As an Outsider Insider, I get to observe how Right-Wing and Left-Wing ideologies impact policy outcomes in the U.S. democratic process. This reminds me of an African proverb specifically from Kenya which says that “When two elephants fight, the grass suffers.” More often, it appears that irrational reasoning on the Right-Wing and Elitism on the Left-Wing of the aisle are at war. The battles they fight are demonstrated on a platter of extreme political ideology. Meanwhile, natural born American citizens and the immigrant community in the U.S. and around the world are being affected. History only proves that extreme voices usually result in legislative gridlocks if both political parties so choose to fight at polar opposites. In the U.S., it is usually the "Elephant" and the "Donkey" who fight supposedly on behalf of their constituencies. When these two Republican and Democratic ideologies clash over macro issues like terrorism, globalization or immigration, innocent families who are the beneficiaries of policy outcomes suffer. Once again, the reality is that both citizens and immigrants are more likely to be impacted in adverse ways. Just like we witnessed in the first 33 days of president Trump's administration after announcing his executive order on immigration.
How do these battles look like? Right-Wing ideology brands terrorism as emanating from a specific region by a specific group of people with a specific religious background. Folks from this side explain globalization as an economic failure of the 21st century. They treat immigration as a social threat to a specific identity. They look at these three variables as the macro symptoms of the problem. Meanwhile, Left-Wing ideology emphasizes the micro symptoms of the issue. Progressives tend to highlight civil rights, human rights violations, economic hardships, poor nutrition, drought, war, religious persecution, and global injustice as some of the reasons for the justification of social policy and humanitarian interventions. Over the last two decades or so, bipartisan thinking has become almost extinct. Unfortunately, policy recipients in the U.S. are getting more confused repeatedly-as to whether Capitol Hill still serves the needs of its aggregate citizens. They must wonder whether outcomes are designed to benefit the larger public interest or, its now a club-a rite of passage to tenure consolidation. Perhaps a path to a cool retirement package and a funding platform from powerful lobbyists.
On the conservative side, the language is rough and unapologetic. For instance, Right-Wing ideology tends to articulate the origins of one macro symptom, as radical Islamic terrorism. “Name it,” they say. Unfortunately, this label choice puts everyone else who may or may not be Muslim or terrorist in one basket as long as they come from a specific region, wear a turban or a dastar. Oftentimes, there is no consideration as to whether this fashion choice is cultural or religious. An over-generalization like this has wiped out whole families among whom the voiceless and the innocents belong.
The question becomes: “Is America at war with Islam or with the perpetrators of terrorism?” As a relief to the objective ears of many, it was incredibly refreshing when the new national security adviser, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, stated firmly that and I quote: “labels like radical Islamic terrorism are not helpful because terrorists are un-Islamic.” I hope that if we continue to hear this kind of rational voice, it could help curb some of the radical thinking of those who might wrongly profile others as radical. Diagnosing the right issue will most certainly result in the precise prescription and treatment.
Right-Wing ideology also condemns the very idea of globalization. In my last article, I highlighted the progeny of this kind of thinking. It ushered us into a new era of the Brexit. For the first time in the history of U.S. politics, it elevated a private business man to power. Donald Trump used a calculating campaign slogan: “…The forgotten voices will never be forgotten anymore.” As a communicator, I must confess, this line was catchy. It was timely even after what had happened to the European Union. It was effective for his intended audience. Some argue that it made the Hillary camp seem elitist. Almost oblivious of the hurting electorate from the very heart of America. The results surprised even many of the objective Media houses.
Immigration became another issue that attracted more attention. Right-Wing ideology looked at it from a different prism. An identity crisis ensued. “Who are all these people flocking into my country?” they asked. “They just want to kill us.” “Some come here and just depend on government handouts. I tell you, they suck the blood out of me.” “I worked all my life and nobody ever gave me any handouts.” “I am a law-abiding citizen. I pay my taxes. I do not want my tax dollars handed out to people I do not know.” They bring in cheap labor. For God’s sake, they don’t even want to learn our language…”
These among many are some of the various voices I hear from real American citizens. Some, genuinely concern and would seek a bipartisan solution. However, in part, others being influenced by Right-Wing ideology. To quote, the current president’s submission then-as candidate Trump:
“When Mexico is sending their people, they are not sending their best… they are bringing drugs, they are bringing crime, they are rapists and some, I assume are good people…Its coming from all over South and Latin America and its coming probably-probably, from the Middle East…”
Once again, whether this president meant what he said while on the campaign trail, or it was just a display of political theater, the claim resonated so well among his intended electorate. Even after the first 33 days post-inauguration, we are yet to determine at what point the president’s rhetoric might phase out his campaign trail themes.
On the other side of the ledger, Left-Wing ideology is branded too elitist. The language tends to be diplomatic. It highlights themes of justice, equality, equity and global cooperation. But it is dubbed as soft power. See, the fault has not been in the desired outcomes. Most policy recipients on this ideological quadrant wait patiently for those outcomes because they possess the right cause. But rather, the fault has always been in the choice of instruments Left-Wing progressives use to arrive at a specific intervention. For instance, Elitism is one of the biggest hindrance for the intended rationality and objective execution to solving what they see as the real problem. Although it might have served well during the Obama campaign season, Elitism was the Achilles’ heel that derailed his presidency. It contributed to the surprising outcomes of Hillary’s 2016 presidential bid as well. By elitism, I seek to highlight the progressive movement’s skill, intellect and rationale based approaches to solving problems which all mean well but sometimes backfire.
For over two centuries, progressives have always been in the vanguard of civil rights and human rights advocacy. There is evidence of mega campaigns and the advancement of social policy at many fronts. Progressives like to tackle big issues like the abolition of slavery, women suffrage, equal pay, equal rights, and other social services for all people. To some extent, results have changed the trajectory of many disenfranchised minorities regardless of their background, race, religion, social or sexual orientation.
Yet still, progressives sometimes stand a danger of being misconstrued as prescribing interventions for symptoms and falling short of diagnosing and treating the root causes. Their voice is branded as soft. Their execution tends to be profiled as weak. The notion of sitting down to reason with opposing voices to find common ground, is condemned as dangerous. Diplomacy is being shunned. For instance, The Iran deal is an example which labels Barrack Obama’s administration as lacking clout. As well, Obama’s executive order on immigration did not see the intended light of day in congress. All this, to the chagrin of many an expectant immigrant. Obamacare has been the topic of repeal and replace without even a concrete Healthcare alternative yet.
What does all this translate to? Those who depend on the left for liberal policy outcomes sometimes feel betrayed by the very people they hoped will bring in real change. For instance, overtime, the abolition of slavery does not quickly translate into real freedom. Obamacare works in some parts but ends up being expensive while being opposed by the Right-Wing drum beats of repeal and replace. Immigration becomes just another intellectual discussion among the elite. Most people hear the same political rhetoric: “Immigration is the very foundation of what the U.S. stands on…We are a nation of immigrants.” However, when it comes to structuring comprehensive immigration policy, results which should positively impact immigrant families are left wanting. We perhaps must not be surprised when it becomes another politicized issue.
It is always a field day for hardliners. They attack immigration as a Left-Wing strategy for expanding its electorate which, in of itself is an insult to the immigrant community. They loosely connect immigration to terrorism and despise diplomacy because finding comity in such circumstances takes its sweet time. “So hey, listen, you folks are trying to construct a deal with the enemy while the enemy is constructing a little bomb to blast his brains out along with my entire neighborhood.” “You are letting in thousands of illegal immigrants in my country.” “You are allowing in all these refugees to come into my country from regions that have vowed to kill us.” “We must never negotiate with the enemy. Let’s go bomb them first and while we are at it, we better take their oil too.” This is the language folks. It is out there fueled by ideological leadership. In addition, social media has done nothing less but to escalate the issue. I would like to think that the rationality of Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster and that of Secretary of Defense, James Mattis will come through. If used firmly, it could amplify the voice of reason at Capitol Hill by discouraging such loose talk.
In the meantime, while political actors engage in such extreme Left-Wing Right-Wing wars before U.S citizens and the rest of us as outsider-insiders, there is a group of people with no voice or power. This group depends on the outcomes of that very hardline position from the right, or that diplomatic action from the left. They include the blue collar white workers from the middle of America who sometimes feel forgotten. Refugee men and women, including the sick and hungry children whose parents do not have work permits or insurance coverage. The dreamers, and abused mothers from other countries. All these are some among many who are affected by decisions made from both Right-Wing and Left-Wing arguments. As well, legal immigrants who are waiting in line for their green cards or citizenship to come through are being affected by the same political fiasco.
From a small business owner, whose contractors might be immigrants to a large corporate institution like Google or Microsoft whose high value tech employees are immigrants-all these are impacted by ideological outcomes. Some hide in the shadows because they have no instruments of legality and are scared to declare their status. Some who are legal may not enjoy many of the U.S. inalienable rights like buying a house or accessing credit because they have no green cards. They now must wait patiently for an executive order to be approved hopefully, by a bipartisan congress. These days, this desired outcome is almost an illusion in the U.S.-a supposedly model democracy.
What is left to do for an immigrant? They pray hard for a miracle with blood, sweat and tears. Some begin to hope that their work permits or green cards will perhaps be issued to them by an act of God. They want to start participating fully like any other U.S. citizen or tax payer but the gridlock at Capitol Hill hinders this possibility. Many of them do not want to access food stamps or turn into criminals. It only becomes a slippery slope though. The waiting will sometimes test some of them and their legal and ethical resolve to be law abiding residents. Some get caught and get deported while others become causalities of a faulty immigration policy.
There is a dehumanization factor in this whole process. It once again makes one group or race of people appear superior to another. This time not nationally, but globally. At least, the short run outcomes if not in the long run are lose-lose for both parties involved. Embarrassment and “uncouth diplomacy” at most, if such a mix exists even. An example of this is the recent Immigration Executive Order. It was dubbed as a temporary travel ban or halt on visas given to a group of people from a certain region. While the current administration insisted otherwise, many interpreted the executive order as a ban on Muslims, or a group of people from a specific region. When this was happening in real time, those who had legal work visas or Green cards were inconvenienced at several airports as well. Some people’s visas were revoked because they originally come from the 7 countries identified in the travel ban. The irony in all this is that when structuring policy whose outcomes are intended to advance U.S. security and prosperity, negative externalities become part of the progeny.
The other day I was listening to NPR reporting about the negative impact of the sweeping executive order on several American businesses. A travel business in Chicago which depends on international travel halted their global travels because of the fear of the unknown. They were not sure if they traveled, they would be welcome in those countries they conducted business with. This hesitance induced by the executive order resulted in their loss of international business earnings. This only proves that there is a direct relationship between Immigration policy and business travel.
Another way to look at this is to consider the U.S. born business person or U.S. institution like Google or Microsoft. This individual or institution may depend on the Immigrant expatriate for high value consultancy such as IT or engineering. A U.S. born citizen may have a personal doctor who is also an immigrant. When this executive order was issued, it locked out several people who had traveled outside of the U.S in these categories. The results were loses on the part of the American business and the Healthcare sector as well. Here is the blatant news for all who are treating immigration as the big elephant in the room: A faulty immigration policy will affect not only the immigrants targeted but the very rhythm and soul of American business operations as well. At most, I see this as a lose-lose proposition which must not continue if America wants to lead.
So, as an outsider-insider, I look at the Right-Wing Left-Wing dichotomy as political football. Left-Wing ideology advocates for common grown and practical action plans for governing people. Yet this process takes long. Bureaucracy and political gridlock dilutes it’s intended outcomes. There is almost an anticlimax on the impact of these outcomes. Meanwhile, Right-Wing ideology unleashes hardliners who would enjoy this softness. They would practically find this as an opportunity to prolong the process. Other words commonly and liberally used in these scenarios include, filibuster, deny, delay, slow it down, cut, limit, etc. Practically what all this translates into in the words of Romney, former presidential candidate is,
“If they can’t find jobs here, they will deport themselves.”
That statement has an uncanny analogy to the one Maria Antoinette the wife of king Luis the 16th spewed out nonchalantly:
“If people don’t have bread, let them have cakes.”
History tells us that this political sarcasm among other factors sparked off the French revolution. The fall of the French Kingdom was inevitable. It culminated in the demise of their unpopular king and queen under the new leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte. In the context of the U.S., There could be a tipping point for the major political players and their constituencies. As they are busy politicizing issues instead of solving them quickly and decisively, China is rising. Even though this is a discussion for another day, isn’t that one of the big elephants in the room? And that is just one among many. Think about that for a moment.
In real time, immigrant communities will continue to suffer when the wrong argument from either aisle keep shaping the outcomes of stringent policies. When an irrational immigration enforcement is conducted resulting in mass deportation, travel bans or exclusions, real families are disrupted. Children are separated from their parents. Should the immigrant community surrender to the looming injustice that these U.S. citizen children do not have a right to their biological parents? But if some do not care about that as an unalienable right, they perhaps should start caring about the double edged outcomes which ended up being disastrous. As we observed in the last executive order, not only did it affect the targeted immigrant community but American businesses, and other institutions as well.
I then opine that without a firm rational voice or bipartisan action plan from the two political parties, there is a danger of diagnosing the symptoms of terrorism as a specific race of people, from a specific region, with a specific religious background. Meanwhile, the rise of Donald Trump and the Brexit is blamed by some on the failure of the elite. They never seriously considered the macro symptoms of the problem as the big elephant in the room. Some strongly argue that this oversight, denied Hillary the winning electoral vote. On the other hand, as an outsider-insider, I would like to propose that the intended outcomes of globalization were meant to solve a problem for a larger group of people. However, the way it was constructed and presented to the global stage disenfranchised a lot of people many of whom felt left out. Yet still, when powerful voices take the liberty to use loose language, a beautiful word like immigration supposedly a macro problem, gets tainted. It becomes synonymous with criminality.
Should irrationality from the Right-Wing be the ingredient for supporting arguments? No. But neither should elitism from the Left-Wing be the blind spot for the failure to administer the right diagnosis for a larger group of people. Because once again when elitism clashes with irrational reasoning, there is room for gridlocks and generalizations. In this case, as the donkey and the elephant fight, a U.S. law abiding immigrant family from a certain region and perhaps religious background is being profiled wrongly as a sleeper cell. Likewise, an immigrant comes to the U.S. to find greener pastures. He or she perhaps hopes that soon they will achieve all the instruments of citizenship. They are eager to participate in the social, economic, and political development of these United States they now call their home. Only to be dehumanized continuously as rapists, dependent on government food stumps, and an encroachment on the identity of another group of people.
There is a line I read a long time ago in literature class from the book “Animal Firm,” by George Orwell. It said that
“All men are equal but some men are more equal than others.”
I hope that America the beautiful is not choosing this erroneous argument in this 21st century. Because I will still reiterate my premise that the "Immigration story is a human story. It should never be dehumanized." Therefore as an immigrant, I do believe in the goodness of the United States of America. I do trust that this great nation still stands on the solid words of one of their founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." — The Declaration of Independence, July 4th.
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