Fear can’t win Iowa

EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK

BY ART CULLEN

President Trump has declared that immigration and a border wall will be the centerpiece of his 2020 re-election campaign, promising us nearly two years of misery.

He shut down the government over his demand for $5 billion for the wall, although the billions already appropriated haven’t been spent. He has stepped up persecution of refugees properly seeking legal asylum at points of entry. When a couple children die while in Border Patrol custody, the head of the Department of Homeland Security says they are bringing disease with them. Rep. Steve King referred to immigrants as dirt.

This is not going to let up.

There will be no resolution to the limbo of Dreamers — children brought to the United States by their undocumented parents. You can’t negotiate border security v. Dreamers with Trump because he lies, has the attention span of a water bug and can’t let go of a leverage point.

Speaker Pelosi may control the House, but she does not control the fear-mongering Freedom Caucus of 30-some House Republicans who have sway over Tweeter in chief. They are among the only people he fears. A reasonable resolution of our immigration problems does not serve their interests.

Families will be chained. Petitions will be filed, and federal judges will rule, and the Border Patrol will let people die to prove a point.

You could wish Our Lady of Guadalupe would somehow swoop in and smite them all. She remains the only protector, in that she promises relief and justice somewhere sometime, and makes the thirsty think, “Death, where is thy sting?”

When that is the best hope, that death overcomes this bondage, you wonder what liberties we are maintaining.

We have been herding and ethnically cleansing indigenous people since the Ioway roamed the Raccoon River valley. It has always worked. We create a “them” to fight, who endanger our security and raid our larder and diminish the claim we stole from them.

Yet the images tend to gnaw at people who know better, which is most of us. In Storm Lake, we have come to understand what our neighbors have been through and appreciate that they are here, buoying a rural community that otherwise would wither with the rest. But the main narrative is that refugees somehow erode at what Storm Lake or Iowa is, when in fact they affirm the American immigration story. Just what are we about?

So it is good to have that debate full-out.

Republicans are embarrassed by King and Trump. We hear talk of the state GOP power apparatus looking to fund a primary challenge to King. They should consult Rick Bertrand of Sioux City, who managed about 20% support in his primary. And, they should consider that the leader of their party, the President, is in lockstep with King. How can you reject King and wave a banner for Trump?

King will be out there, and so will the three-fourths of Iowans who want to see a pathway to citizenship for the strangers among us.

That’s bad arithmetic for a congressman who cleared JD Scholten by three points.

In the heart of King Kountry of Northwest Iowa, dairy farmers are finding that immigrants are handy help at cleaning time. Their consciences cringe just a little when King slanders Mexican teens. They would like a more orderly system, too. Secretly, they might cast a vote for Scholten. Or they might not vote for King and Trump.

Immigration hence will color the Democratic presidential debate that is underway in Iowa. They should approach it as a human rights campaign, because that’s what it has become. People are dying at the border because we are changing the rules. Their hope: that they could land a job scooping manure in Amarillo or throwing turkeys onto a truck in the sleet near Linn Grove. Those who make it live in constant fear, even if they have legitimate papers.

There are many people of good will in Washington working on a solution. There cannot be one until this politics of hate is put down, again, as Americans have put it down before. It will get worse before it gets better. This campaign will be among the worst we have seen because the President has determined it is the best way to keep the nation divided.

It won’t work.

The stock market is telling him to back off. The midterm elections told him to back off. People in Denison, Storm Lake and Marshalltown are getting along fine. They don’t like the uncertainty anymore than Wall Street does. We all know that the problem is in Latin American poverty and our own demand for drugs, and in the fact that nobody wants to scoop manure for $10 per hour anymore except for the undocumented. So let’s have that debate and vote on it, and let the Democrats answer him with a fuller throat than Hillary Clinton could clear. This is liberty and humanity versus fear and intolerance. Trump loses. Bigly.