We’re like a month away from this guy going full MAGA.
It’s going to be super awkward when he endorses Trump and then Bill Barr has him arrested him the next day for having spied on the Trump campaign.
“If you’re going to have a coherent, cohesive society, then everybody has to have some agreed-upon rules. And there are going to have to be some accommodations that everybody makes. And that includes the people who are newcomers. The question is, are those fair?” Obama said.
“Should we want to encourage newcomers to learn the language of the country that they’re moving to? Of course,” he continued. “Does that mean that they can never use their own language? No, of course it doesn’t mean that, but it’s not racist to say, ‘Ah, if you’re going to be here then you should learn the language of the country that you just arrived at because we need to have some sort of common language in which all of us can work, and learn and understand each other.
“It gets more sensitive, obviously, around religious issues. That becomes more challenging, and I don’t have simple solutions to all of that,” the former president said. “But, I guess what I think we have to do in order to push back against…what are clearly racist motives of some… we can’t label everybody who is disturbed by immigration as a racist.”
Watch the clip below from 37:00 to around 40:15 and you’ll find that he’s cagey about which forms of immigration anxiety he considers racist. He’s making a two-part argument. One: Clearly some demands made of immigrants, like learning the language, are fair and useful to the cause of assimilation. Two: Even ones that are unfair shouldn’t automatically be described as “racist” since that sort of accusatory language will alienate people who aren’t irretrievably opposed to immigration. If you want to make fencesitters comfortable with immigrants, screeching at them that they’re prejudiced for having any misgivings is apt to chase them into the opposing camp.
Although that’s pretty much the position of today’s Democratic Party and they did okay in the midterms.
Given his history, O is basically stuck defending some form of immigration enforcement in principle. Trump remembers:
“Obama separated the children, just so you understand. President Obama separated the children,” Trump said. “The cages that were shown, very inappropriate, they were built by President Obama and the Obama administration –not by Trump.”
“The press knows it, you know it, we all know it,” he said. “I’m the one that stopped it.”
Initial images of cages with children inside that spread on social media last year indeed were from the Obama administration. The photos, taken in 2014 by The Associated Press, were wrongly described as illustrating imprisonment under the Trump administration.
Obama’s cages were for unaccompanied minors, who arrived here without their parents via traffickers, but Trump’s right that those cages existed before he took office.
One of the most interesting political stories of the pre-primary season is Obama’s minor but obvious discomfort with some of the socialists who are ascendant within the party. I don’t think he objects to their goals but he’s urged them to pay more mind to the price tag of their policies, nudged them to ease off the accusations of racism in the immigration debate, and said stuff like this: “One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States … is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, ‘Uh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be,’ and then we start sometimes creating what’s called a ‘circular firing squad,’ where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues.” If the primaries are a choice between Bernie/AOC-style leftism and Biden-style liberalism, it looks like he’s lining up with the latter — for now. If Bernie wins, Obama will need to scramble for legacy reasons to reposition himself as the proto-socialist who made the socialist revolution possible. Which, er, won’t be hard.
Exit question: Do Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the “Squad” in the House agree with him that making certain demands of immigrants in the name of assimilation are fair? That’s the sort of question to which I think most progressives would respond, “Of course we support assimilation, idiot,” but when you tried to pin them down on what policies they’d support to encourage that goal you’d quickly find them opposed to most or all. Wouldn’t demanding that immigrants speak English be dismissed as a form of “cultural imperialism” or “Anglo-normativity” or whatever? Another way to look at the question is this: Why would anyone who supports open borders believe that pressure should be applied to immigrants to assimilate? A key reason for regulating immigration is to minimize cultural disruption by foreign populations and force new arrivals to start learning the native customs. Absorbing massive numbers of immigrants would reduce that pressure by allowing large groups to insulate themselves in the customs of their home countries. How do assimilation and open borders jibe?