Abolish ICE, Abolish America
Universalism is a fundamental pillar of liberal thought. According to universalist ideology, all human beings, all faiths, and all cultures and societies are equal. Because all are equal, the goal of wealthy nations must be to raise others to our level, even if this requires sacrifices on our part. Thus, liberals can never accept a policy of "America First." Because we are already powerful and wealthy, it must be "America Last," and that's what it was under Obama.
Liberals love it when America loses. Even after 9-11, liberals refused to blame our enemies. After all, they were poor Middle Easterners who had grown up under Western domination. (Not true, of course. Bin Laden was the scion of one of Saudi Arabia's richest families.) I suspect that many liberals cheered as the Twin Towers fell. America was getting what it deserved – humiliation at the hands of a ragtag army of patriots. The proper course of action in response to the attack was to share the wealth so that the wretched of the earth would not be "driven to terrorism."
That argument has been around for a long time, and it is dragged out every time we are attacked. It explains the lack of outrage in regard to MS-13. According to an opinion piece in the Washington Post, it would appear that MS-13 is not the problem – it's Trump's "cruelty and lies." Immediately after noting Trump's "absurd" claims that ICE has liberated towns from MS-13, the author claims that Trump is "wasting all of our time with his petty little tweets and lies."
So the left sees Trump's talk about MS-13 as just a political diversion, not a response to a real problem. I'd be willing to take that one to the bank in November.
Even the recent case of Josselin Ramirez comes under the universalist get-out-of-jail-free thinking. Having pleaded guilty to six counts of violent gang-related behavior and sentenced to 95 years in prison, Ramirez is seen as the victim. Why not just deport her?, the left is asking. An MSN report notes that Ramirez claims she began gang activity in El Salvador, where conditions are "very different," at the age of 13.
That sounds bad, but the fact is that nearly every gang member joins as a teenager. Should we wring our hands over them? There's an exact parallel with 9-11. MS-13 is killing us, and the left finds an excuse for it. It's not their fault; it's ours.
That view of reality will never change, because the left will never abandon its fundamental ideology of universalism. Whoever attacks American privilege is a hero with the left. One can examine the speeches of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the winner of a recent New York congressional primary, for similar statements. According to The Intercept, Ocasio-Cortez has "spoken out on Israel's crimes against Palestinians" (Israel presumably being a sort of little brother of American imperialism). In her interview with The Intercept, Ocasio-Cortez stressed that ICE's actions of "separating families" and "turning away refugees" falls "squarely in the category of civil rights abuses," and this leads directly to her proposal to "Abolish ICE." Then there's her objection to the "entire" leadership of New York City and New York State, which, she claims, is "all white men" – not just "white men," but a "systemic concentration of power" by white men aligned with Wall Street. And it's not just "about race" and "misogyny," but about "wealth inequality." It's about "the kid in the South Bronx" who "gets thrown into Rikers prison" for jumping a turnstile. And what about "issues of abuse," especially those involving women, in Rikers, which lies within Ocasio-Cortez's district? (The answer: "shut it down.") What it comes down to, in Ocasio-Cortez's own words, is "to really transform our structures of racial and economic and social justice."
Scary stuff – but no scarier than what comes out of the Sanders or Pelosi camp. Once we listen to what they're saying and consider the implications – close Rikers and just let them go? – we realize that universalism is an invitation for our enemies, foreign and domestic, to rape, pillage, and kill.
Underlying so much of progressive politics is a demand for reparations, not just monetary, but also of a more vindictive form. Bring the rich down to our level. Let them experience what we've experienced. Subject them to the same abuse and violence that we, the underclass, have endured. Make them suffer.
That would be the effect of abolishing ICE, closing the prisons, and eliminating wealth inequality. The effect on a global basis would be even greater. Bring America down to the level of El Salvador? That idea seems perfectly reasonable to the liberal obsessing over the fake news photo of little Yanela Denise, "separated" from her mother. If we are no better than little Yanela Denise, then we should be brought down, or she should be raised up.
That argument is false. There are millions of regrettable situations that, nonetheless, do not require us "to really transform our structures." In reality, were we to transform our structures in the way that Obama and Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez speak of doing, we would simply create millions of other regrettable situations (Bloomberg waitressing instead of Ocasio-Cortez) that would require a new round of radical transformation, and so on. Were we to raise every poor country to our level, we would lower our level beneath that of every developed country and bring about our own destruction.
Leftists hate it when America is winning. They hate it when every American enjoys the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness because in that enjoyment, they see the suffering of those who do not enjoy such rights.
Ironically, now that working-class wages in America are again increasing, the left is upset – because the gap between Americans, albeit working-class Americans, and others outside America is now increasing. Better to see wages stagnate and ship billions overseas, as they did under Obama.
The data are incontrovertible: the share of U.S. income expanded for the highest quintile under Obama (from 50.3% to 51.5% – 2010 to 2016), while the share for the lowest quintile declined for the same period (from 3.3% to 3.1%). The unemployment rate among black Americans declined by just 30%, while the white unemployment rate declined by 39.4%.
Remarkably, black unemployment has declined in just 18 months under President Trump (from 8.4 to 5.9%), almost 66% more than during Obama's entire eight years in office. The fact is that Obama's progressive administration didn't seem to care about the black unemployment rate – or about that of everyday Americans in general – because its members were too busy settling the score with "the rich" and with what they saw as American imperialism abroad. The deeply misguided Iran deal preoccupied Obama's thinking while 100 million Americans struggled to pay the bills. From the progressive point of view, those ordinary Americans didn't deserve anything better, because they were already better off than the world's poor.
It's crucial for conservatives to understand how far the tentacles of universalism extend and to see the potential consequences of positions like "abolish ICE." The left is not really concerned with immigrant children or those purportedly abused at Rikers. Its policies are not pro-immigrant, or pro-anything; they are the expression of a deep-seated hatred of America.
The abolish ICE movement is only one of tens of thousands of occasions on which the left has set itself against the interests of everyday Americans. If they had their way, many progressives would cheer the destruction of America. That is what underlies "abolish ICE" and the entire anti-Trump and anti-America hysteria now on display across the country.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).