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The Republican 'Split' on Accepting Refugees Is Between 'No Afghans' and 'Very Few Afghans'

·6-min read
Photo credit: Kent Nishimura - Getty Images
Photo credit: Kent Nishimura - Getty Images

Sometimes, the delicacy of elite political reporting is a wonder to behold, like one of those Disney hippos dancing the ballet. Take, for example, this pas de derp from Tiger Beat on the Potomac, in which the authors nimbly avoid the obvious conclusion that a good portion of the Republican Party is made up of maniac xenophobes.

The Donald Trump-inspired right flank of the party is veering toward an anti-refugee message with nativist undertones, warning that assistance to Afghans fleeing their nation's fall to the Taliban risks an influx of unvetted new arrivals. And the political oxygen that small but vocal number of Republicans consume is overshadowing colleagues with a more nuanced take on the impending refugee crisis.

Would you believe it? The “Donald Trump-inspired right flank” is “veering toward” some “nativist undertones.” Who could have anticipated such a strange development? I guess we can only hope that the right flank will oversteer and miss those nativist undertones. Or something.

It’s completely futile at this point to mention that, had this been the Democratic Party, the account likely would have carried a dramatically different tone. Dems In Disarray has been pundit heroin for so long that the dependency in certain quarters in permanent. However, the soft-pedaling of conditions in the Republican chronic ward, always a gross abdication of journalistic duty, now has grown to be a genuine threat to the political order. The “right flank” is now the entire Republican power structure. It “veered toward” political insanity decades ago, and it collided with it years ago. That is the state of play at the moment, and it is egregious malpractice to pretend that’s not the case.

Even the examples cited of this Republican “split” are a mug’s game.

“I have advocated that we should try and settle these individuals in other countries around Afghanistan that share their values and culture, especially if we can not ensure proper vetting,” freshman Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) tweeted last week in response to 75 Afghan refugees being resettled in his home state. He did not offer details on their status.

“This is nothing more than people’s attempt to try and silence me. I won’t be silenced,” Rosendale said. “It would be better for these folks to be settled in nations around them — Uzbekistan, Tajikistan — where they do share their culture where they do share the religion, and everybody involved would be happier.”

Here’s the other side:

Montana’s GOP senator, Steve Daines, disagreed with Rosendale and said recently that “these are refugees that love America … and it’s our duty to ensure that they are allowed a way to get away from the Taliban…It’s fully vetted refugees that were instrumental in helping U.S. forces in Afghanistan,” Daines added in a brief interview on Tuesday. Indeed, Republicans like Daines have emphasized that Afghans who aided the U.S. war effort, and have therefore been thoroughly screened, should be welcomed in the U.S. — in stark contrast to Rosendale and others in the GOP who have long opposed refugee resettlement.

There is a non-miniscule loophole in the phrase “fully vetted” that Daines is finding very useful here. The “split” is between No Afghans and Very Few Afghans. Gee, we’re lucky that a fistfight hasn’t broken out.

Elsewhere in the news, hailing from the trackless wasteland of bipartisan cooperation, once-nearly-promising talks in the Senate on police reform that had their birth in the activism surrounding the police murder of George Floyd have collapsed without an agreement of any kind. From the Wall Street Journal (via MarketWatch):

The negotiations, which began early this year, were led by Messrs. Booker and Scott and Rep. Karen Bass (D., Calif.). A previous effort to pass policing rules had ended in partisan acrimony before the 2020 election, but the trio, comprising three of the most prominent Black lawmakers in Congress, had been optimistic they could come to a compromise this year by focusing on areas of agreement between the two parties.

As talks progressed, however, the lawmakers were unable to resolve differences over how police officers should be prosecuted and held liable, including whether to change or eliminate a legal doctrine known as qualified immunity that shields officers from lawsuits. Democrats favored more sweeping changes, while Republicans sought more incremental moves. Even the areas they broadly agreed on—such as limiting the transfer of military equipment to local departments and the use of no-knock warrants—ran into opposition when language was drafted, according to people familiar with the matter.

Qualified immunity reform was the reforma di tutti reforme of the talks, and everybody knew going in that it was going to be the toughest sell of all. But the completely blasé way that Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd evinced a deep and abiding confidence that he never would be in legal jeopardy for “doing his job.” That confidence has to be broken, and reforming qualified immunity is the only way to do that. And then there's the country’s police unions, whose opposition helped blow up the negotiations this week, and there’s little doubt behind which party they've lined up. As negotiator Rep. Karen Bass said, via NPR:

In a statement, Bass said that Democrats "accepted significant compromises, knowing that they would be a tough sell to our community," but added that "every time, more was demanded to the point that there would be no progress made in the bill that we were left discussing.”

Disappointingly, Republican Senator Tim Scott responded with a nice piece of red herring:

But Scott, the lead Republican negotiator, said that Democrats had walked away from negotiations and rejected his offer to introduce a bill that included ideas that Democrats and Republicans agreed on. In a separate statement, Scott said that Democrats "could not let go of their push to defund our law enforcement…Crime will continue to increase while safety decreases, and more officers are going to walk away from the force because my negotiating partners walked away from the table," Scott said.

No serious Democratic politician, and certainly none of the Democrats who were negotiating these particular proposals, is in favor of “defunding law enforcement.” Even if there were, “defunding law enforcement” has nothing to do with qualified immunity. You know what “defunds” law enforcement, as well as virtually everything else in a city’s budget? Paying out massive judgments because your police officers killed another citizen. I think we should do a better job vetting them.

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