Her about-turn on immigration shows the Vice-President's Machiavellian streak
In retrospect, it was a dagger moment in Mitt Romney’s quest for the presidency.
“Everything changes,” a smirking Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney campaign honcho, said during a CNN interview in March 2012. “It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”
He was talking about how Romney might pivot from his prior platform in the primaries and start anew for the presidential, which was jumped on by parts of the liberal media for the Republican’s perceived flip-flopping on substantive issues.
It was indeed a rare slip-up from Romney’s advisor, but it gave a telling insight into the realities of domestic politicking in America. The Republican candidate never recovered from those remarks, but the Machiavellian message lived on. Fast-forward 10 years and Kamala Harris, the Vice President of the United States, has proved herself a master of Fehrnstrom’s dark art.
Having spent her campaign for president all but in favour of an open border (she even went so far as to support publicly funded healthcare for undocumented immigrants on the campaign trail), Harris is now shaking up the Etch A Sketch.
“Do not come. Do not come,” Kamala Harris said in Guatemala City this week. “If you come to our border, you will be turned back.” Referring to the civil strife in the region, in which hundreds of thousands have been fleeing each month to America’s borders, Harris confidently intoned: “I’m really clear: we have to deal with the root causes, and that is my focus. Period.”
Putting aside the Biden-Harris administration’s vague corporate spiel about the “root causes” between the United States and its southern neighbours, Harris’ hardline approach marks a big shift in the way establishment Democrats are now talking about immigration.
With a surge of illegal border crossings this year, critics have argued that this change in stance is long overdue — even if it comes at the cost of progressive support (socialist firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the Veep’s comments “disappointing”).
But it is certainly a very curious change that has come over Kamala Harris, who once proclaimed that the United States has “always presented ourselves as being a nation of strength with strong arms that when people are fleeing harm, we will embrace them”.
One glance at the number of people living below the poverty living in almost any country in Central America would make one conclude the vast majority of those populations live in a situation of “harm” — and they do. But implicit in such a statement is the conviction that mass relocation to the United States will improve the situation, instead of encouraging improvement (or, you might say, the ‘root causes’) at home.
Apparently the “Vice” agrees. “I want to emphasise that the goal of our work is to help Guatemalans find hope at home,” Harris said this week.
As Harris handles the poison chalice of immigration handed to her by her boss, she’s proven that, like Joe Biden, she’s not afraid to shake the etch-a-sketch.