Mark Steyn Gets One Wrong

July 10, 2015

I don’t think there’s any doubt I’m a big fan of Mark Steyn.  I would never mock Mark (though I would love to be a mock Mark).  Given his T-shirt design, you might even call me a Mark St’ist.

But I have to disagree with him today.  I think Steyn’s piece about Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders makes good points, but he almost says that Trump is the only one who has raised actual policy issues in the campaigns so far:

But here’s the funny and consequential thing. Trump is supposed to be the narcissist blowhard celebrity candidate: He’s a guy famous for erecting aesthetically revolting buildings with his “brand” plastered all over them, for arm-candy brides, for beauty contests and reality shows. The other fellows are sober, serious senators and governors.

And yet Trump is the only one who’s introduced an issue into this otherwise torpid campaign — and the most important issue of all, I would argue, in that ultimately it’s one of national survival. And so the same media that dismiss Trump as an empty reality-show vanity candidate is now denouncing him for bringing up the only real policy question in the race so far.

I think that’s pretty unfair to candidates like Scott Walker, who have taken real political risks to raise substantive policy questions.  Scott Walker has argued that America’s immigration policy should be in America’s national interest (“The next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages.”)—and has actually called for reducing the amount of legal immigration, a politically courageous proposal given that it has apparently been “absent from presidential politics for at least 20 years”—and has succeeded in getting people who don’t agree with him talking about the issue.  (Meanwhile Trump, by the way, is keeping a pathway open for a pathway to citizenship—i.e., amnesty.)

If Trump’s comment has generated relatively more discussion in the media than Walker’s proposal, well, that could be because Trump has a more sensational, clickbait way with words, and the media love opportunities to make the person the issue (rather than the policy) and paint Republicans as heartless or hateful.  That makes Trump less useful for starting conversations about serious issues, not more.

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