SAN DIEGO – What ended the government shutdown after only two-and-a-half days?
My vote goes to a devastating 30-second ad that arrived on the scene with the subtlety of an airstrike.
“Democrats.” “Murder.” “Illegal immigrants.”
Those radioactive buzzwords – which were featured in the spot released by President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign just a few hours into the stalemate and echoed by Republican operatives elsewhere – likely brought the shutdown to a screeching halt.
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The video – titled “Complicit” – only appeared online. But with social media, that’s good enough. Besides, Republican sources said the ad was slated to hit TV airwaves in the coming days. This prospect must have terrified Democrats.
It’s easy to see why. Against the backdrop of the U.S.-Mexico border and illegal immigrants led away in handcuffs, we see footage of undocumented immigrant Luis Bracamontes, the unrepentant killer of two police officers in 2014, whom the ad labels “pure evil.” The voiceover spells out Trump’s overly simplistic approach to combating such evil – which includes building the border wall. At the moment, Trump is fixated on border enforcement and ending so-called “chain migration.” Then we see images of three prominent Democrats – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. Finally, the narrator delivers the knockout punch: “Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.”
The ad – which was the subject of chatter on conservative radio shows and cable TV – was unfair and untrue.
There is no guarantee that building a border wall and stopping the policy of family reunification will keep out immigrants who are “pure evil.” And what about people who come with honorable intentions, but then turn to crime after many years of living in the United States? Should we keep them out, too?
The ad was also cynical to the point of being sinister.
It’s ridiculous to blame Democrats for the evil acts of some of the undocumented just because lawmakers insist on having a say about who should come to the United States legally and what sort of border enforcement will stop those who come illegally.
That’s not called complicity. It’s called democracy.
If we play that game, I could submit that Republicans are to blame for murders committed by illegal immigrants because many GOP lawmakers accept campaign contributions from individuals and companies that put out the “Help Wanted” signs that lure illegal immigrants to this country in the first place. At that suggestion, conservatives would yell “foul.”
But boy, was the ad effective. Democrats seem to have quickly decided they wanted no part of any suggestion that they condoned or contributed to murders committed by illegal immigrants. So they caved. And the shutdown was over.
The poster boy for both the shutdown and the cave-in was Schumer, who is a hot mess on the immigration issue.
One minute, he’s vowing to protect recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) from being deported when the program expires in March by giving them legal status.
The next minute, Schumer is trying to seem reasonable to mainstream voters by telling reporters that he agreed to the funding that Trump asked for to build his “big beautiful wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border; while the senator wouldn’t reveal the actual figure, two Republican senators said Trump and Schumer considered a $25 billion package.
The minute after that, Schumer gives in and walks away with nothing – except a promise by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the Senate will address DACA down the line.
A promise, eh? Former President Obama promised to prioritize comprehensive immigration reform. How did that turn out?
And then, after Schumer was hammered by progressives and immigrant rights groups for folding under pressure, he makes an abrupt U-turn and insists that the funding for the wall is off the table. He may have just sunk the chances for DACA relief.
All this back-and-forth tells you everything you need to know about where Democrats like Schumer really stand on the immigration debate – as opposed to where they want various groups to think they stand.
They stand on the defensive. They stand with their own interests. They stand in fear of being perceived as weak on border security. They stand several steps behind the Dreamers, as the followers have become the leaders. They stand conflicted, trying to please everyone and anger no one. And so they stand on the periphery of this national dialogue, somewhere between incompetence and irrelevance.
Given that, why in the world would the DACA recipients – or anyone else – want to stand with them?
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.