Our Big, Fat, Beautiful Dog Whistle

For months now, Donald Trump’s “Overton Window” has been moving in a radical direction. He went from denouncing illegal-immigrant criminals—low-hanging fruit, which amounts to an anecdotal understanding of the demographic transformation across (formerly) European countries—to waxing existential about the American nation in his campaign’s immigration statement and declaring “they must go!”

Then come comments about a “Big, Fat, Beautiful, Open Door” for legal immigrants, and The Donald seems to be floating towards Cuckservatism. . .

We could go into how both legal immigration (as it’s currently constituted) and illegal immigration are part of the same evil trend. Should we really care if migrants filled out the paperwork correctly and took a stupid civil test? Illegal immigration is, in fact, far better than legal, as it does not grant citizenship. And the good thing about the “illegals” is that they often go back.

But the fact is, Trump—for all his bluster about going to the greatest schools and getting the greatest grades—most likely has never thought through the meanings of race and nationalism with a great deal of seriousness. (Among his generation, he is hardly alone.)

Tutoring politicians is the primary role of a political vanguard, which should never blindly support or endorse any politician, like so many conservatives get excited about “their man.” The vangaurd, to the contrary, pushes all of them, all of political culture, into radical directions . . . against the will of established powers and into directions the participants may not fully understand.

Looking at the question from another perspective, Trump is expressing the deeply symbolic nature of the immigration issue. By “symbolic,” I don’t mean that immigration is not a real issue with palpable and often immediate effects. What I mean is that when we talk about immigration, we’re really talking about something else.

Concern over “illegal” immigration really means concern over White displacement by Hispanics and other non-Whites. In other words, when a conservative says “illegal immigrant,” he or she is thinking of a dangerous Mexican gang member. Support for “legal” immigration, on the other hand, means that people have a hard time actively opposing the immigration of smart White people (and, to a less extent, Asians). When people talk about how great legal immigration is, they are imagining a Norwegian PhD in biochemistry. Leftists are thus entirely correct when they claim that the immigration debate is filled with racial “dog whistles.”

Two years ago, Trump sounded some of these when he mentioned his desire to increase European immigration. (He was quickly scolded for it by a watchful Republican.)

“Nobody wants to say it, but I have many friends from Europe, they want to come in,” Trump said. “Tremendous people, hard-working people. They can't come in. I know people whose sons went to Harvard, top of their class, went to the Wharton School of finance, great, great students. They happen to be a citizen of a foreign country. They learn, they take all of our knowledge, and they can't work in this country. We throw them out. We educate them, we make them really good, they go home -- they can't stay here -- so they work from their country and they work very effectively against this. How stupid is that?”

[Rep. Ruben] Hinojosa [(R-Tex.)] called Trump’s message “an ill-informed economic myth” with racial undertones.

Our job, to borrow the language of psychoanalysis, is to make what was once unconscious, conscious.