EVANSVILLE – The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) debate revolves in part around a Constitutional question: Does the president unilaterally set immigration policy, or do such laws require congressional authorization? When President Obama lacked the votes to get DACA through Congress, he simply implemented it via executive order. In truth, DACA was headed toward a legal challenge that likely would have overturned the rule as unconstitutional. Congress needed to take it up one way or the other anyway.
But this administration’s motives to end DACA, or at least sow confusion among those benefiting from it, most certainly find their roots in more than just constitutional concerns. The #MAGA crowd feels their American identity and financial well-being stretched and insecure. Immigrants make an easy culprit.
We’ve witnessed similar tension at other points in our country’s history – the Civil War, waves of immigration at the turn of the 20th century, and the cultural revolution of the 1960s – but throughout those conflicts the question was whether white Christians would make more room for other groups at a table they still dominated. In those older conflicts new groups gained acceptance in exchange for cultural assimilation.
The same bargain seems unavailable this time around. Culture changes much more rapidly and assimilation means something very different than it did before. White Christians already make up less than half of the population and the trend will continue to accelerate. No one race or culture will dominate the metaphorical table.
The challenge compounds as political fault lines increasingly line up along racial and religious/cultural grounds. Nearly 85% of Republicans identify as white and Christian, but the same is true of only 29% of Democrats. The disparity between those numbers grows each year.
The Left struggles with a temptation to capitalize on these changes through identity politics, forming exclusive political alliances on the basis of race, gender, national origin, or sexual identity and moving away from broad-based consensus politics.
Meanwhile the Right, now led by populists, treats any attempts at identity politics as the mark of the devil. To the extent society embraces the Left’s identity politics built around race and gender (and in many ways we have), white nationalists assert in coded or direct terms that white Christians should be an acceptable tribal marker to rally around.
This is an unhealthy debate offering a false choice. Many of us who oppose both nationalist tribalism and identity politics will be left without a representative voice in the national dialogue. For the American experiment to work, civic leaders will need to be less reactionary and work toward a more unified sense of political purpose in which all Americans can see themselves.
Our country has lost its “story.” We lack an overarching sense of meaning and purpose to our history. Why is America here? What is our unifying goal? Instead of a grand narrative, our political discourse focuses on a series of power conflicts between oppresser and oppressed.
For most prior generations, we generally shared a common narrative about the country’s vision and mission. We need to find and reclaim that once again.

Claybourn is a Republican attorney from Evansville.