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Conservatism Donald Trump Politics Roger Kimball US Politics

Brexit, Trump’s wall, and the cynical inertia of the political class

In our democracies, politicians won’t do what people want

March 15, 2019

11:58 AM

15 March 2019

11:58 AM

I had lunch yesterday with a friend from London who brought grim tidings from Albion. Like me, he is an advocate of national sovereignty. He thinks the people of the United Kingdom ought to be allowed to govern themselves. So he, again like me, is an advocate for Brexit. He had no idea what was going to happen with Brexit.

Yesterday was a busy day. I also chatted with friends about the crisis at our southern border. All honest people acknowledge that there is a crisis, that thousands upon thousands of people, most without English and without skills, are pouring over the border. Until Donald Trump became president, even the Democrats, who not without reason regard that human tsunami as a wave of embryo Democratic voters, said that something need to be done to secure the border and enforce our immigration laws. Google either Obama or Clinton on the issue. You’ll find statements indistinguishable from what Donald Trump has proposed.

But where are we with these two popular — not to say populist — initiatives? More people in the UK voted for Brexit — some 17 million — than have voted for anything at any time in the country’s history. I was in London in June 2016 covering the vote. Apart from my small côterie of knuckle-dragging reactionary friends, everyone said the Remainers would win by a landslide. Their hysteria about what would happen should the Brexiteers win comically undercut their whistling-past-the-graveyard show of confidence, though. I think it was (former) Prime Minister David Cameron who warned of ‘economic Armageddon’ should the inconceivable somehow materialize. When the impossible happened and the people voted against their self-appointed guardians, the result was incredulity, first, followed by shock and a growing resolve to scuttle that decision by hook or by the crook of endless delays, capitulations, evasions, and bureaucratic dead ends. Has it worked?

Back by the Rio Grande, the people most affected are desperate for the wall to be built and for our immigration laws to be enforced. After pursuing other avenues and having been stymied, President Trump finally declared a national emergency to siphon funds from elsewhere to build the wall. The caterwauling over that would have been comical had it not been so obviously cynical. Between 2001 and 2013, various presidents have declared national emergencies 18 times and have diverted funds without Congressional appropriate to various projects. It’s different this time because it’s Trump.

I am not insensitive to the enormous potential for abuse baked into the 1976 legislation that authorizes the president to declare a national emergency and order action on that basis. I thought Sen. Ted Cruz had the best response to that.

  1. ‘We have crisis on our border. A heartbreaking emergency, which I’ve seen first-hand in Texas, over and over again. Countless human lives hurt or lost by drug traffickers, human traffickers, and unchecked illegal immigration.’
  2. ‘We need to build a wall. From the first day I ran for Senate, I’ve fought to build a wall.’
  3. ‘The Constitution matters. Profoundly…when President Obama violated the Constitution through executive amnesty, I led the fight against that lawless action. Unlike President Obama, here President Trump is acting pursuant to explicit statutory authority. The National Emergencies Act gives the President the authority to activate more than a hundred distinct emergency powers, including those he is exercising here.’

And here’s the kicker: ‘That statute is…over-broad. It invites abuse. Indeed, it is easy to imagine a future Democratic president using this statute to try to implement a radical, far-left agenda over the will of Congress and the American people. A President Warren could declare climate change a national emergency and try to suspend offshore drilling. A President Sanders could declare a national emergency in the Middle East and try to freeze the bank accounts of Americans who do business with Israel.’ Et cetera.

Donald Trump stands ready to veto the efforts of the Congress to prevent him from building the wall. At the same time, as Sen. Cruz noted, he stands ready to support a bill that would reform the law and guard against future abuse.

All things considered, a good result.

And across the pond? Basically chaos. Or maybe we’re seeing the forces of the status quo masquerading as the forces of chaos to ensure the perpetuation of their inertia. March 29 is a scant two weeks away. That is D-Day for Brexit. Jacob Rees-Mogg said yesterday that the bad idea of holding a second referendum has been defeated and is off the table. Maybe. I wonder whether, like the Lisbon Treaty — the instrument through which the EU in its current form was created — the people will be presented with referenda repeatedly until they vote the ‘right’ way.

There is all sorts of feigned panic about the consequences of a ‘hard Brexit,’ which is really just a pleonasm for ‘Brexit.’ Since the EU has not negotiated in good faith, I think the Brits should just say, ‘OK, fine, on March 29, we leave. We’re out of the customs union, we no longer recognize your efforts to run our trade policy, and Parliament is once again in charge of our laws.We let in whom we want, we deport whom we want, and we govern ourselves. As for trading, excuse us while we take calls from Donald Trump, some eager people in Canada, Australia, and elsewhere. Finally, we’re keeping that £39 billion you were tying to extort from us.’

Is that how it will go down? Ask yourself this: who is the Prime Minister of Great Britain. There’s your answer. It’s no, the will of the people be damned.


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