Anti-Democratic Populism Caused the Dreamer Impasse

Trump planted a ticking DACA time-bomb in September and announced that Congress had six months to defuse it with a permanent legislative fix. Americans overwhelmingly want a fix. 87 percent think Dreamers should be allowed to stay in the U.S. Among Republicans, two-thirds support a path to citizenship. In an era of extreme partisan polarization, this level of cross-party consensus is exceedingly rare. …

In a democracy, when a clear majority of the population and a clear majority of their democratic representatives in the legislature support a position, that position ought to win the day. The problem is that this mundane democratic principle has been implicitly rejected by conservatives in the grip of populist thinking that is, at bottom, hostile to ideals of political equality and equal democratic representation.

Our impasse on DACA, and immigration policy more generally, is driven in no small measure by the populist conviction that the majority position on immigration lacks legitimate democratic authority, and that the restrictionist minority—which sees itself as the authentic and authoritative source of American identity and American political authority—is morally entitled to prevail. CONT.

Will Wilkinson, Niskanen Center