Why the Wall?

Let’s talk about the wall.

This article is written to accompany a fantastic article just written by my friend and colleague, Ben Sweetwood, which masterfully sifts through the hysteria over President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration. Here at Griffwood Post, we constantly seek to challenge the prevailing narrative of the day. We live by an important motto: if everyone seems to be in agreement about something, be skeptical.

Everyone, and I mean everyone seems to have a problem with President Trump’s idea of building a wall along the border shared between the United States and Mexico. This includes those who are left, right, libertarian, and everyone else in between. Some of the consternation has produced perfectly valid criticisms of the idea that should not be overlooked. But I write to contend that the idea to build the wall actually has its merits.

Those on the right, and those who abhor government spending, criticize the wall for its cost and complexity. The wall will indeed be expensive—and the proposed methodology of taxing a portion of the U.S.-Mexican trade deficit does eventually pass the cost of the wall on to the consumer. However, in context, the tax does have implicit benefits to the American consumer beyond the wall. The trade deficit exists because the U.S. exports to Mexico about $60 billion dollars in goods less than it imports from Mexico. However, the entirety of the U.S.’s annual imports from Mexico total around $300 billion. Now, 20 percent of $300 billion is enough to pay for three walls at Trump’s price-point of around $20 billion per year. So the cost, in context, is not outlandish. This is not to mention the benefit of protecting and encouraging American industries that directly compete with Mexican products. And if there is any American president who can spur the behemoth of the federal government to actually build something on time and under budget, it’s going to be Donald J. Trump.

But $20 billion is still $20 billion. That’s a costly project.

Another valid criticism is the complexity of building the wall. The Cato Institute has done a great job of illustrating just how complicated the process will be. Building a wall along this 2,000 mile stretch of the American southwest means overcoming geographical challenges, replacing existing walls and fences, equipping the wall with proper surveillance equipment and, of course, maintaining it. This is not to mention the inevitably long amount of time it will take the federal government to argue the hundreds if not thousands of eminent domain cases that will be necessary to gather the lands needed for the construction of the wall (much of the land abutting the U.S.-Mexican border is privately owned.) The wall may not be feasibly possible in Trump’s term.

But just because something is complex doesn’t mean it’s impossible[1]. We got to the moon, we can build a big wall.

And, yes, I’ve heard the argument that many if not most illegal immigrants come into the country by airplane, on lawful visas, and extend their stay indefinitely. Obviously, a comprehensive immigration reform package would need to address that. But the cartels, the drug runners, and criminals fleeing Latin America are not buying group ticket packages on commercial airliners. They’re the ones taking advantage of the porous border, and they’re certainly the ones we want to stop first.

I give criticisms from the left credence as well, but they are becoming a bit too ‘one-sized fits all’ to have retained their bite. I also abhor identity-politics and think the hysteria around Donald Trump is contributing to a dangerous narrowing of political discourse.

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Post-Election Thoughts and Hopes

I wish our new president success and clear-minded wisdom as he begins to prioritize his work.

I applaud all of those, from Clinton supporters to never-Trumpers, who have committed their support to the new president in moving forward and binding our wounds after a divisive election season.

I plan to hold Trump to his promises. We all should. Those include his commitment to being a better man than he was when he made those comments on tape that we all detest.

But America voted for Mr. Trump because he will be the president that will upend the Washington bureaucracy. Obama spent eight years feeding the country unwanted, inefficient, bureaucrat-heavy government expansions masked as solutions. When America rejected them by returning Congress to Republican control, he used his pen and his phone to circumnavigate the pesky electorate. Ms. Clinton’s policies promised only more of the same tired, failed focus on more regulation and centralized control. In the face of a dangerously large national debt, America said no.

In voting against Ms. Clinton, Americans rejected a bad candidate with a concerning ethical track record. They did not reject the idea of a woman being president. The first female president’s time will come, and likely soon. I hope to be able to vote for her. Ms. Clinton was not the one.

The left cannot possibly be a productive part of the unification of our country if they continue to use identity politics to describe the outcome of this election. Tactically, throwing around the labels of “racist,” “sexist,” and “xenophobic” did not work for them in their bid to convince the American people that their ideas were best for the country. This did not allow for the exchange of ideas, rather only deepened factionalization. 33% of Latino men, 26% of Latino women, and 52% of white women supported Trump. This cuts a big hole in the narrative that Trump’s win was on the back of a sexist or anti-immigrant populist wave. Looking at the electoral map, it is clear that middle class, blue collar working states in the rust belt rejected a Democratic dynastic control of their electoral votes for a candidate who focused his campaign on job creation and regulatory relief to put Mr. Trump over the top and in the White House.

One more thought: anecdotal evidence proves nothing but is easy to use to manipulate emotions. Cherry-picking specific instances to prove a larger point is wrong. Were there anecdotal examples of racist or sexist motivations in voting for Mr. Trump? Sure. There will be in any election, for every candidate. This doesn’t mean the nearly 60 million people that voted for Mr. Trump fit that bill.

In fact, my desire, which I know that many share on both sides of the aisle, is that the country can now move closer together and away from identity politics. Where racism, sexism, and ugly collectivism in any form does exist, let’s eradicate it. Let’s fix those broken parts of our government that we can and get rid of the parts that don’t work. Let’s lead the world with a clear, righteous morality that will offer a new hope to the oppressed and the war torn. Let’s make America even greater, and let’s all be a part of the productive conversation as to how that is achieved.

-Bryan Griffin



Further Reading:



Convenient Ogres

In a debate of ideas, it’s almost irresistible for the left to throw in “Sarah Palin” as a shining example of everything that is wrong with this country, the conservative movement, or the Republican Party. Six years into a new presidency, it’s still “George W. Bush’s fault” when the economy or U.S. foreign policy isn’t up to par, and America’s motivation for just about anything is “oil”.

I have a theorem called “the rule of 5”. On Facebook, any conservative post made usually only takes about 5 comments from liberals before Fox News is somehow roped into the argument—no matter how unrelated.

To the left, these straw man arguments are conveniently-made ogres.

They are used because they are banners that are easy for the left to rally behind. The left has characterized each of these with a narrative that is so pervasive and unquestionably held, that the truth becomes shrouded. Lobbing a reference to one of these entities into any conversation becomes a tactic of distraction that largely works because the right doesn’t spend enough time deconstructing these narratives.

Let’s consider them, briefly.

Ask anyone what the problem is with Sarah Palin, and the “tolerant” and “pro-woman” left will usually offer an argument that equates to ‘she’s dumb’. Consider Chris Matthew’s comments on MSNBC or Huff Post’s perpetuation of the insult.

In an interview with Katie Couric, Palin didn’t answer a condescending question about which news outlets she read. And why would she? When running for President, any side or brand you publicly favor will inevitably lead to those who favor another brand losing favor with you, which means fewer votes. I wouldn’t have answered that question either.

How about seeing Russia from her house? Fact check any leftist who tries to use this argument. According to Snopes, “interviewer Charles Gibson asked her what insight she had gained from living so close to Russia, and she responded: ‘They’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.’” The left’s version of Palin’s answer comes from their own mockery of her on Saturday Night Live, yet that distinction is conveniently forgotten.

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Profitable Alarmism

To U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, climate change is “the greatest challenge of our generation.”  And though he characterizes any who disagree as “a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues”, he spends a good amount of time  trying to shutter dissent. To former Secretary of State and potential 2016 Presidential contender Hillary Clinton, climate issues are “the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face.”

Without a doubt, smart consumerism and environmental protection are important issues. We must be responsible stewards of the planet we leave to our children. But the language of the left on this issue is of a passion more feverish than they show for all other pressing matters of our time, like the increasingly large size of government or the thugs such as ISIS running rampant in the Middle East.

Why is this so?

The more control the left attains, the more successful it is in its ambitions. Thus, the principal ambition of the left is control over our lives at the expense of our personal freedoms. This is not necessarily by desire, but by nature. For the “progressive” agenda to gain traction, it has to be accepted in full, because it requires a willful relinquishment of our individual abilities to self-regulate. Opposition can mean a derailment of the “progressive” agenda, because leftist objectives are focused on an assigned concept of the greater good projected upon the masses; an inherently unfair allotment of a finite pool of resources (money, land, solutions, etc.) determined by a handful of people in power. Conservatism, of course, is also concerned with the allotment of resources, but by the fair hand of the market and with a renewing pool of resources supplied by innovation and individual enterprise.

Alarmism is an insidious weapon of the left. Alarmism easily achieves two goals for those who employ it: it creates a reason for those in power to break the rules (i.e. politicians can take more individual freedoms away in the name of the ‘emergency’) and it marginalizes opposition. When the left sounds the alarm on an issue, there’s no time to think, just hand over the wheel and they will steer. Consider the Obama administration’s recent move to circumvent the President’s legal obligation to ratify treaties through Congress by seeking to ratify a climate ‘accord’ with the UN. Or, consider the pervasive dialogue of those in attendance at the 2014 People’s Climate March. According to posters, pamphlets, and stump speeches from many in the crowd, the enemy of the climate is capitalism. Street interview footage available on YouTube shows attendees, when pressed, admitting that they advocate for “a whole new society”… a “socialist” one.

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Stereotypes I Refuse to Accept

Bottom line, for me it is about people. I care about people living and succeeding. Everyone. Our lives are our right; our freedoms are our tools to our happiness and success. This is what I defend.

As a general principal, stereotypes exist about every demographic that should be deplored. I am not discounting their bite.

I am a conservative. There are stereotypes about the right that I can laugh at, accept, and even buy into. Does the Republican Party have a lot of ‘elderly white male’ representation? Sure. Are conservatives wealthy? Some are. Are there outlandish and in some cases deplorable stances taken by a fringe that associate themselves with my same ideology? Of course.

However, I am absolutely and unequivocally rejecting the vitriolic stereotypes of conservatism that are regularly assigned all too often by the left. The legitimacy of those labels end here and now.

As one of few openly conservative students at Columbia University, I sometimes have one of these stereotypes lobbed my way. I can take it, but I won’t accept it.

I will deconstruct these stereotypes one by one.

“Conservatives are anti-minority”

No statement could be further from the truth. Conservatism as an ideology is based upon the notion of the importance of the individual and a government that is limited in its capacity to infringe upon individual liberties. As government becomes larger, it must increasingly rely upon the categorization of citizens to dispense public benefits and collect taxes for the public good. To the government, a system of bureaucracies, you are not the smart, good, hardworking, and capable individual that you, your friends, and your family knows you to be. Instead, you are a white/black/Latino/Asian male/female of the Christian/Jewish/Islamic faith in a certain age group and a certain tax bracket, etc. If you don’t believe this reconsider the information you are required to submit every year on your taxes or the questions asked of you by the U.S. Census.

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Castles and Masterpieces

This summer I was fortunate enough to take a trip to Europe. I visited 8 countries in 20 days traveling by rail. My itinerary included London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, and Stockholm. It was the trip of a lifetime.

In each city I visited, I made it a point to see the well-known historical sites, art galleries, and seats of government. I visited castles, viewed masterpieces, and saw three different sets of crown jewels from England, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.

As I rounded the corner in a museum in Florence and laid eyes on the Statue of David, or as I set foot in the Louvre in Paris or Hapsburg Palace in Vienna, it struck me how fortunate I am to live in the age of prevalent democracy and capitalism.

Castles were built for the rich, the powerful, and the few. Commoners and peasants were never intended to see them from within. Now, nearly every castle in Europe is a museum, with an entry fee affordable to any tourist.

Masterpieces of art were commissioned by and for royal families or wealthy aristocrats. For centuries, art was the pastime of the supremely wealthy. The percentage of those who could afford to enjoy the masterpieces of Da Vinci, Botticelli, and Michelangelo – nonetheless own them – would have put today’s concept of “the 1%” to shame.

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Popular Sovereignty

Depicted above is a painting of Charles II, holding in his left hand the “Orb of the Sovereign”, a regal ornament held by the monarch of England during the coronation process. The Orb symbolizes the power of the head of the Church of England. As the name suggests, the Orb belongs to the sovereign – and the only sovereign in a monarchy is the King or Queen.

Sovereignty is the highest authority within a nation. The American Revolution was fought, and won, for sovereignty. Popular Sovereignty is the idea that in a nation of free people, authority is vested in a government by the sovereignty of its citizens, not by a monarch, president, or any single person. As Americans, we consent to be governed. We have designed a system of federal, state, and local administrations that we willingly allow to operate on our behalf. We elect a president to represent us as a nation of sovereign people, and the president is beholden to each of us. We exercise our sovereignty through popular application. Our sovereignty is our birthright – it is instilled at birth, or “natural”, and cannot be taken. The only way we lose our sovereignty is by forfeiting it ourselves.

True conservatism is about safeguarding our sovereignty. After the Revolution, Americans were faced with the task of forming a new government. To function properly, a government must be the only entity that can exercise the authority it has, and it cannot have competition. We need a unified system of leadership, laws, property rights, and recognition on the world stage. Again, this is a concession of power we have made as Americans. Yet therein lies the greatest concern; If government is designed to have no rival, then how can it exist and we simultaneously retain our own sovereignty? The answer is also the mission of conservatism: limits on government.

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