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How ‘Abolish ICE’ became the left’s new rallying cry

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
An immigration activist holds up a sign calling for the abolishment of ICE during a rally last Saturday outside the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

When state Rep. Ilhan Omar addressed the 5th Congressional District’s special convention on June 17, she had a handful of lines that sparked boisterous cheering and applause from the crowd of 200-some dedicated progressive activists assembled.

The one that got the most enthusiastic response? Probably Omar’s call to “abolish ICE,” the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Over the past month, increasingly aggressive immigration enforcement from President Donald Trump’s administration, including the policy of separating migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, has outraged Americans of different political stripes. ICE, the special police-like force chiefly responsible for arresting, detaining, and deporting undocumented immigrants, has become a public target of that outrage.

As the backlash against Trump’s actions on immigration reaches new territory, so too has the mainstream political discourse on the issue: the idea of abolishing ICE, considered fringe just a few months ago, has now become something of a political litmus test for progressives.

Aside from Omar, dozens of Democratic politicians around the country have picked up the “abolish ICE” banner in short order. Possible hopefuls for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are already being forced to navigate the question; New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, considered a likely candidate, was among the first national politicians to come out in favor of abolishing ICE.

As long as Republicans control the White House and Congress, getting rid of ICE is a virtually impossible goal. And even if Democrats were to take control of the House or Senate this fall, many top-ranking members of the party are opposed to getting rid of the agency.

But the rising popularity of doing away with ICE — and the debate over what, if anything, should replace it — is revealing much about how far some Democrats are willing to go to counter Trump’s immigration crackdown.

ICE aged

The calls to abolish ICE may be relatively new, but ICE itself is also a relatively new agency: it was established in 2003 as part of the Department of Homeland Security, which Congress voted to create in 2002 in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks.

The main federal agency for immigration before 9/11 was called the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or INS, which carried out the government’s most central immigration responsibilities, from administering ports of entry into the U.S. and protecting the border to granting citizenship and visas.

The creation of DHS, the first new cabinet-level agency in years, represented a significant reorganization of, and increase in, government resources toward the goal of fighting terrorism. That reorganization, however, put enforcement of federal immigration law — formerly in the purview of the Department of Justice, where the INS was located — under the banner of national security.

The tasks of the INS, broadly separated into enforcing immigration law and granting immigration-related benefits, were then distributed among three separate agencies within the DHS: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which would administer ports of entry and control borders, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which would process citizenship, green cards, and other benefits, and ICE.

ICE now has over 20,000 employees and is responsible for enforcing over 400 federal laws. But its main responsibility is to identify, arrest, detain, and deport undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. It does this on a massive scale: at any given moment, tens of thousands of people are detained at hundreds of ICE-affiliated facilities around the country. (ICE is the only federal law enforcement agency required by Congress to meet a quota: at least 34,000 detained migrants must fill ICE’s beds each night.)

Since its creation, ICE has also deported hundreds of thousands of people from the U.S. each year. In fiscal year 2004, it deported 241,000 people; in fiscal year 2013, it deported 435,000 people.

Arrests and deportations by ICE peaked under President Barack Obama, but tapered off in the last years of his administration. Trump’s ICE has become more aggressive in arresting suspected undocumented migrants, with officers carrying out raids on homes and workplaces around the U.S., from meatpacking plants to nurseries. During fiscal year 2017, covering the first nine months of Trump’s presidency, ICE deported 226,000 people and arrested 143,000, an increase of more than 40 percent over the same period in 2016.

In addition to administering some detention centers for migrants, ICE also runs three facilities for separated families, putting the agency under greater scrutiny as public outcry over the administration’s policy grows.

‘Lawless law enforcement’

Critics of ICE say that, under Trump, the agency has essentially become a militarized deportation task force whose mission has changed to not only enforce existing law, but to serve the administration’s politically-motivated crackdown on immigration.

Hiroshi Motomura, a professor of law at the University of California-Los Angeles, traces the state of ICE today to the 2003 reorganization that separated immigration benefits-giving from enforcement.

“I think it created a culture, ultimately, that emphasized enforcement exclusively within ICE, because that was their mission,” he said. “Under Trump, it’s taken another step not toward being enforcement, I’d actually say it’s moved toward lawless law enforcement.” He said that the administration has sent signals to ICE offices and agents to “go rogue by design.”

Indeed, the perceived changes have sparked dissent even within the ranks of the agency: last week, 19 ICE agents signed a letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen favoring the dissolution of the agency that employs them. They argued the administration’s aggressive posture on immigration has consumed ICE and made it harder for the agency to pursue its other objectives.

Though the left has criticized ICE for years, its role as the spear-tip of Trump’s immigration initiatives has fueled the push to abolish it. One of the first people to advocate for the idea on a public platform was Sean McElwee, a socialist writer and researcher, who wrote an article in March in the liberal The Nation magazine endorsing the idea.

“ICE has become a genuine threat to democracy, and it is destroying thousands of lives,” McElwee wrote. He cited congressional testimony from the then-director of ICE, Thomas Homan, who stated in no uncertain terms that his goal was to foster fear of his agency in immigrant communities.

“The call to abolish ICE is, above all, a demand for the Democratic Party to begin seriously resisting an unbridled white-supremacist surveillance state that it had a hand in creating,” he said. “Though the party has moved left on core issues from reproductive rights to single-payer health care, it’s time for progressives to put forward a demand that deportation be taken not as the norm but rather as a disturbing indicator of authoritarianism.”

The abolish-ICE slogan, mostly buzzed about in left-wing political circles to that point, was given a national airing with the unexpected victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year old socialist who defeated powerful U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley in a Democratic primary in New York City. Ocasio-Cortez is an advocate for abolishing ICE and is vowing to push for it in Congress next year.

In Minnesota, if Omar wins the five-way DFL primary in the 5th District on August 14, she’s almost guaranteed to be the district’s next representative in Congress, where she’d likely be a leading advocate for getting rid of ICE.

“ICE has only become increasingly militarized, brutal, and unaccountable,” Omar said in a statement to MinnPost. “Our immigration policy should be based in compassion and a desire to help the other. ICE is not the solution, we need to abolish ICE.”

No panacea

It’s not just progressive upstarts like Omar and Ocasio-Cortez, however, who are now in favor of abolishing ICE: it’s also nationally known Democrats with their eyes on the White House.

In the past week, possible Democratic candidates for president have come out in support of the idea, including Gillibrand, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Meanwhile, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ refusal to jump on the abolish-ICE bandwagon earned him the ire of the left.)

A HuffPost poll found that just 22 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of ICE, and 40 percent support abolishing it. (That same poll, however, found that only 17 percent of Americans have even heard of the idea.)

Though a growing cohort of Democrats may want to abolish ICE, that doesn’t mean they’re on the same page about something equally important: what, if anything, would replace it. Supportive politicians like Gillibrand argue that federal immigration enforcement needs to be restructured, not eliminated: “You should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that actually works,” she said.

Two Democratic members of the U.S. House, Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, have introduced legislation to abolish ICE and create a special commission that would “implement a humane immigration enforcement system that upholds the dignity of all individuals, while transferring necessary functions to other agencies.”

“I think what many people want to do is return to an integrated agency that combines service with enforcement,” UCLA’s Motomura says. “To understand that slogan or that rallying cry as a call to abolish borders, or to abolish enforcement, misstates what it’s about. I think it’s a rallying cry against a certain attitude toward enforcement, a rallying cry against a certain attitude toward immigrants.”

Some activists, however, would be just fine if ICE were abolished and the government stopped deporting undocumented immigrants. Brad Sigal, an activist with the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee, or MIRAC, said he doesn’t think abolishing ICE is a “panacea.”

“Our central demand and our main focus continues to be, fight every deportation we can try to stop,” he says. “But I think in a broad sense, the demand for abolishing ICE is very much in line with that, and it clearly has energized and motivated a lot of people.”

Activist groups like MIRAC are organizing to increase support for abolishing ICE in order to put pressure on politicians to adopt the position, and Sigal said he was encouraged by the stances of top Democrats on the issue.

Starting over

Clearly, some Democratic candidates believe adopting the abolish ICE position is good politics for them. But there is a dearth of statewide candidates in states Trump won, and in swing states, who are taking up the call.

No major statewide candidate in Minnesota, for example, has explicitly advocated for abolishing ICE, though some have displayed sympathy for the idea. Rep. Keith Ellison, a stalwart progressive in the House, might have been expected to sign on to the Pocan-Jayapal bill. However, Ellison is now running for attorney general of Minnesota, and he’s been more circumspect on the topic.

A spokesman in Ellison’s D.C. office said the congressman “strongly believes that we must aggressively revamp our immigration system” and that he will “review any legislation which would seriously address the critical issues of abuse and accountability within our immigration system.”

First District DFL Rep. Tim Walz, who is running for governor, said he supported an independent investigation into the actions of the Trump administration on immigration, but did not favor abolishing ICE. “As far as DHS and ICE are concerned, I strongly support holding the administration accountable as well as majorly reforming these institutions to ensure they uphold our sacred values of freedom and democracy,” he said in a statement.

Some Democrats are cautioning the party to pull back on the abolish ICE push. One of them is Leah Phifer, a former DFL candidate for the 8th Congressional District seat whose own ties to the agency proved an obstacle in her quest for the party’s endorsement in that closely-watched race. Some activists hammered Phifer because she once worked for ICE, and they worked to link her to the Trump immigration crackdown.

“Policy shouldn’t be built on slogans like ‘build the wall’ or ‘abolish ICE,’” Phifer said in an email to MinnPost. “It just makes it harder — and takes even longer — to solve a problem that needed to be fixed yesterday. Elected officials moving to the ends of the ideological spectrum means less people are left in that critical common ground where large-scale legislation is crafted and passed.”

As Democrats debate, Republicans are attempting to make political hay out of the abolish ICE push, and are painting Democrats as a party of “open borders.” Trump himself thinks it’s a winning point for the GOP: he said on Fox News that if you get rid of ICE, “you’re going to have a country that you’re going to be afraid to walk out of your house. I love that issue if they’re going to actually do that.”

But as the administration continues to advance hard-line policies on immigration, it’s likely that the calls to abolish ICE will only grow and amplify — to the point where supporting the position may become as much a part of progressive orthodoxy as supporting single-payer health care.

MIRAC’s Sigal suggests it could endure through to a day when Trump is no longer president. “As it’s sinking into people that this is not something that started with the Trump administration, it goes back a few administrations, that’s where this demand to abolish ICE clicks for a lot of people,” he said.

“It’s not enough to hit rewind to 2016, you really have to tear it out by root and branch and start again.”

Comments (45)

  1. Submitted by Jim Roth on 07/03/2018 - 11:13 am.

    Slogans should not become policy

    I totally agree with Leah Phifer on this. Turning slogans into policy is how we got where we are. They’re catchy, they’re simple, they’re easy to chant and repeat. But simple solutions to complex issues rarely if ever work. Back to the drawing board with necessary changes and compromises is not a good slogan. Of course sloganeering has become an art form under Trump.

  2. Submitted by David Markle on 07/03/2018 - 11:19 am.

    Then what?

    If ICE were abolished (an unlikely possibility), the present administration and congress would likely create something worse.

  3. Submitted by Pat Brady on 07/03/2018 - 02:11 pm.

    Lets get beyond the rhetoric

    ICE has 20,000 employees.They are the enforcement arm of DHS to tack down undocumented persons in the US, deport them or put them in detention centers… My takeway from the article.
    Besides raiding meat packing and other business ,do they also follow up on those who are here with expired visas?
    I thougth that was the method the terrorists used to stay in the US and plan 9/11 terrorist attack.

    I am all for Congress to do a real evaluation of this new agency , and for that matter , the whole DHS since its inception. Is this money well spent, and is this our only option in light of much needed immigration reform?

    HA, a number of years ago, my community police officer told us at a meeting to have ICE in our contacts with the number of a relative. I thought it meant Idenfication in Case of Emergency.
    I think I will delete this acronym from my contact list.

  4. Submitted by David LaPorte on 07/03/2018 - 12:13 pm.

    “Abolish ICE” will be taken out of context

    The 19 Special Agents in Charge (not just agents) recommended reorganizing ICE since the Trump Administration had made their mission deportation at the expense of their missions of stopping the smuggling of drugs and guns. They want ICE split into two new agencies so that they can do a better job of enforcing drug and gun smuggling laws.

    But the far left liberal (and I’m a liberal) call to “Abolish ICE” will be taken out of context so that the Republicans can claim that Democrats favor open borders (few do). Anyone who thinks that that won’t happen should take a look at what Hillary Clinton said about coal miners:

    “Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right?

    “And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.

    “Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on.”

    This statement was very supportive of coal miners as people, but the first sentence was weaponized by the Republicans and it resonated around the country. This made it look like Clinton didn’t care about working people (which wasn’t true) and was a key reason that we now have Trump as the president.

    It would be naive to think that “Abolish ICE” wouldn’t be just as effective.

    • Submitted by Mike Schumann on 07/03/2018 - 01:15 pm.

      Abolish ICE

      The problem for the Democrats is that half the people who want to abolish ICE actually support the concept of open borders. They also support the concept of $15 / hour minimum wage, health care for all, etc…..

      How is all that suppose to work when all of Central and S. American heads north to partake in the golden American dream???

      The American people aren’t stupid. This is going to turn into the Democrat’s worst nightmare.

      • Submitted by David LaPorte on 07/03/2018 - 04:57 pm.


        I really doubt that half of the people who want to abolish ICE favor open borders. But neither one of us has any data, so we’re both guessing.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 07/03/2018 - 08:39 pm.


        Saying that Democrats support open borders is like saying Republican support slavery. I’m surprised the mods on Minn Post even allow such a ridiculous thing on here.

        • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 07/06/2018 - 03:36 pm.

          It’s the way the Right catapults the propaganda:

          Mischaracterize something about the false enemy in an inflammatory way that the unthinking base will absorb viscerally, keep saying it, and allow it to echo in the establishment media until it enters the realm of what is no longer critically questioned.

          Folks seem to forget that in 2013, the Senate overwhelmingly (68-32) passed a very pragmatic immigration reform bill with 14 Republican votes. It had the votes in the Republican House, but Mr. Boehner refused to allow a vote. The Democrats want a fair and humane system of managed immigration. The Republicans want a tool to keep the base’s fear-triggered synapses snapping, cost and humanity be damned.

  5. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 07/03/2018 - 02:03 pm.

    You should have quit after 1 sentence

    So, rather than universal healthcare and a livable wage, your answer to immigration is to lower our standard of living to theirs, getting rid of the incentive to come North? Umm, OK.

  6. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 07/03/2018 - 04:02 pm.

    It’s impossible to underestimate the left’s capacity to destroy themselves.

    Trump made a mistake announcing his separation policy; it wasn’t popular with anyone. Granted, he handled it masterfully; admitting his mistake, rescinding the order while assuring his base that he wasn’t backing down an inch on border enforcement.

    The left still might have used the mistake during the campaign, but that train has left. The non-stop coverage of protesters protesting separation after separation isnt a thing, and to marching to dismantle our border security gives Trump all the ammo he needs to convince that leftists want an open border. Of course, they do, but it’s not something you want out in the open.

    That’s gonna leave a nasty mark come November.

    Secondly, Mexico just elected a Socialist from the Hugo Chavez school of Communism. The invasion of our Southern border is about to see a radical reduction in numbers. Mexico’s incoming President has promised Free Stuff on a monumental scale. Why would anyone go through the trouble of crossing our border for free stuff when they can get it delivered at home? Viva Mexico!!!

    Trump will take credit for the reduction, and although not deserved, it will cover the faces of open border US leftists with juevos. It will also give the GOP everything they need to end the idea DACA illegals should stay.

    Leftists have no one but themselves to blame for the upcoming destrucrion their hopes and dreams.

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 07/03/2018 - 05:06 pm.


    There is always a Democrat somewhere saying something stupid. That’s just the reality I have to live with. At least my party didn’t nominate and I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. That’s the reality Republicans have to live with.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/05/2018 - 08:52 am.

      Yest but the stupid Democrats aren’t the ones with good ideas

      This is why progressives and liberals are fighting so hard to change the Democratic Party. No matter how catastrophically they lose, and no matter how many time they lose, and no matter how far the nation falls into disrepair and dysfunction because of all of those defeats… centrists just keep pretending they’re the only smart ones in the room. These reflexive rejections of liberal policies and initiatives are nothing more than centrist/moderate reflexes pretending to be political wisdom and analysis.

      You guy can never imagine liberal initiatives succeeding or winning elections… because YOU’RE not liberals, not because liberals can’t win elections.

  8. Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 07/04/2018 - 09:38 am.

    This is a mistake

    This is like handing candy to the Republicans. Don’t Democrats ever learn?

    • Submitted by jim hughes on 07/04/2018 - 01:25 pm.

      Sure they do

      Oh yeah, Democrats – like me – have learned plenty. But we’re being pushed aside by “Progressives” who really only want that big group hug after they lose the election.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/04/2018 - 05:21 pm.

        Pushed aside? Funny

        The “learned” Democrats who handed the White House to Donald Trump are being “pushed aside” now by progressives… that’s a good one. If centrist Democrats hadn’t rolled over when when Bush wanted to invade Iraq and create DHS in the first place, we wouldn’t be here. This is a conversation that needs to take place and these reflexive dismissals of liberal agenda’s and discussions are killing the Democratic Party.

        • Submitted by jim hughes on 07/04/2018 - 09:26 pm.

          lesson learned

          Paul, I think the big lesson for me was 2004, when Kerry lost to Bush. Kerry should have won handily. But that year, gay marriage advocates made a big national push – and the public wasn’t nearly ready to go there. I remember reading how Karl Rove gleefully worked to get gay marriage on the ballot in every state he could, knowing it would drive Republican turnout. Were gay rights actually advanced that year, or set back?

          The immigration issue is tough, and IMHO the way to help immigrants is to work towards defusing the irrational anger and getting them seen as people just like us who are doing exactly what we’d do in the same situation. The proposal being floated here – some sort of feel-good ID card that seems to confer rights that it actually can’t – will only make people angrier and seem to legitimatize the contemptible actions of people like Trump and Sessions.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/05/2018 - 08:29 am.

            Centrist don’t “learn”.

            Kerry didn’t lose because Gay people made a fuss. Kerry lost because he voted for the War, and couldn’t explain why he did it. Kerry lost because he was an uninspiring centrist who offered no compelling agenda beyond not being Bush. Kerry lost for the same reasons Clinton lost (although he wasn’t nearly as unpopular and distrusted). Centrist Democrats put Kerry on the ballot because they thought they needed a war hero when what they really needed was an anti-war hero. This is how centrist have led Democrats into one defeat after another for decades and made Republicans the most powerful political Party in the world.

            Every time Centrist lose they blame the “left”, as if the left controlled the Party and decided who got on the ballot. They pander to he right and then blame the left when the right doesn’t turn out and vote for them. THAT’S not “learning”.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/05/2018 - 08:41 am.

            As for immegration

            The solution is actually quite simple, we need to re-create a process whereby people who want to emigrate can do so in a timely and affordable process. There is no other “solution”. We need immigrants, and they’re lined up to come in, this is not now and never has been a “Crises” of any kind.

            We basically dismantled our immigration process starting back in the 1970s and THAT’S how we created this “crises”. If you don’t understand that statement, you don’t understand the nature of the current immigration problem or system. All ICE can to do is and all it has done is crank up the brutality of irrational an immoral policy.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/06/2018 - 09:50 am.

        Here We Go Again

        Nothing says “path forward” like squabbling over what label to put on the group we blame for losing the last election.

  9. Submitted by jim hughes on 07/04/2018 - 01:30 pm.


    “A HuffPost poll found that just 22 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of ICE, and 40 percent support abolishing it. (That same poll, however, found that only 17 percent of Americans have even heard of the idea.)”

    Is it just me or does anyone else think these numbers make no sense?

  10. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 07/05/2018 - 06:19 am.


    I have always had a sense that as good as Republicans are at winning elections, they aren’t very comfortable when they are actually in office. What’s happening with health care is typical. They ran against Obamacare often effectively for 8 years, but over that period of time, they weren’t able to come up with an alternative. Donald Trump on this, as with so many other issues, immigration for one ends up begging Democrats to provide solutions in the same tweets he tells us how awful we all are.

    I am beginning to wonder if some Democrats are getting like that. Lots of Democrats occupy safe seats who fear nothing in life except a challenge from the left. And being in the minority is not without its charms. You can have all the three martini lunches you want and no one expects you to do anything and be responsible for anything at all.

    I am no fan of ICE. My guess is that it probably really is as corrupt as Donald Trump thinks the FBI is. But it’s what we have now, and we need something I suppose. To my liberal Democratic friends, I just suggest, if you want to engage in political self destruction, please do it after the mid-terms.

  11. Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/05/2018 - 07:28 am.

    Sound Bites & Sign Slogans

    An upstream commenter complained that “Abolish ICE” will be taken out of context. Context? It is a slogan; it has no context. However, for casual observers it will be no problem to link “Abolish ICE” with “Open Borders”, “No One is Illegal”, and other graphics found on protest signs in angry fonts and colors.

    “Abolish ICE” is a loser for Democrats and it is just getting its legs. Just yesterday, an ABOLISH ICE banner was unfurled on Lady Liberty, closing the monument on its busiest day of the year. Good luck setting the context.

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/05/2018 - 09:41 am.

    White privilege

    I’m not trying to insult or offend anyone but since we’re talking about an issue that has obvious racial implications I feel I should make an observation.

    We have all kinds of commenters here reflexively dismissing the proposition of abolishing ICE, without offering a single informed or intelligent comment about the problem for nature of our immigration system. Beyond assuming that we “need” ICE for some reason, lay an assumption that one doesn’t have to actually “know” anything in order to issue a proclamation that everyone should recognize as common sense… THAT’S white privilage, more precisely, it tends to be the perspective of privileged white males. That is NOT analysis or political wisdom… it’s just a centrist white privilege reflex.

    When you don’t think you have to actually know anything about the issue; and when you don’t think a proposition makes sense just because it’s not YOUR proposition; and when you think you can just jump over the part where people discuss the issue intelligently and issue your proclamation regarding the nature of “reality”… that’s the part where you’re being a privileged white male (regardless of your gender or skin color).

    All these people who handed us the nearly catastrophic political crises we’re currently enduring, who keep stepping up with their pretense of infallible political wisdom are just expressing their privilege because pretense is just a form of privilege.

    What we KNOW is this: These people do NOT know who is or is not electable, they keep putting people who don’t elected on their ballot. These people do NOT produce workable solutions or successful policies of their own, they simply react to everyone else’s suggestions. These people do NOT know how to recognize workable policies- If Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, and most of our labor laws didn’t ALREADY exist… these guys would be against them, they’d declare them to be “leftist” pipe dreams that could only lose elections for Democrats.

    Finally, we know these people are not liberals, we don’t have to categorize them but we can easily recognize that they’re not liberals. People can be whatever they want, it’s a free country, but the primary reason these guys can never support, produce, or defend liberal propositions, is simply because they are not liberals. We should just note that actual liberals have a long, documented, and distinguished history of producing, supporting, and enacting liberal proposals. Just because these guys can’t get their heads around proposals doesn’t mean no one can.

    When these “Democrats” denounce basic liberal propositions i.e. Medicare for all, gay rights, living wages, affordable or free college, or abolishing ICE, those denunciations don’t necessarily flow out of analysis, or experience, or wisdom, they often just flow out of a privileged assumption that we ought to be recognizing their expertise. It’s little more than declaring that just because they don’t like or understand the idea… no one will like or understand the idea.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 07/05/2018 - 11:24 am.

      It’s the slogan, not the concept

      “Abolish ICE” as a soundbite is just begging for Republicans to take it and abuse it and run with it, and they already are. They have mastered the art of torturing and manipulating language to further their agendas, and we are handing them this one on a silver platter.

      We not only need to learn to message, we also need to learn to get as smart (or as wily?) as the Republicans have learned to be with *how* we message.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/06/2018 - 08:54 am.

        Yeah, the thing about slogans…

        The centrist principle that one should never make a proposal that you’re opposition will attack, put Republicans in power. By definition the practical effect of organizing your political movement around your opposition’s point of view puts your opposition in control of your Party. Why would you do that?

        Slogans are always attacked and disparaged by the opposition, but the function of slogans is to rally supporters. How is that not obvious?

        The question is: “Why do so many Democrats choose to join Republican attacks rather than rally behind liberal proposals?” The attacks on the slogans I’m seeing here are NOT by an large Republican attacks.
        Why do so many Democrats reflexively perceive liberal slogans from the Republican perspective? Why do so many Democrats instinctively put Republican perspectives at the center their own political strategies and mentalities?

        The Democratic/liberal response to: “Build that wall!” and “Drain that swamp” was predictable and negative… but Trump never even considered dropping them out of fear of what Democrats would “say”… and he won.

        Again, this reaction against: “Abolish ICE” is NOT based on information, analysis, or substantive consideration of policy, it’s a superficial reaction to the slogan. But why do so many “Democrats” instinctively react to the slogan from the Republicans perspective?

  13. Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/05/2018 - 10:27 am.

    Winning is less about being right, informed, or intelligent, and more about hatching and executing an effective strategy. What you consider your spot-on analysis is merely your opinion, just like the rest of us. As the conversation winds down, don’t miss the last chance to play the white privilege (race) card. When not warranted, it always weakens the argument.

    Cleary the Left delivered us the current situation that you consider catastrophic. Maybe it is a gift, but I think it is the ability to see the abundantly obvious. In November 2014, I stated in a comment (link following), “The next President may be a Democrat, but not this Democrat”.

    You dodged the Hillary bullet in 2008 with the Barack Obama candidacy, but in doing so laid the groundwork for the ill-advised 2016 campaign. Y’all have yourselves to blame, and you seem to know it.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/05/2018 - 11:06 am.


      “Cleary the Left delivered us the current situation that you consider catastrophic.”

      The “left” didn’t put Clinton on the ballot, she was a moderate/centrists candidate. The left kept trying to warn Democrats that Clinton could lose and WAS losing. You may think Clinton is a “leftists”, but that’s probably because your not a liberal, it wouldn’t be a reflection of her actual location on the political spectrum.

    • Submitted by jim hughes on 07/05/2018 - 02:58 pm.

      And in the end…

      … there’s this thing called an election. The number of people who will actually turn out to vote for “Abolish ICE” is vastly smaller than the number who’ll show up to vote against “open borders.” This was covered in Tribalism 101.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/05/2018 - 03:21 pm.

        Again with the tribalism?

        These are not “tribes”, and there’s nothing “Tribal” about irrational behavior. I wish people would quit pretending that a racist metaphor is a political model.

        Unless abolishing ICE is going to be a national ballot initiative (which the US Constitution does not allow) the next elections will not be about Abolishing ICE or opening the borders, and even if it were, the majority of Americans are NOT irrational, xenophobic, Islamophobic, Trump supporters. Trump’s wall is NOT even a remotely popular idea.

        • Submitted by Larry Moran on 07/06/2018 - 03:56 pm.


          “Tribalism” is not a racist term, though I could see how it might be interpreted that way. “The state or fact of being organized in a tribe or tribes. Synonyms: sectarianism, chauvinism; esprit de corps.” And if you look at the comment section of almost any online forum you can see how people have broken into “tribes” or sectarian groups. Until we figure out how to interact with those with whom we don’t know, associate, or agree things will not get better.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/09/2018 - 09:34 am.

            Tribalism and racism

            There are very few words that are inherently racist. Almost any word can become a racist expression when you put into racist sentence.

            Tribes and tribal people are real things that exist in the world. There are over 500 Federally registered Indian Tribes in the US alone (and that’s just the Federally recognized ones). These tribes are not mere sectarian groups, they are cultures and cultural people. When white people (it’s typically white people NOT tribal people) use someone else’s culture as a synonym or metaphor for ignorant, phobic, prejudice, and/or “primitive” behavior, they’re using someone else’s culture to describe their own bad behavior. Since that bad behavior has absolutely NOTHING to do with tribal cultures and tribal people… it’s a racist stereotype.

            It’s actually quite simple, when you use the word: “tribe” or “tribal” which tribe are you referring to? The notion that you’re entitled to create stereotypes based on other people’s cultures and use them to describe or explain bad behavior that has nothing to do with actual tribes… is just another expression of privilege.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/09/2018 - 09:11 am.

      Fighting the Last War

      I really can’t understand the continuing obsession that the American right-wing has with Hillary Clinton. It’s especially puzzling because there seems little reason to think she will ever seek elective office again, let alone the presidency.

      Is it to distract from the fact that the Republicans’ current standard bearer is not just a loathsome person, but on track to be the worst President in history? Sure, who needs to reckon with that?

  14. Submitted by jim hughes on 07/05/2018 - 06:10 pm.

    It’s about turnout.

    What matters isn’t peoples’ “views”, it’s election day turnout. And last time, a whole lot of people with “liberal views” didn’t show up. It isn’t an opinion poll.

    So what’s an election “about”? Sometimes it turns out to be red meat issues handed to your opponent on a platter.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/06/2018 - 10:27 am.

      You have to break out of circular reasoning

      You’re just repeating the claim the liberals don’t vote therefore liberal agendas don’t win elections. That’s just circular reasoning based on a false claim. Obviously given the huge success of several liberal agendas over the past 300 years we know that liberals voters turn out for liberal stuff. The problem Democrats had in the last election, and elections before that, was they didn’t give liberals anything to vote FOR. You’re assumption that liberals would turn out for conservative or even just moderate or anti-Republican agenda’s is actually a bizarre assumption. It’s circular because you give liberals nothing to vote for, and then complain that they don’t turn up to vote. So Clinton’s defeat wasn’t the result of putting a crappy candidate on the ballot, it was liberal’s fault.

      As for red meat… this issue only looks like red meat from a Republican perspective. One of the reasons Democrats lost in the last election was they tried to organize their campaign around Republican perspectives instead of liberal perspectives. I can understand why Republican would rally around Republican perspectives but the centrist impulse to rally Democrats around Republican perspectives has been a catastrophe for the nation. Isn’t that obvious?

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/06/2018 - 10:07 am.

    Two final thoughts

    First, it’s always problematic when people who are unaccustomed to progressive agendas try to discuss or report on progressive agendas. This is a pernicious problem for progressive because on the rare occasions when “mainstream” or corporate media try to cover progressive agendas… they tend to get it wrong.

    “Abolish ICE” is actually NOT the “new” rallying cry of the “Left”, it’s one of several proposals and initiatives ranging from demilitarizing the police to universal health care. Yes, we just had a big rally about immigration and there were a lot of T-shirts and signs that said: “Abolish ICE” but that was a RALLY AGAINST THE CURRENT IMMIGRATION REGIME. What would you expect to see? A bunch of Earth Day t-shirts and signs?

    The media is just focusing on: “Abolish ICE” because they think it’s a controversial slogan that will attract eyeballs. Out in the real world ICE is just one of many issues progressives and liberals want to work on. If you look at Ocasio-Cortez’s appearance on Colbert for instance, ICE isn’t even mentioned, even though she supports the idea of abolishing ICE.

    So when the media in this country try to tell you what the “Left” is about… always take that with a grain of salt.

    Abolishing ICE is just part of an over-all agenda of creating an America where everyone can live with dignity. THAT’S what Leftists are about.

    My second point circles back to my earlier comment about privilege. Bear with me… I remember back when Charlie Rose was still on the air during the 2015-16 primary- one night he had a panel of journalist “experts” on to discuss the Trump/Sanders phenomena. This was a “panel” of 4-5 twenty something reporters who supposedly had their fingers on the pulse of the campaigns. They were all unanimous in their inability to understand why so many Americans are so “angry”, after-all, things are going pretty good in American right now? These were all young white people from affluent and privileged backgrounds… they couldn’t understand why people were so angry because none of the issues people are angry about had ever touch THEIR lives in any significant way. What do a bunch of college educated twenty somethings in good health with good jobs sitting around table on national television have to be angry about?

    At the end of the day when we see liberals or Democrats who reflexively dismiss the idea of Abolishing ICE it’s more than likely the case that nothing ICE does ever touches those people’s lives in any significant way. We can go down the list of “Leftist” pipe dreams and we’ll find the same thing. It’s not a question of sympathy or empathy, it’s a question of privileged perspective. So you say: “well I’m just worried about the politics and optics of the slogan”… Yeah, that’s because you have the luxury of worrying about “optics” and “politics” while other people don’t know where their children are or if they’ll ever see them again… THAT’S your privilege.

    • Submitted by Larry Moran on 07/06/2018 - 04:16 pm.

      “… they couldn’t understand why people were so angry because none of the issues people are angry about had ever touch THEIR lives in any significant way. What do a bunch of college educated twenty somethings in good health with good jobs sitting around table on national television have to be angry about?”

      A number of things bother me about this entire…justification. I can’t understand someone’s anger because their problems have never touched me? What a limited and insulting way to view others. Can I completely understand being forcibly separated from my child for even minute? Absolutely not. Just as I can’t understand homophobia, ageism, racism, or any other form of discrimination that I haven’t experienced. I wonder how completely Mr. Udstrand can understand their plight. But I am smart enough, empathetic enough, listen enough, and try to learn as much as I can about these issues to form opinions and advocate for a solution. If we can only solve problems that we have first hand experience with nothing will ever be solved. And if we only want to listen to those who experience hardship, discrimination, and lack opportunity then we likely will ignore a voice or two that could become a great leader.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/09/2018 - 09:43 am.

        Perspective frame awareness.

        I didn’t say that privileged people are incapable of understanding other perspectives. I merely point out the fact that they often fail to do so, and I provided an example. The question isn’t whether or not people are capable of understanding other people and their experience, the question is whether or not make a serious effort to understand.

        The problem with privilege is that as often as not, people decide they don’t even have to to make the effort to understand someone else’s plight. This is clearly the case in the example I provided. Just because you have the empathy, sympathy, and intelligence to appreciate someone else’s experience, doesn’t mean you can assume that you posses that understanding.

  16. Submitted by jim hughes on 07/06/2018 - 02:16 pm.

    “The media is just focusing on: “Abolish ICE” because they think it’s a controversial slogan that will attract eyeballs. ”

    – Agreed. And they aren’t going to change their behavior. So IMHO the smart course of action is for all of us to be a little more careful about offering up those sound bites.

    “They were all unanimous in their inability to understand why so many Americans are so “angry””.
    – Agreed. But maybe they now understand it a little better.

    “The problem Democrats had in the last election, and elections before that, was they didn’t give liberals anything to vote FOR.”

    – Here is where I have to say: wait a minute. What about competence, experience, intelligence, pragmatism, realism, acceptance of science, respect for the press? Don’t those qualities even make the list? One candidate was a typical career politician about whom I had mixed feelings. The other was a corrupt sociopath living in an arrested adolescence. I’ve never felt more strongly motivated to vote.

    IMHO, if many liberals stayed home maybe it was because they thought Trump had no chance. Hopefully that lesson has been learned.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/07/2018 - 09:18 am.

      What about having a compelling a message?

      “What about competence, experience, intelligence, pragmatism, realism, acceptance of science, respect for the press? ”

      Yes, I’m sure we all remember Clinton’s campaign, and again I don’t know why we have to keep pointing this out- that campaign lost. None of these qualities are/were unique to Clinton, it’s just another way saying she’s not Trump. Obviously that didn’t work. And frankly, one thing that it increasingly clear since the election is that Clinton’s campaign was an internal disaster- I don’t know how anyone can claim that the candidate responsible for THAT campaign is the most “competent” person in the room?

      As for liberals staying home because they didn’t think Trump had a chance, the post election data and analysis simply don’t support that. It’s a campaigns job to turn out voters and generate support and enthusiasm, that’s where Obama succeeded and Clinton failed. Clinton was the most unpopular and distrusted candidate Democrats ever put on a POTUS ballot, why would you expect high turnout for a candidate like that in the first place? You put an historically unpopular and distrusted candidate on the ballot, and then you blame liberal complacency for the defeat? Yes, absolutely, the Party elite and centrists never imagined Clinton losing- that a was failure of their imaginations. This was mediocrity pretending to be intelligence, experience, realism, and pragmatism… it didn’t just lose, it lost to Donald Trump. Next.

      • Submitted by jim hughes on 07/07/2018 - 02:39 pm.

        Next time

        If you don’t get your dream candidate in 2020, will you stay home again? I’m more than ready to vote for mediocrity -again – over total ignorance.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/08/2018 - 09:20 am.

          I didn’t stay home

          I actually voted for Clinton… again, Clinton lost. Why do I have to keep pointing that out? Go ahead, keep voting for mediocrity… and you’ll keep losing. Mediocrity doesn’t defeat ignorance. How is that not obvious? But yes, if you keep giving voters mediocre candidates, they will keep staying home. Maybe it’s time to rethink a Party that’s the champion of mediocrity?

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