From Rick Perlstein, The American Prospect <[email protected]>
Subject The Infernal Triangle: The REAL Threat at Our Border
Date February 7, 2024 1:04 PM
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The REAL Threat at Our Border

Trump, Republican governors, and MAGA media have summoned their armed
fanatics to the Rio Grande.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled column-I'd planned to write
about a 15-year-old novel I believe paints the best imaginative canvas
of how Trumpism works at the level of the human soul-to write about
some woefully

**not-**breaking news.

As a voracious consumer of political media, you probably already know
part of the story about the constitutional crisis brewing in Texas-at
least, the elements taking place in marbled offices in Austin, Texas,
and Washington, D.C. That has been well covered

To summarize: In 2020, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott put into effect something
called "Operation Lone Star," a quasi-military strategy to turn back the
massive numbers of migrants and asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.
border with Texas. The next year, Abbott raised the stakes in an
official letter to President Biden calling this an "invasion." This,
perverse legal minds on the right insisted, licensed Texas to literally
make war against it-Article I, Section 10, of the Constitution
stipulating that states can do this

**sans** interference from Washington when they are "actually invaded."

Which, apparently, is what starving mothers with babes in arms, like the
GIs storming Omaha Beach on D-Day, are presently pulling off.

Meanwhile, because enormous, unmanageable numbers of migrants

**are** arriving in America, thanks in part to various crises for which
the United States bears historic responsibility, the Biden White House
undertook negotiations with certain willing Republicans in the Senate to
clarify immigration rules, adequately fund their enforcement, and keep
vulnerable people from suffering biblical levels of misery under our

Also meanwhile, at the most crowded illegal point of entry, a park in a
town called Eagle Pass, federal border guards sought to block the Texas
National Guard's practice of submerging razor wire in the Rio
Grande-that is to say, wire designed to draw blood, like a razor

As The New Yorker's Jonathan Blitzer explains
this is "essentially an elaborate and truly kind of cruel and callous
photo-op": When federal agents disentangle them from the barrier to lead
them ashore to apprehend

****them, it looks on camera that they are helping

****migrants enter

****the country. A cunning

**coup de théâtre**, to be sure. Though one that proved fatal for a
woman and two children who drowned in the river on January 12.

A week later, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that this was
not the kind of "invasion" the authors of the Constitution had in
mind-and Gov. Abbott answered like President Jackson when faced with
an adverse decision about his authority in 1832: The Court had made
their decision; now let them enforce it.

You can't accuse Abbott of not knowing his history. In his definitive
biography The Politics of Rage
, historian
Dan T. Carter explains how former Alabama Gov. George Wallace mastered
stunts just like these, as when he "stood in the schoolhouse door" to
physically block a Justice Department official accompanying a Black
student seeking to register for classes at the segregated University
Alabama. Wallace got to enjoy a double dip of martyr-y deliciousness
when he lost the accompanying court battle, which he often did in such
showdowns, sometimes on purpose. This was the 1960s version of the
current fable of the deep state pushing Texas around for simply doing
what the Constitution says.

And the tableau just looked too good for another actor observing the
drama to ignore.

Donald Trump instructed loyal Capitol Hill minions to block immigration
negotiations, so as not to hand Joe Biden a "win" going into the
presidential campaigns, and to keep his followers frothing. A deal
appeared imminent. Maybe because some naïve Republicans actually wanted

**improve the situation**. Or maybe they judged this was going to make
things worse for migrants, given that Biden was granting Republicans
considerable concessions, even stating he might use the law to "shut
down" the border himself. Be that as it may, for much of the party,
Trump was calling the shots. Deal negotiator Sen. James Lankford (an
otherwise garden-variety racist who soon lied
that "all of the
9/11 attackers were present in the U.S. illegally") was immediately

by his own Oklahoma Republican Party for putting "the safety and
security of Americans in great danger" by even sitting down at the table
with Biden.

That much garden-variety news junkies already know. What they might not,
because it's been so under-covered in the most influential media
outlets, is, potentially, the most important part: On the ground in
Texas, a storm is gathering that might produce the next January 6th-or
something worse.

[link removed]

early 2000s, if you wanted to stay on top of what was actually happening
on stories as diverse as George W. Bush's looming war in Iraq and the
Tea Party movement, so-called "alternative" media-lefty blogs,
nonprofit watchdog websites, magazines like this one-were often more
worth following than institutions like The New York Times,

**Washington Post**, and CNN. Just so, if you want to grasp what may
turn out to be the deeper stakes of this constitutional crisis drummed
up by Gov. Abbott.

Start with Tucker Carlson, tweeting
the day
of that Supreme Court decision to over 13 million views and 186,000

One man of Texas-the governor-announced he'd defy the Supreme
Court's ruling. He received messages of support from some 25 fellow
Republican governors-another thing you probably know. But maybe not
the thoughts of one
Rep. Keith Self (R-TX): "I think we're going to have to be aware that
the president can

****federalize the National Guard, but it would be much harder if 25
governors sent

**their**National Guard troops to the border to support Texas." Gov.
Kristi Noem of South Dakota all but promised

she would do so.

You might also not have seen what Texas's lieutenant governor, Dan
Patrick, has been saying, that
"all they
do is commit crime on the streets," and that he's been rereading the
Book of Revelation to gird his loins for the fight against them. The
good folks at People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch captured
telling the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins how much Biden,
Kamala Harris, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre, and Homeland
Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas remind him of

****the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: "Death rides with them."

Talk of scripture's final battle between good and evil is all over the
discourse about the Texas standoff. Steve Bannon had on

his show his old White House colleague Sebastian Gorka, who was
particularly fulsome on what he had discerned to be Christ's will:

Yes, we're Christians. Yes, we believe that all men are made in the
image of our creator. But at the same time we understand that evil is
real, that evil lurks in the hearts of man. We are not the lambs of the
Bible; that is Jesus, our savior. We are to turn over the tables of the
money lenders. We are there when he calls, "Sell everything you own and
buy a sword." That is the Christianity we believe in. Turn the other
face is not the message that we believe in. The message of Christ is
truth in God. And as a result, I have to say this unequivocally to
everyone listening, and it may be tough for some people who think that
the church is some Sunday social club, but this administration is evil.
And I mean it. In terms of the heart of darkness, black hearts of evil.
Because they know what they're doing ... putting in place a legal
system that allows anyone-it could be terrorists, it could be the
cartels-to pre-screen and clear themselves as quote-unquote "asylum
seekers" ... When they get on a plane with my wife, with your daughters.

Gorka suggested as a solution a government shutdown of at least six
months-"When the government shuts down it's delightful, it's
absolutely superb"-and offered a counterexample of a model White House
official from his day, back when the executive mansion was free from any
such enemies of Christ: his friend Stephen Miller.

Bannon welcomed his next guest, introduced as an expert on a separate
category of the ungodly: greedy money-grubbers like Catholic Charities
and Caritas. ("Every single kid is worth $270 a day for these NGOs,"
another guest observed.) Another Bannon guest, on an episode entitled
"Lights Out on Globalist Cabal
claimed video evidence of "long lines of African Muslims, on their
prayer rugs, praying east, with the border wall behind them."

Funny/not funny stuff like that is coin of the realm in my line of work.
When it stops being funny is when they start talking about spilling

Like the man of Texas who goes by the online moniker "SteveLovesAmmo,"
who advised his 90,000 followers, Vice's Tess Owen

discovered: "Buy guns and ammo. Your government isn't coming to save
you." Or the South Texas Proud Boys, who, the Global Project Against
Hate and Extremism reports, have advised followers to "grab your guns."
Or the Aryan Freedom Network, who've roused their own Texas chapters.

Or the man of Texas suffering under a $1.5 billion court judgment for
defaming Sandy Hook parents. Alex Jones
said: "I don't
want a secession, I don't want a civil war, I don't want to dissolve
the country. But the left knows they're putting all of us in a
position to where we have a hijacked federal government, we have to have
the states pull out of the Union and then have another convention, and
then reconstitute it, again ... that's in the Declaration of
Independence. It's not just our right, it's our duty. So there's a
lot of ways to skin the cat, or skin the rabbit, as they say."

His callers had some rabbit-skinning suggestions. One was turning loose
an alligator for every migrant let into the country. Another was for
Texas to provision "law-abiding citizens with AR-15s and a few hundred
rounds per adult so we can defend ourselves in the event of some sort of

**Red Dawn**event, which looks like it's very possibly gonna
come"-then John in Texas was interrupted: We were already in a

**Red Dawn**situation, Jones insisted. That, for those unfamiliar with
the film in which high school
students repel a Communist invasion of Colorado, means actual guerrilla

"And that's all fine with me. I think everyone should be armed. We
should bring back civil defense and the militias in the Constitution."

Or the people organizing the "Take Our Border Back" convoy, who first
started planning their ingathering a month ago, and call themselves
"God's Army."

**Vice**'s Owen reports that they insisted at first they wanted
nothing to do with weapons or militias. They since have been changing
their tune: "Side arms" were OK, as long as they were left in their cars
during the scheduled "spiritual revival."

It was only a matter of time, explains Tucker Carlson
: "The
media, the government at all levels in both parties, big
business-there's not one power center in the United States that
would like to see secure borders, and so of course we haven't had
secure borders. And now we're being invaded, and no one's really
doing anything about it. So it was just a matter of time before citizens

**love** their country and in many cases who have served their country
overseas decided to get a little more active in

**protecting**their country. And that's why we're about to see the
Take Our Border Back convoy."

He then interviewed "Doc" Pete Chambers, a retired Army physician who
claims to have been a Green Beret, and has told Alex Jones that they
were out to "hunt" migrants. ("We will engage decisively, and if it gets
worse, in the infantry we call it 'fix bayonets.'") Chambers was
reported by Wired

to have intoned in an online video, "That's war, we don't want to go
there, but that's where we're at right now." After all, "We have to
understand that there is a Constitution."

And it is up to this Army of God to decide what the Constitution means.

At a briefing this past Thursday, Devin Burghart of the Institute for
Research and Education on Human Rights, said convoy organizers have
"discussed calling out militias or posses and needing to 'show
force.'" One militia leader threatened, "We'll do whatever we got to
do to put a stop to it." Wired

paraphrased chatter from "leading border-conflict figures" that the
border assemblage "is meant to pick up where January 6 left off.
Moreover, they've amplified the specter of kicking off a second civil

Fox Business certainly seems to consider violence a live concern. Their
host asked Rep. Self
nervously what they would do about "bad actors" in Eagle Pass out to
make "peace-loving Americans look bad." He replied, "That's always a

[link removed]

AND NOW, THE NOT-BREAKING NEWS-and why it matters.

As of this writing, since the January 22 Supreme Court ruling, unless
LexisNexis and ProQuest are malfunctioning, news articles in The New
York Times have mentioned neither Tucker Carlson nor Steve Bannon's
incitements concerning the doings in Texas, nor Rep. Self, Lt. Gov.
Patrick, or Gov. Noem's advocacy of what amounts to secessionist
rhetoric, nor the 25 governors affirming it. The word "militia" has only
appeared in either referring to the ones overseas that Shiites belong
to. A characteristically mild article

on the convoy in the

**Times**downplayed the lingering danger, and skipped the simultaneous
gathering in San Ysidro, California, which was crawling
neo-Nazis and Proud Boys.

Neither the

**Times**nor The Washington Post, however, had anything on stepped-up
police patrols

this weekend around "places of worship and major infrastructure points"
in Dearborn, Michigan, after Rupert Murdoch's

**Wall Street Journal**ran an op-ed this past weekend labeling the
heavily Arab city "America's Jihad Capital
(Language like this in my hometown of Chicago, in October, caused the
stabbing of a Palestinian mother and her six-year-old son. The boy

Just as The New York Times never covered Gov. Abbott's expressed
disappointment that he wasn't allowed to treat migrants like

**actual**enemy soldiers: "The only thing that we're not doing is
we're not shooting people who come across the border," he said

a month ago, "because of course, the Biden administration would charge
us with murder"-an incitement to vigilantism at least as robust as
anything Donald Trump uttered on January 6th.

limited space resources are hard, and it may be unfair to second-guess
them. The "Take Our Border Back" assemblage was far smaller than
organizers boasted, and peaceful-so far. (One Eagle Pass resident said
never felt any danger from migrants, whereas the right-wingers now
invading her town made her feel scared "just walking down the street in
broad daylight.") Immigration news holes were mostly filled by the
announcement of a Senate bill, reported to include more stringent
enforcement provisions than any previous reform on the table. Maybe some
in those rarified editorial precincts imagine, as they so often do when
they view the rightward ratchet of the Republicans, that now, finally,
the fever will break.

Not bloody likely. As the negotiations progressed, one Bannon guest
labeled the bill on the table "end-of-the-Republic type legislation."
When the drafting was done, at least one Democratic senator
the results so distorted toward Republican desires that he hesitates to
support it-not that conservatives will ever be appeased
. Elon Musk
got over 47 million views and 260,000 likes for his opinion
on the draft:
It proved Biden's goal is to "get as many illegals in the country as
possible," and to "legalize them to create a permanent majority-a
one-party state ... Simple, yet effective."

And what true "patriot" wouldn't step up to spill blood to stop
something like


Now, for all I know, one of these newspapers is currently dotting i's
and crossing t's on a massive takeout on just these violent insurgent
energies building up around this alleged "invasion." Even if that's
so, this is what bothers me. If you've been reading my recent work,
you know how passionately I believe the normal journalistic routines of
horse race-style coverage of elections and tick-tock-style
narratives of legislative negotiation fail utterly in conveying how
right-wing politics actually works. Steve Bannon
Grover Norquist
even the mild-mannered Heritage Foundation intellectual Stuart Butler
once known for introducing the health care reform idea that became
Obamacare, admit it outright: They practice politics the way Vladimir
Ilyich Lenin taught it. Newt Gingrich

used to quote Mao: "Politics is war without blood. War is politics with

I felt this lacuna most acutely at an unexpected time: two years ago, in
the days before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, when front pages were
saturated with staggeringly detailed analyses of the movement of men and
materiel, a polyphony of unnamed sources within both belligerents'
camps, giving nearly hourly odds of whether war might break out.

This kind of journalism is simply not part of the story that editors and
reporters covering "national politics" or "presidential elections" think
they're covering. But let's face it. When one of the parties in our
electoral contests encompasses within it a smooth continuum from the
explicit advocacy

of vigilante violence by its titular leader, to attempted

, to
outright massacre

carried out by supporters who believe themselves to be advancing his
agenda-that is the kind of reporting alternative media does as a
matter of routine.


**New York Times**ought to catch up.

Research assistance by Chris Nolte


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