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Immigration and Delusion



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Could you find a more sharp disagreement between genuinely smart folk than in the competing description of Hispanic immigrants offered by Heather Mac Donald and the editors of the Wall Street Journal? Here is the Journal this morning:

Immigrants should be a natural GOP constituency. Newcomers to the U.S.—legal or illegal—tend to be aspiring people who believe in the dignity of work and self-sufficiency, and they are cultural conservatives. They are not the 47%. 

Here is Heather yesterday:

If Republicans want to change their stance on immigration, they should do so on the merits, not out of a belief that only immigration policy stands between them and a Republican Hispanic majority. It is not immigration policy that creates the strong bond between Hispanics and the Democratic party, but the core Democratic principles of a more generous safety net, strong government intervention in the economy, and progressive taxation. Hispanics will prove to be even more decisive in the victory of Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30, which raised upper-income taxes and the sales tax, than in the Obama election. 

Heather is clearly right. Anyone who has followed her work on this topic for years knows her sobering insights are based on extensive, on-the-ground research and careful analysis. The Journal, which often reflects the views of the Republican establishment, bases its immigration views on wishful thinking. And not just its immigration views. Today’s bromides about “aspiring people who believe in the dignity of work and self-sufficiency” are of a piece with the Journal’s similar soft-spot for the “Arab Spring” and Muslim outreach. These GOP fantasies are similarly based on the wishful thinking that Islamists are also “cultural conservatives” sure to forge freedom-embracing democracies when empowered in the Middle East and become model Americans when courted here — sure to assimilate seamlessly into our society rather than seek to change it fundamentally.

Falling in love with your own high-minded rhetoric is no substitute for clear-eyed examination that takes the world as it is, not as we would have it. In point of fact, Islamists, like many Hispanic political activists (think: La Raza), are statists. As I’ve detailed in The Grand Jihad and, more recently, Spring Fever, their thoroughgoing alliance with the American Left is ideologically based — it is not a product of insensitive messaging or “Islamophobia.” Islamists revile finance capitalism, favor redistributionist economic policies, and endorse nanny state regulatory suffocation as well as an ever-expanding welfare state. This is not because Leftists made inroads while conservatives idled. It is because — though this often seems unimaginable to the Journal — Islamists, like many Hispanic activists, are the vanguard of a different culture that they passionately believe is superior to the culture of individual liberty.

There is no single-issue quick-fix to the challenge of ushering them into the Republican coalition. Rather, there is a choice to be made: either convince them that they are wrong, meaning make the unapologetic case for liberty and limited government; or fundamentally change who you are, meaning accommodate their statism.

The fact that this choice is easy to identify does not mean the right alternative is easy to implement. Convincing skeptics of the long-neglected case for freedom is going to take a long time — you can’t cede your leading institutions to statists for decades and expect to turn things around over night. But the second alternative, the one that is so easy — and obviously for some, so tempting — is surrender and steep decline. Accommodation only works in a normal political order where both sides have the same core values but differ on how to validate them. It does not work when one side is looking to vanquish the other. 



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