Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump make the case for abolishing borders

On one issue, at least, Donald Trump can claim an ally in Hillary Clinton. Clinton told the Guardian she “think[s] Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame [of right-wing (authoritarian) populism].”[1] Here’s Donald Trump spewing word-vomit in July:

“Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame,” Trump said. “I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way.

“So I think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad,” he continued. “I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago.”[2]


To be sure, there are differences: Clinton praised Angela Merkel’s politically costly efforts to welcome refugees to Germany.[3] As Philip Bump correctly notes, Trump cited a dubious threat to “European” culture.[4]

But while Clinton appeals to praiseworthy values, she ends up in the same place as Trump: They both say Europe needs to get a handle on migration; neither meaningfully seeks to address the push factors that propel that migration. Both tell Europeans what they “Americans” think Europeans need to do about the problem. As if European politicians weren’t at least as capable of being asinine as their U.S. counterparts.

There are at least three points to be made here: First, Clinton’s remarks follow in a long line of Democratic Party “pragmatic” capitulations that culminate in embracing and extending even the most repugnant policies. I recall how Democrats were elected to control of both houses of Congress in 2006, with a mandate to get us the fuck out of Iraq, only to continue to support George W. Bush’s war. And I remember, all too well, Barack Obama’s decision not only not to prosecute the banking fraudsters who precipitated the 2008 financial crisis or the Bush administration’s war crimes, but to preserve neoliberal and neoconservative policies. Bush, at least, left office with only two wars in progress. Obama left us with many more.

Second, both Clinton and Trump essentially privilege the views of people within borders over the human rights of refugees coming from outside. Clinton, at least, should know better: Majorities cannot be trusted to protect minorities, which is why we need human rights. Refugees brave many dangers to migrate because they face such great danger where they come from; their situation is and deserves to be treated as an emergency, which trumps the “pragmatic” concerns of “the politics of the possible.”

Third, both Clinton and Trump make it harder to argue that borders exist for any other purpose than to deny human beings on one side of an arbitrary line rights and privileges available to human beings on the other.[6] Bump effectively rubbishes Trump’s claim of protecting European culture and we can more than reasonably say the same of Trump’s claims to be protecting the U.S. from caravans of refugees fleeing incredible violence and intolerable poverty (both at least partly consequences of U.S. policy[7]). He writes, “That argument — that immigration changes existing ‘culture’ for the worse — is a staple of white nationalist [paleoconservative] rhetoric in the United States.”[8] I would now suggest that the mere existence of borders is, in effect, a violation of human rights.

  1. [1]Patrick Wintour, “Hillary Clinton: Europe must curb immigration to stop rightwing populists,” Guardian, November 22, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/22/hillary-clinton-europe-must-curb-immigration-stop-populists-trump-brexit
  2. [2]Philip Bump, “Trump’s comments on European immigration mirror white nationalist rhetoric,” Washington Post, July 13, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/07/13/trumps-comments-on-european-immigration-mirror-white-nationalist-rhetoric/
  3. [3]Patrick Wintour, “Hillary Clinton: Europe must curb immigration to stop rightwing populists,” Guardian, November 22, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/22/hillary-clinton-europe-must-curb-immigration-stop-populists-trump-brexit
  4. [4]Philip Bump, “Trump’s comments on European immigration mirror white nationalist rhetoric,” Washington Post, July 13, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/07/13/trumps-comments-on-european-immigration-mirror-white-nationalist-rhetoric/
  5. [5]Richard Morrey, [microblog post], Twitter, November 22, 2018, https://twitter.com/iguanaandy/status/1065616145460457473
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Humans Without Borders: A Paradox,” October 15, 2013, https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/journal/2013/10/15/humans-without-borders-paradox
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  8. [8]Philip Bump, “Trump’s comments on European immigration mirror white nationalist rhetoric,” Washington Post, July 13, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/07/13/trumps-comments-on-european-immigration-mirror-white-nationalist-rhetoric/

Author: benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

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