It’s been nearly six months since Doug Jones was sworn in as Alabama’s junior United States senator. He scored an impressive victory over Roy Moore in 2017 to become the first Democratic U.S. senator Alabama has elected since Richard Shelby in 1986.
For the most part, Jones has avoided the trivialities of the partisan Washington, D.C., game. He hasn’t gone whole-hog Trump-Russia collusion narrative. Up until last week, the most significant left-of-center policy gestures he entertained were gun control in his maiden Senate floor speech, the expansion of Medicaid and the support of net neutrality regulations.
Otherwise, Jones has been a typical rural Southern-state U.S. senator, taking up such noble causes as rural broadband and tackling the financial crises plaguing Alabama’s small-town hospitals.
Enter the immigration issue.
In a speech he gave in Fort Wayne, Indiana, last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited Scripture to defend the Trump administration’s border control policy.
“Illegal entry into the United States is a crime, as it should be,” Sessions said. “Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”
Using the Bible to validate a political position is a risky proposition. Granted, this isn’t the first time a Republican or Democrat has used Romans 13 to do so. For Sessions, it probably wasn’t his best moment. However, the citation is also far from the crime it has been made out to be.
If you’ve been watching CNN or MSNBC over the last two weeks, their attack-Trump focus has shifted from around-the-clock Russia collusion coverage to the way this administration is handling illegal border crossers. The sin, according to media, is the separation of parents from their children upon unlawful entry.
It’s not as if it is an entirely new phenomenon. This separation of parents and children illegally crossing at the border predates the Trump presidency. It was a policy the Obama administration engaged in at times as well.
For this stage of the political season, the mainstream media has made Trump’s border control policy the day’s most pressing issue.
It seems a little contrived. We departed from Russians trying to steal our elections, which had been on a nonstop loop from January 2017 through mid-May. That was about the time opinion polling started showing Trump’s approval rating was on the rise and the Democratic Party’s lead over the GOP on the generic ballot was fading.
Perhaps Democrats looking to the November midterms realized they needed a better issue than Trump-Russia collusion. It resonated with the Democratic base. But the places where the Democratic base thrives are already dominated by Democratic politicians.
The Russia issue is still out there, but it has been forced off the front page by an onslaught of Democratic politicians and media outlets going after Trump on the border.
A portrayal of armed border guards separating illegal immigrant families, even if perhaps over-dramatized, provides a fresh cause for Democrats. It offers the necessary vivid imagery to regain some ground in an election in which Democrats should be a heavy favorite.
For whatever reason, last week Doug Jones waded into the immigration debate. He specifically criticized his U.S. Senate predecessor, now-AG Jeff Sessions, for his biblical reference.
“It’s appalling to me that someone could use the Bible to justify tearing children away from their families. This @TheJusticeDept policy is not a law — HUGE difference — and it defies our values as Americans. I’m exploring every option available to halt this policy,” Jones tweeted.
On Sunday, Jones announced he was signing on to what is called the Keep Families Together Act, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California).
“The administration’s new policy of ripping apart families by separating innocent children from their parents is completely contrary to our core American values,” Jones said in a news release. “As I’ve said, I have been looking at every possible option to stop this policy, to include Senator Feinstein’s legislation. While I plan to sign onto that legislation this week, we have to recognize that it is only a first step and does not offer any long-term solutions to the underlying problems.”
It’s not that Jones is wrong for opposing this policy of family separation. There are valid reasons to be against it.
However, in Alabama, you’re going to have to make a stronger case than that of the intellectually vapid left-of-center political intelligentsia that dominates the national media.
I suspect that if you polled Trump’s border control policy within Alabama, you would find it very popular. Many Alabamians believe breaking the law, in this case illegally crossing the border, should have consequences. Sessions made this issue his hobby horse and became the most popular politician in Alabama since Gov. George Wallace.
There also hasn’t been a lot of alternatives laid out by Democrats. They are attempting to fire up the outrage machine for electoral purposes, but there isn’t a consensus 2018 Democratic Party immigration policy.
How do they address concerns like human trafficking or the excessive burden that would be levied on the taxpayers if you attempted to keep families together during detention after crossing the border illegally? Do you avoid the problem altogether by continuing the Obama-era policy of catch and release?
There is a reason Trump was elected. Despite the nonstop indignation in the press, a 180-degree reversal on the immigration issue he has held for the last three years is not in Donald Trump’s best interest.
For Jones, getting on the bandwagon of a conveniently timed political hot-button issue like this doesn’t live up to the “finding common ground” mantra of his 2017 campaign.
Joining the pile-on of Jeff Sessions and not offering a more nuanced approach than the standard run-of-the-mill left-wing outrage is the first major political misstep of his U.S. Senate tenure.
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