Style vs. Substance

This is bound to be unpopular, and I’ll start by admitting that I don’t have any answers.

Deportation.  The past few weeks have been ugly when it comes to the question of immigrants, visa holders, and brown folk trying to move forward with any plans that involve the United States of America.  Racial profiling is the obvious means for seeking out immigrants.  You might miss some Aryan specimens here illegally, but the bulk of the people leaving home these days aren’t escaping a famine in Ireland.  The trouble is in Somalia or Syria or el Salvador.  And most of the people from Somalia or Syria, or el Salvador aren’t blond and blue-eyed.

As a country, we’ve proven that we can’t be trusted to make good decisions based on the color of someone’s skin.  I’m not for it.

And yet.  Deportations aren’t new.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were deporting people under Obama, and as far as I know, the process hasn’t changed that much.  Nogales, Mexico sees a lot of the deported and what happens when ICE pushes someone across the border isn’t pretty.  Nogales is full of people seeking to exploit the vulnerable, and the recently-deported are vulnerable.  Women and children delivered to human traffickers, men with no options and plenty of reason to embark in some dubious scam to get quick money to finance a return home, whether north or south of the border.  The story doesn’t end well.  It didn’t end well under Obama either.

Yet few showed up at the airports, even fewer took to the streets.  For the deported, there can’t be that much difference in the experience of deportation from one President to the other.  But what has changed?

Style.  Obama did it without openly demonizing brown people.  He did it quietly, with no fanfare.  One wonders if he had glorified his deportations more, had more aggressive rhetoric, insisted that we use ACA instead of Obamacare to refer to a law that helped millions…  would those disaffected bubble-dwellers in rural white enclaves have loved him better?   (If you can spend a whole day and only interact with people who look like you, go to your church, and watch the same TV shows as you, you are living in a bubble.)

But I digress.

Drones.  Raids.  Civilians killed.  ISIS.  Guantanamo.  Poverty.  Hunger.  Water.  DAPL.  Lobbyists.  Wall Street.

Obama put a measured, careful face on all of the above.  And I’m not categorically attacking or defending that list.  Life is muddy and complicated.  Global politics don’t have much to offer purists or ideologues.  Reality intrudes.

The left complains that Obama didn’t do enough on one hand, and too much on the other.  He already expanded Presidential power in a way that is terrifying if you don’t trust the President.

Just ask Fox news.

If you agree with the man in the oval office, the Presidential powers aren’t expansive enough.

Just ask Fox news.

Here is the problem.  The rational among us need to take ownership of our tribalism and quit with the positioning that these things are only okay if we are doing them.  The standard must be that we aren’t going to do what we would be outraged if our opponents did.  Power grab in North Carolina.  Gerrymandering.  Muzzling free speech.  We must not carry on with positions that depend on style, not substance.

Don’t get me wrong.  45 is terrifying in both style and substance.  And style does matter.  How you shake hands with a foreign leader matters.  Decorum matters.  Appearing to take things seriously matters.

But it isn’t more important than substance.  In substance, we must believe what we believe, even when those principles deliver results we aren’t fond of.  This goes across the board.  If private e-mail servers are disqualifying for one side, then disqualify everyone who uses one.  If botched military action justifies years and years of expensive hearings, then every botched military action should be treated the same.  If connections to Wall Street are distasteful, then anyone who has connections to Wall Street should be held to the same standard.

Across the board, just don’t let style blind you to substance.  The left liked Obama’s style, and he spent 8 years relatively untroubled by backlash from the left.  Progressives don’t like Trump’s style, and the protests follow.  Trump’s die-hard voters love his style, and are blinded to the ways that he is covering for Republicans seeking to destroy every program that makes life better for a white man with no college degree.

Watch the substance.

Style vs. Substance