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Does Trump Have A Point About Immigration? (SPOILER: No.)

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John Judis has consistently occupied a weird place in the anti-anti Trump universe, dreaming that Trump will be the economic populist he wishes he was rather than the cross between Calvin Coolidge and George Wallace that he is. Today, he’s back with some arguments that immigration is the reason we can’t have nice things:

In all of these areas, Mr. Trump has harmed, not strengthened, our nation. Yet in the United States, the liberal opposition has generally failed to acknowledge what is valid in the today’s nationalist backlash. Many liberal pundits and political scientists continue to echo Hillary Clinton in characterizing Mr. Trump’s supporters in 2016 as deplorables. They denounce Mr. Trump’s tariffs without proposing any plausible means of counterbalancing the huge surpluses from China and Germany. They dismiss as a lost cause the attempt to revive the towns of the Midwest and South by reviving manufacturing. They rightly insist that the United States find a way to integrate and assimilate the country’s 12 million or more unauthorized immigrants, but they ignore the continuing flood of people without papers crossing the border or overstaying their visas and they dismiss attempts to change national priorities toward skilled immigrants.
Here is the simple truth: As long as corporations are free to roam the globe in search of lower wages and taxes, and as long as the United States opens its borders to millions of unskilled immigrants, liberals will not be able to create bountiful, equitable societies, where people are free from basic anxieties about obtaining health care, education and housing.

He’s been ignoring overwhelming evidence that racial resentment was critical to Trump’s rise before he was president and he ain’t stopping now. But as Ygelsias says, this kinder, gentler scapegoating of immigrants won’t fly:

But an unfortunately large set of progressive thinkers want to wrongly concede that nativist backlash politics is correct on the merits.

John Judis, author of the new book, The Nationalist Revival: Trade, Immigration, and the Revolt Against Globalization, pushes a version of this narrative in a New York Times op-ed titled “What The Left Misses About Nationalism.” Judis combines some appropriate criticisms of unrestricted international financial flows with the totally erroneous conclusion that the nativist backlash is in some fundamental sense predestined.

“As long as corporations are free to roam the globe in search of lower wages and taxes, and as long as the United States opens its borders to millions of unskilled immigrants,” Judis writes, “liberals will not able to create bountiful, equitable societies, where people are free from basic anxieties about obtaining health care, education and housing.”

This is flatly untrue. August Bebel wrote in the 19th century that “anti-semitism is the socialism of fools,” an irrational prejudice that many working-class Europeans substituted for an intellectually rigorous critique of capitalism. In the 21st century, anti-immigrant politics is the social democracy of fools.

Absolutely nothing about free trade or the presence of large numbers of immigrants in the United States prevents us from taxing the rich, expanding social services, or regulating the labor market. Those things are hard to do not because of immigrants but because of the political power of the political right — power that is only enhanced by going along with the myth that it’s immigrants’ fault.

Matt’s piece is worth reading in full. As is this:

One of the most puzzling elements of the 2016 election, at least for a lot of Americans, was the millions of voters who switched from voting for Barack Obama in 2012 to Donald Trump in 2016. Somewhere between 6.7 million and 9.2 million Americans switched this way; given that the 2016 election was decided by 40,000 votes, it’s fair to say that Obama-Trump switchers were one of the key reasons that Hillary Clinton lost.

The existence of those voters has served as evidence that the most plausible explanation for what happened in 2016 — that Trump’s campaign tapped into the racism of white Americans to win pivotal states — is wrong. “How could white Americans who voted for a black president in the past be racist,” or so the thinking goes.

“Clinton suffered her biggest losses in the places where Obama was strongest among white voters. It’s not a simple racism story,” the New York Times’s Nate Cohn wrote on the night of the election. This typically segues into an argument that Trump won by tapping into economic, rather than racial, anxiety — anger about trade and the decline of manufacturing, or the fallout from the 2008 Great Recession.

A new study shows that this response isn’t as powerful as it may seem. The study, from three political scientists from around the country, takes a statistical look at a large sample of Obama-Trump switchers. It finds that these voters tended to score highly on measures of racial hostility and xenophobia — and were not especially likely to be suffering economically.

“White voters with racially conservative or anti-immigrant attitudes switched votes to Trump at a higher rate than those with more liberal views on these issues,” the paper’s authors write. “We find little evidence that economic dislocation and marginality were significantly related to vote switching in 2016.”

This new paper fits with a sizeable slate of studies conducted over the past 18 months or so, most of which have come to the same conclusions: There is tremendous evidence that Trump voters were motivated by racial resentment (as well as hostile sexism), and very little evidence that economic stress had anything to do with it.

The whole “racism can’t be important anymore because Obama won Ohio” argument is about as convincing as John Roberts’s assertions that racism is pretty much over in Shelby County.

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