come to terms with why the Preaidebt of the United States wants to go on television to tell fictitious stories, we’ll be a step closer to understanding why our politics is so dysfunctional.

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  12. Is it time to move to Disqus? How much money do we need to raise?

    I can’t get to comments that *desperately* need my comments… we’re reaching crisis levels here people. :-)

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  13. This morning Bill De Blasio said he’s going to give universal medical care to everyone living in New York City, including 300,000 illegals. As Milton Friedman said “It’s just obvious you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state,” so the border states better get busy building that wall or NYC is going to get overrun with two continents worth of patients.

    As an aside, De Blasio also says the coverage will only cost the city $100 million a year. According to the NYC comptroller, 962,000 city residents are uninsured, which would mean the plan has $104 per uninsured person, which comes to $8.66 per month.

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  14. Not all that long ago, conservatives were all up-in-arms (literally over land a rancher used that wasn’t even his property, it was federal property.

    And now, we’re looking at hundreds of private-property owners, who actually own their land outright, who will have to have their land taken by eminent domain. But that’s okay; we’ll at least have the illusion of border security.

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