Donald Trump may have taken over the Republican Party, but his policies regularly defy conservative principles. The recent hysteria over the immigrant caravan from Central America offers an easy entry point to the discussion. Many have already written about the caravan, discussing the balance of compassion and social stability, or looking at rhetoric and election politics. But many Republicans will consider such arguments as so much posturing by the left. So instead, I will focus here on why the president’s policies are in fact anti-conservative in multiple ways.
Anti-Truth, anti-realism, anti-law
True conservatives take pride in their adherence to objective reality and policies that arise from a reasoned view of the world, especially in the realm of security. So let’s look at some of the facts. The migrant caravan has just left Mexico City, 600 miles from the nearest US border crossing and more than 1,000 miles from California, the stated destination of many in the group. It began with more than 7,000 migrants, but attrition is natural as a caravan progresses. The previous migrant caravan this year (in April) began with 1,500 migrants, but only 400 actually reached the US border, or roughly 25% of the starting group. If similar proportions apply, maybe 2,000 from the current caravan will reach the US.
But even if all remaining 5,000 make it to the border, this is not a cause for concern. In the early 20th century, we admitted the same number of immigrants to the US every day at Ellis Island. More importantly for our current situation, the numbers are not a significant departure from our normal border activity today. 5,000 migrants would represent only 10% of typical monthly border apprehensions in recent months.
We have sufficient border control to handle such a caravan, and to do so according to the law of the land. We can argue about what those laws should be and how they need to be amended, but there is no reason to be hysterical about the situation or act as if typical non-military means of enforcement are inadequate, especially when illegal immigration is at its lowest point in four decades.
Trump is being intentionally unrealistic about what constitutes a threat to America, while simultaneously delegitimizing the rule of law and turning a blind eye to real threats to our nation (Russia, climate change, debt, etc.). The caravan is not a threat, and we absolutely don’t need the military to prevent an “invasion.”
Wasting money, chipping away at lives
Despite the relatively insignificant numbers and the nonexistent threat from the caravan, Trump has already sent more than 5,000 members of the military to the border, with the potential to send up to 15,000. If he actually goes through with the 15,000, that would cost the US up to $200 million. This from the president who also thought $14 million for war games in Korea was just too much to stomach, despite the strategic imperative of North Korean deterrence. Real conservatives are opposed to wasteful spending. But I guess it should be no surprise that Donald Trump is not a conservative, given his trillion dollar deficits.
Wasting money is bad enough, but this spending comes with ramifications for real people. Despite the rhetoric, the military is not going to engage the caravan as if it were really invading America. There is no war to fight on our southern border. Yet at least 5,000 of our troops, and up to 15,000 of them, are down at the border away from their families, and are likely to remain there through Thanksgiving.
A real conservative recognizes family as the institutional bedrock of society and looks for every opportunity to build up such an institution. Needlessly taking loved ones away from their families at Thanksgiving to stoke a false fear reveals Trump’s true priorities: scoring cheap political points at the expense of others. And if you need further confirmation, just ask yourself, how much have you heard about the caravan and its impending invasion since the election?
Trump’s response to the caravan has been emblematic of his true nature. He does not care about the truth or base his policy on reason, he manufactures threats and wastes money to intentionally stoke needless fear, he glibly uses the military as his personal partisan force, and he couldn’t care less about how any of it impacts the lives of individual Americans and families. Our president is deeply anti-conservative.
Photo credit: The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2018/10/photos-migrant-caravan/573604/