The Arizona immigration law is catnip for Michael Gerson’s brand of moral preening. In his column today he writes, “It sorts Republicans according to their political and moral seriousness.” (I’m in the morally unserious camp, in case you’re keeping score, along with George Will, whose column ran right below Gerson’s.) He sees the bill as an attempt by Arizona “to take control of American immigration policy,” which is funny, since it’s more an example of plugging existing American immigration law into Arizona’s own statutes. He didn’t invoke the Nazis (though you know he wanted to), but he did write this:
Americans are not accustomed to the command “Your papers, please,” however politely delivered. The distinctly American response to such a request would be “Go to hell,” and then “See you in court.”
I hope next time Gerson is stopped by a Virginia state trooper for, say, speeding on I-95, and is asked to show his license and registration, he tells the officer to “go to hell,” because “see you in court” is exactly the response he’ll get — if he’s lucky.
And finally, he makes his usual pitch for compassionate conservatism:
The resulting debate [over California’s Prop. 187 in 1994] revealed a gap in judgment. Wilson rode ethnically based resentment to reelection — while alienating Latinos in large numbers, driving the state Republican Party into irrelevance and earning the general contempt of history. Republican leaders such as Jack Kemp and then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas (I have worked for both men) fought the political current, opposed Proposition 187-like restrictions and gained in stature over time.
I’m surprised only that he didn’t capitalize the H in “the general contempt of history.” California Republican gubernatorial candidates who campaigned on immigration won (Wilson and Schwarzenegger), while those who ran in fear from the issue lost (Simon and Lungren). The state GOP is irrelevant because it’s curled up in a corner, mewling, pleading for the approval of the likes of Gerson.
Also, I would not hold up Kemp and W. as political-current-fighting, stature-gaining heroes. Kemp, may he rest in peace, stopped gaining in stature a long, long time ago, and conservatism will take a long time to recover from Bush’s gain in stature.