Manufacturing Dissent Since 1996
New interviews throughout the week

Moment of Truth: David Frum’s Common Sense Is Neither.

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

When I first saw David Frum, I said to myself, Damn, that guy’s ugly. Then I heard the bs that came out of his slobbering maw and said, aloud, “Uch, shut up.” Frum is one of those conservatives who fancies himself fair-minded, so he sporadically takes some positions which those defining conservatism at any given time call “liberal.” It’s like being a light-drinking alcoholic.

Last week, as current editor of the Atlantic, Frum took his ersatz common sense and applied it to what I’m going to call “the immigration question.” On the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, I do indeed intend the phrase to echo “the Jewish question” which was posed by a certain common-sense party in Europe in the 30s and 40s. I don’t mean to call Frum a Nazi, but to aver that there is an unflattering comparison to be made between the way Jews were considered a problem back then and the way immigrants are being considered a problem right now, and Frum’s discussion highlights just about all of its unflattering aspects.

To Frum, immigrants lower the national IQ, strain our social budget, and pollute what it means to be American. That is an oversimplification of his argument, but not a gross one. I want to state plainly that, in this case, I am a bigot. Even if the above statements were true, I wouldn’t consider them problems.

If we had to rescue millions of severely mentally handicapped children from extermination in, say, Europe, or, say, Uganda, or, say, Syria, the fact that they would bring down the national testing average would not be one of my concerns. The real issue Frum elides, however, is that, as a nation, we don’t commit resources to our public schools. In our cities, “common-sense” Republicans and Democrats alike are bailing on providing education to the public. With or without immigrants, this would be true. Neo-liberalism, or trickle-down economics, or the Washington Consensus, or whatever those with “common sense” want to call it, is doing its best to starve the public of resources, or outright steal the public’s resources, and all the “immigration question” does is offer these “common-sense” advocates of privatization and “market solutions” with another crisis they can use to bludgeon the public sphere into submission.

Frum warns of the strain allowing too many low-earning immigrants into our work force is going to put on Social Security and other entitlement programs. I’m sorry, that’s such a farcical assertion on Frum’s part I can barely bring myself to address it. The idea that the so-called “trust fund” of Social Security is being strained by anything other than those who have stolen from it is easily dismissed, and the same goes for Medicare and any other guarantee of public welfare. The notion that the savings systems behind these programs are “going bankrupt” is a delusion. If we cared even an iota as much about supplying medical care or housing for people as we do about giving trillions for our defense contractor friends to pocket, there would be no strain. I never hear that we’re putting too great a strain on our defense budget by investing in fighter jets that can’t fly or wars based on manufactured evidence. We don’t strain to fund that which we care about. Therefore, Frum would find Social Security a strain whether immigrants were factored in or not. It’s a matter of priorities. Whatever government function Frum holds as a low priority, he warns us it’s going to fare even worse if we let too many Mexican hillbillies into the country. That is, Frum will hold up immigration as yet another reason we can’t afford the amenities of a modern republic, amenities he has never supported.

My favorite assertion from Frum is that he’s been warning us about the rise of white nationalism since the 80s or something, if we don’t enact “common-sense” reforms of our immigration system. This is really his main thesis. As a light-drinking alcoholic, Frum can’t stomach the hard-core incompetence and outright fascism of the Donald Dump administration. So, until the GOP is no longer led by Donald Dump, he has no choice but to rely, at least rhetorically, on Democrats for “common sense.” He says something to the effect of, “If Good People won’t do something good about immigration, the Bad People will do something Bad about it.” And this is a global problem, he insists. And he’s right. Globally, the economic elite are forcing austerity on everyone else, causing us to compete for fewer and fewer resources due to artificial shortages, and rightwing parties of the kind Frum has, throughout his career, given periodic rhetorical support for, have used this enforced austerity to strengthen bigotry of the kind Frum believes we now have too much of.

Frum’s insistence that immigrants just aren’t suited to contribute to our national discussion on rights that are singularly American is true. A Catholic farmer from Mexico isn’t predisposed to fight for trans rights. A Syrian refugee might balk at voting for the rights of same-sex couples to marry. But then again, they’re not the main forces agitating against those rights. White people are. Thanks to the economics Frum takes as the tacit basis for all his arguments, the fascist right is rising. I’ve been warning Frum to stop pushing for an end to the public sphere. But he wouldn’t listen. And now we’ve got fascism knocking on the door.

The story goes that Frum was once reading Solzhenitsyn on a bus full of Democrats and they made fun of him or something. And from then on he vowed to disregard the left. If he’d been on a bus full of Republicans who’d made fun of him for reading Edward Said things would have gone in another direction. Instead of defecting to the ostensible center from the right, Frum would have done so from the left, perhaps. I mean, seeing as he’s so fair-minded and full of common sense, it was probably his destiny to champion answers to “the immigration question.”

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

Moment of Truth


Share Tweet Send