Over the last several years, progressives have become more and more steadfast in their opposition to a wall along the southern border of the United States. Some of this hardening can be attributed to a simple need on the part of Democratic politicians to project their alleged virtue to the voting public.
This virtue was on display when incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the following on December 6:
… most of us, speaking for myself, consider the wall immoral, ineffective, expensive, and the president said he promised it. He also promised Mexico would pay for it. So, even if they did, it’s immoral still …
We have a responsibility, all of us, to secure our borders – north, south, and coming in by plane … and that’s a responsibility we honor, but we do so by honoring our values as well.
Other Democratic politicians and progressive media figures share Pelosi’s view that a physical wall along the southern border of the United States is “immoral,” but that a secure border is a worthwhile pursuit. Let us set aside the debate concerning whether or not these public pronouncements are genuine, and focus on the pronouncements themselves.
How is a technologically secured border a moral endeavor, while a physically secured border is an immoral one?
To answer that question, one must first understand the practical difference between one and the other. While conservatives understand that a sufficiently advanced physical barrier would very likely impede or stop entirely the flow of illegal immigrants coming into the United states through Mexico, they know that a “technological” border, as proposed by Democrats and some Republicans, would be much less effective.
However, those proposing that the U.S. government secure the southern border by means other than a wall often claim that such a solution is just as effective as a physical barrier.
So, given the erroneous but oft repeated talking point that there is no difference, practically speaking, between a border wall and a border secured by technology and manpower, one must ask a critical question: Why would Democrats decry a wall as immoral while simultaneously calling for measures that would, according to them, accomplish the same objective?
The answer is deceptively simple – optics.
First and foremost, the Democrats must oppose President Trump at every turn, and the president’s most popular talking point on the campaign trail was the wall. If Democrats were to agree with Trump on one of his most controversial policy proposals, their status in the eyes of the Democratic base would be dealt a significant blow. One metaphorical handshake between resistance warriors and the devil himself would act as a political infection, subsequently weakening the rest of their brand.
Second, publicly combating Trump’s wall engenders sympathy among voters. With the help of a friendly media, Democratic politicians have cemented in the minds of many Americans the idea that the president is a cruel and racist individual, and that his proposed wall is an extension of that cruelty and racism. Therefore, opposing the wall is both virtuous and reasonable. Such traits are endearing, especially to voters who have been trained to believe that President Trump is a bigot whose every move is morally questionable.
The strategy of decrying the wall while simultaneously suggesting a solution that would ostensibly accomplish the same thing protects Democratic politicians from status degradation among their base and projects virtue to the rest of the voting public.
One wonders what Nancy Pelosi would say if someone asked her in a public forum to differentiate the purpose and practical impact of Trump’s physical wall and the otherwise “secure border” for which she and other Democratic politicians have called.