George Will’s Criticism of Trump and Trump’s Supporters is Reckless and Over the Top
Preserving America’s borders isn’t “ethnic cleansing," and Trump supporters aren't fascists.
I have been up front in my assessments of candidate Donald Trump. I don’t like his public persona, or the way he degrades political debate with “gotcha” quotes, goofball zingers and schoolyard taunts. I don’t agree with his tax plan, don’t trust his pro-life “conversion,” and don’t see that he has a foreign policy in any shape or form. On all those issues, he is open to hard-hitting criticism. Likewise, on immigration, his rhetoric overreaches and creates needless division. Given that just three short years ago, Donald Trump favored amnesty and called Mitt Romney “maniacal” for wanting to cut off public benefits to illegal immigrants, I’m not even sure that I trust Trump as an immigration reformer, either. Certainly, his credentials are weaker than Ted Cruz’s.
But there is no excuse for demonizing Mr. Trump and his millions of supporters by accusing them of planning a genocide — which is precisely what George Will did in a recent column. Since Will casts himself as a bookish, even wonkish intellectual, that might seem hard to believe. But read Will’s words for yourself:
[Trump] proposes turning America into a police state in order to facilitate ethnic cleansing. When asked whether the forced deportation of 11 million illegal immigrants — almost as many people as passed through Ellis Island in 60 years — might take five or even ten years, Trump scoffed: “Really good management” will get this done in at most two years. To meet a two-year deadline, his “management” wizardry will have to quickly produce a network of informers to assist at least 100,000 new law enforcement officers equipped with battering rams and bloodhounds.
There’s a word for this kind of language: Slander. That’s the old legal term for a conscious lie, maliciously spread in public in order to damage someone’s good name. The biblical term is “false witness,” and a full 10 percent of the Commandments were devoted to forbidding it.
U.S. immigration laws have been strictly enforced in the past. Was Eisenhower’s America a “police state”? Are citizens who report a crime — such as an employer exploiting illegal workers—“informants” whom we should despise?
Will’s most reckless and hateful charge is “ethnic cleansing,” a term that refers to the forced, violent removal of people from their own country because of their nationality, religion, or race. The Nazis committed ethnic cleansing. So did the Bosnian Serbs. Today ISIS is committing it against Assyrian Christians and Yezidis in Iraq. My 2014 book, The Race to Save Our Century (with Jason Jones), went into great historical detail about ethnic cleansing and what motivates it. Today I work with Assyrian Christians whose friends and families fled Iraq a few steps ahead of ISIS’s killing squads. To compare their situation with that of illegal immigrants in America is simply shameful.
Will accuses millions of Americans, without evidence, of wallowing in genocidal fantasies when they wish to enforce America’s binding, democratically enacted immigration laws. I don’t agree with Mr. Trump that a large-scale deportation of illegal immigrants would be wise or even feasible. I think it would be a huge political and economic mistake. But a crime against humanity? George Will must be fuming with impotent rage, for him to so crassly play the “Hitler card” against his fellow Americans and Republicans.
In fact, it is the George Wills of this world who have rolled out the red carpet for the likes of Donald Trump. When it suits them, these conservative mandarins will cite thinkers such as Russell Kirk, who emphasize that culture is more important than economic efficiency or even military strength to the survival of ordered liberty in any country. (And that much is true.) When insurgents with principled goals such as the Tea Party or the pro-life movement press hard against the status quo, the mandarins will dip into Edmund Burke, and warn of the need for slow, incremental change. (A reasonable point, if often abused.)
But what could be more culturally disruptive and risky, from Russell Kirk’s point of view, than admitting legally or illegally some two million people each year into America, most of them from poor, disorderly countries with no heritage of political freedom?
What could be less prudent and Burkean than embracing massive, irreversible demographic change, on the risky bet that just shopping in American malls and yawning in our crumbling public schools will teach Mexicans to embrace small, honest government and Saudis to shun sharia?
The West is currently enduring an immigration crisis, as Turkey refuses to house its fellow Muslims from Syria, and passes them on to Europe as economic migrants and religious colonizers eligible for cradle-to-grave welfare benefits. Millions of Muslim Africans are leaving poor but peaceful countries in the hope of sailing to “refugee” status and similar benefits. America has the highest percentage of foreign-born residents in a hundred years. It’s not nativist for Europeans to worry about their ability to absorb and assimilate these populations, especially since they know that many of them harbor hostile and anti-Western views.
Unlike the America of 1915, we do not have exploding industries and empty farmland waiting for millions of unskilled immigrants like my grandfather, Patric Zmirak, who crossed the Atlantic 101 years ago to shovel coal on a tugboat in New York harbor. We do not have the sink-or-swim economy of 1915, which led millions of immigrants who couldn’t find good jobs to go back home to Europe. Instead we have a bloated but overburdened welfare state, that traps the native poor in a cycle of dependency, paying them not much less to avoid work than entry level jobs would offer them to do it.
So it is not irrational or racist to fear for our country’s future. Oddly enough, when poorly-informed but righteously angry Americans express their support for Donald Trump, their motives are probably purer than George Will’s were when he smeared them with Nazi scorn. He surely knows better.