Stephen Miller, Underpants Gnome

McCay Coppins has a story in the Atlantic that explains Stephen Miller’s influence over President Trump’s wildly unpopular immigration policies.

“But for Miller, it seems, all is going according to plan—another “constructive controversy” unfolding with great potential for enlightenment. His bet appears to be that voters will witness this showdown between Trump and his angry antagonists, and ultimately side with the president. It’s a theory that will be put to the test in November. In the meantime, the heart-rending orchestra on the border will play on.”

Stephen Miller’s “strategy”:

Step One: Trigger the libs

Step Two: ?

Step Three: Trump wins

He’s basically an underpants gnome.

What Miller fails to understand, largely because his knowledge of American political history is about as deep as mid-July puddle in Pheonix, is that while our system is bifurcated the people who comprise the coalitions within the two-party system are not monolithic.

Stephen Miller thinks that he can keep the GOP base engaged simply by doing things that anger liberals. The angrier the liberals get, the happier his base is. This is undoubtedly true for Miller’s fellow travelers in the know-nothing, hate-based alt-right. But the Republican party is more than a collection of Richard Spencer and Steve Bannon clones whose only ideological commitments are to hate non-whites and to melt the snowflakes. For conservatives with long-standing commitments to Christian morality, family-focused culture, support for international democracy, and free markets, Miller and Trump’s policies are a direct affront to everything they have championed in the past fifty years.

The “us” versus “them” that Miller believes in is a product of where he is from. Miller’s commitment to conservative ideology, so much as he has any, comes not from a deep understanding of the underlying philosophy or political theory, but from a contrarians vantage point. He exposes this in the profile Coppins wrote several months ago– his “ideological” reading is practically nothing. He considers talk-radio to be where he “learned” to be conservative. He thinks that winning in politics is making a spectacle and then mocking the angry response to it. Whether it was growing up in a liberal enclave in California, going to a college where liberal values and culture were ascendant, or getting his start in DC while liberals dominated the policy agenda, Stephen Miller has always confronted liberalism from a position of dominance. Trying to break that is all that matters to him.

Miller, unwittingly, has set a litmus test for conservative Christians with this forced separation policy. He is asking them directly to say who they stand with– Jesus or President Trump?

Conservative Christians seem flummoxed. Their religious leaders condemn this policy publically. Many came hard on the AG after Jeff Sessions foolishly brandished Romans 13 to defend the policy (pro-tip: never use the religious arguments slave owners manufactured to prop up their evil to try to convince people what you are doing now is morally ok). As Jentezen Franklin, a member of Trump’s evangelical council, said, “It’s a very dangerous route to go when you begin to take selections of scriptures and say, ‘The Bible was written to justify political standings. The Bible was never written as a political road map.'” This is a marked difference in how the same leaders responded to Trump’s abortive attempts to restrict immigration on religious grounds. However, leaders most closely aligned with Trump stop short of criticizing him. Some continue to carry his water. Some whine that it is unfair to blame Trump when Obama also used cages. Others have tried on his “if only the Democrats would work with Trump to fix this problem” (that Trump himself made) defense. They don’t want to rip children from their parents’ arms, but the law demands it!

None of these deflections seem to be working and the people making them, inside and outside the administration are being hammered for it. For good reason. Too many Team Trump members are on record talking about using forced separation as an immigration deterrent. Cheif of Staff John Kelley said so last March. King of the Underpants Gnomes, Steven Miller, said so THIS WEEKEND. Like the Muslim travel ban and his foolish firing of James Comey for the Russia investigation, Trump and his administration talk so often and so flippantly that when they go to obscure their reasoning in the face of blowback they are undone by their own ill-advised words.

This humanitarian crisis, intentionally created by Steven Miller to upset critics of the administration and to “deter” illegal immigration, is going to backfire on the cult of Trump. Evangelicals who claimed to hold their nose to vote for Trump by thinking of the (unborn) babies are having a hard time squaring the circle of that support with this action. After all, taking children– Christian children even– from their parents is hardly focusing on the family. The sales pitch is unconvincing. If it becomes untenable to defend Trump and his administration on the basis of “he might be a bad person but he is protecting our values” he is sunk. And so is the GOP.

Maybe Miller should have bothered with trying to figure out that step two before instituting a horrifying policy that does irreparable harm to families and children.

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