Corey Uhden, Politics Contributor
OPINION -- In the aftermath of the 2012 election, the entire political world was convinced that the only path forward for the Republicans was to embrace so-called comprehensive immigration reform. The entire political world, that is, except for Stephen Miller, then-Communications Director for Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. So while Florida Senator Marco Rubio assumed a leading role in the gang of eight on immigration reform, Sessions and his “right-hand man,” as Politico’s Julia Ioffe calls him, became the effort’s chief antagonists. What followed was an almost daily deluge of competing stories throughout conservative media with Rubio allies constantly fending off attacks from the Daily Caller, Breitbart.com, and The National Review Online. Miller was behind most of them. He so proudly claims credit for killing the gang of eight’s legislation that he used the experience to vault himself into his current job, senior policy advisor to President Donald Trump.
Miller joined Trump’s campaign in January 2016 and it wasn’t long before the candidate was sight-reading from Miller’s songbook. It was arguably Trump at his best and Stephen Miller is a valuable political asset. He’s tuned-in to Republican voters and a true believer in nativist, populist politics. When Sessions’s office released a “handbook on immigration,” many opponents were left attacking Senator Sessions’s political acumen instead of the argument that increased immigration was to blame for low wages and hollowing out the middle class, but Sessions and Miller were actually ahead of the curve.
Those who urged Republicans to follow Rubio’s lead (due in part to his swing-state background and political talent) were mistaken. Instead, Miller’s arguments would break through. In fact, Miller took the stage himself and became something of a celebrity to Trump supporters. Look up the demure 31-year-old on YouTube, and apparently he “destroys” Hillary Clinton and the establishment during a series of “high energy” speeches and multiple interviews with “media scum.”
The New York Times editorial board, among others, singles out White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as the de-facto president, but Bannon’s old haunt, Breitbart.com, owes much of its success to Stephen Miller. The press releases they gleefully shared from Sessions’s office were Miller’s handiwork and staff writer Julia Hahn, who is also headed to the White House, established her prominent due to her rapport with Miller and Sessions in happy hour talks Miller helped arrange. All signs indicate Bannon and Miller are utilizing the same playbook in their new offices.
Before working in politics, Miller was a contentious columnist fighting against political correctness as he assumed the persona of a young David Horowitz. Richard Spencer, white nationalist scion of the alt-right, was a peer of his at Duke University and the two were notorious for stirring controversy. For the record, Miller says Spencer’s claims that they were friends are “100% false.” Today, he is utterly convinced that increased immigration and global competition are the primary drivers of economic distress. He believes that urban poverty and low wages are a direct result of corrupt Democrats’ economic policies and competition from low-skilled immigrant labor. And he believes that banning immigration from Islamic countries is a necessary first step toward protecting America from terrorist attacks.
Stephen Miller is wholly convinced of his ideology and the political climate he’s helped wrought only further fuels his passion for the issues. He doesn’t see Republicans and Democrats in Washington as potential allies, but as enemies to vanquish. In a recent interview, he dismissed protests against the president’s executive orders by arguing, “if nobody’s disagreeing with what you’re doing, then you’re probably not doing anything that matters in the scheme of things.” Backlash to the temporary travel ban he helped draft must have been music to Miller’s ears. He’s upset the media, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Chuck Schumer? Talk about deja vu. Those that believe the confusion in its initial launch will dislodge Miller from policymaking don’t understand President Trump and underestimate Miller. Trump might be upset at the order’s planning and execution, but he clearly appreciates Miller’s political and policy acumen.
From Sessions to Trump, Miller is a svelte figure behind the curtain. Trump lumps him in with Bannon and refers to them as “my two Steves,” well aware that they comprise the brain trust behind his platform. Trump’s populist inaugural address was a Miller masterpiece and set the stage for Miller’s next battle in a lifelong war against the establishment. Some call him “Trump’s voice,” but more appropriately, Trump is Miller’s vessel.
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