Thursday, May 31, 2007

OVER THE BORDER. In a previous post I made light of the immigration question. It's easy to do when so much nonsense has been written about it.

But I wasn't joking when I said that I could understand concerns with the current bill. That's why I'm glad it is being debated in the Senate instead of, say, out back of Fred's Texaco. This is still a Republic, everyone will have an opportunity to see the sausage made, and we may entertain a faint hope at least that the attention of the public will inform, if not enforce, the decisions of our elected leaders.

The voice of the people, however, is not the only and certainly not the loudest in this event. John Derbyshire, lately mocked here, achieved an odd moment of clarity in a recent post, in which he characterized the virtually-open borders position of the Wall Street Journal editorial board:
I thought Ramesh's response to that clip of the Wall Street Journal editorial conference was basically sound.  I'm just amazed that Ramesh stayed so calm all through it.  Me, I was...  well, no, not foaming at the mouth, but gaping in wonder at such a concentration of smug rich-guy arrogance on display all in one place.

What color is the sky in these guys' world?  I've modified a trillion or so pixels scoffing at the Left's blithe indifference to actual human nature, but Gigot & Co. take the biscuit.  It's pretty routine now to mock the WSJ editorial crowd for believing that there is no such thing as a nation, only an economy.  Well, there it is.  You saw it.  That is what they actually, literally believe.  We kick around phrases like "arrogant elites" pretty carelessly, but here they are, out in the open, brazen and unashamed.
Derbyshire is a lunatic, as the rest of the quoted post (like many others by him) amply demonstrates. But he is poignant in moments like this, when he recognizes that the savage god of conservatism which he has so long served does not give a shit about anything but money.

While Derb, alas, is mainly concerned with the declining whiteness of his adopted homeland, those of us who do not share his mania may also acknowledge that among easy-immigration advocates there is a constituency that, while small in number, is rich in capital, and thereby powerful in the debate. That's why our current policy is a mess -- confusion has well-served their purpose, which is to keep the low end of our labor market flooded with cheap workers, as the fate of the Dorgan-Boxer Amendment shows.

Competing pressures add to the confusion. One may argue, as Nathan Newman does here, that other domestic factors do more to depress wages, and that "immigration is a distraction, cooked up by conservatives to take the focus off of their opposition to the minimum wage, their cuts in jobs programs and training programs, and from their ruthless tax policies that have driven inequality." A fair argument, but good luck getting it heard by voters who have been conditioned to worship "free markets," which have been defined over decades to preclude any government action other than tax cutting. What they will more easily perceive is that they are the people who, in the popular Bill Clinton phrase, "work hard and play by the rules" -- and that cynical gaming of illegal immigration makes those rules a joke.

Conservatives have perversely reframed our debates in a number of harmful ways, pitting national security against constitutional liberties, economic competitiveness against environmental safety, and so on. Their double game on immigration -- love the guest worker, hate the Aztlan hordes! -- may be their most poisonous gambit yet, and the short-term damage it's doing to the Republican Party is a sign that the poison is so powerful they can't even control it themselves. Humorous as the short-term effect may be, we have reason to worry about the long term.


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