By Teresa Tomlinson | July 2018
Nationalism is not new: President Trump did not create it, he just makes it sing. And, it sure has been embraced by Trump’s Georgia acolytes, Casey Cagle and Brian Kemp. Both Cagle and Kemp are in a July 24th run-off to determine which one will face the Democratic nominee, Stacey Abrams, for Georgia’s next Governor. Both continue to defend the Trump administration’s so-called “get tough” border policies, and each promises to send Georgia’s National Guard to help enforce those federal policies.
Nationalism is easy to tout and hard to implement. The Trump migrant family separation policy at our southern border is precisely what nationalism looks like when implemented.
To some, nationalistic tendencies are cute, even funny. Recent Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate commercials espousing rounding up “illegals” in a truck, or better yet a bus, and taking them back to the border “myself” were met with bemusement. It’s political entertainment. Political pundits probe how such might poll with Georgia voters in choosing a Republican nominee. Too few point out that the only way a guy in a truck driving around town could round up suspected “illegals” would be if he made assumptions about their citizenship status based on skin color.
Such nationalistic rhetoric is the addictive nectar of politics – the Pandora’s box of voter turnout tactics. Few conservative politicians can resist it. It’s risky business, however. The public seems to have a weak stomach for it when they have to witness it actually being enacted. When all that tough guy talk meets a real world family, even one with brown skin, voter’s tend to exhibit basic human empathy and compassion. Candidates with reckless political swagger suddenly look out of touch, mean-spirited and incapable of leadership.
You have to hand it to Cagle and Kemp, though, as they continue their steely eyed allegiance to Trump and his border tough talk in the face of caged children, isolated infants and cold-faced explanations of why certain mothers and fathers don’t deserve their children because they dared to attempt to save their lives from rank violence and despair. Cagle and Kemp remain steadfast in support of Trump’s border tactics, even as facts roll out that defy the purported basis for such extremism. We now know that:
- Less than .1% of detainees have gang affiliations;
- Less than 1% of detainees are traveling with children who are not their biological child;
- Hundreds if not thousands of children, including infants, brought to the U.S. for purposes of asylum are unlikely to ever be reunited with their parents because the parents have already been deported;
- Border apprehensions have decreased dramatically since the 1999-2000 timeframe when they were over 1.6 million apprehensions a year;
- Since 2009, border apprehensions have been 500,000 or less, and more recently have been less than 400,000;
- It costs $775 per day to detain a child separate from his/her parent, $256 per day to detain a family together, and just $25 per day to release families with an ankle monitor through the Obama era Intensive Supervision Alternate Program (“Catch and Release”), which had a 99.6% compliance rate before Trump canceled it.
The type of inhumanity we have seen at our border will not marinate well. This “zero tolerance” fiasco has a weight of history and a responsibility few can bear. It does not bode well for Georgia as a state or a people that the Republican candidates for our highest office are so unaware of, or desensitized to, what is going on at the border that they would contemplate how this nationalistic tactic could benefit them in the impending gubernatorial run-off match up.
Competitive political campaigns reveal the soul of a candidate. In the pursuit of political ambition, some will do remarkably imprudent, or even vile, things to win. They will scapegoat. They will resort to nationalism. The simple stress of a campaign will show you whether that candidate is worthy of a high-level leadership position.
In the face of what we all have witnessed at our southern border, we have to ask whether Cagle or Kemp can demonstrate an appreciation for the balance of governmental power with the humanity required to hold the job of governor. If they cannot, then regardless of which one makes it to the general election they have revealed to the Georgia voter all we need to know in November.