The Corner

Immigration and Elites

Richard Nadler: You seem to adopt the Left’s definition of popular support in responding to my post about immigration being an up/down issue rather than a right/left one, by pointing as proof to the number of people who participated in the illegal-alien marches of 2006 (whose numbers, incidentally, have fizzled since then). So the popularity of a political position is determined by the number of cadres it can bring to the streets? Maybe in Argentina or Zimbabwe, but we’re not quite a banana republic yet. The polling of actual American citizens shows clearly that people don’t like amnesty and don’t trust the government to enforce the law.

Does that mean the public at large agrees with me across the board on both specifics and saliency? No, but they positively recoil at your solutions, so the closer your side gets to winning, the more intense the pushback becomes. And one reason the immigration issue was not central to the 2008 election was, as I repeatedly pointed out, that the candidates agreed on every jot and tittle of the issue — since the two political voices leading the debate shared the elite consensus on immigration, it just never came up. Abortion didn’t come up much either, and the candidates actually had different public positions on that (though I can’t imagine anyone really believes McCain is a genuine pro-lifer) — does that mean it’s politically irrelevant?

And you still haven’t answered my question: Are you telling us, with a straight face, that once the amnesty is underway, that your allies in this effort — Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Schumer, et al. — will actually keep their promises about future enforcement of immigration laws? You can’t seriously believe that, but I haven’t seen you acknowledge it.

I never saw the 2007 “war room” of which you speak — maybe I didn’t get the memo. The more likely explanation is that there really wasn’t anything like that — unlike the well-funded, organized campaigns to support or defeat Supreme Court nominees, for instance, or the effort to kill Hillarycare, the successful effort to stop the 2007 amnesty really was a grassroots uprising — it obviously had some institutional structure to it, but probably less than any comparable effort in politics. I know that doesn’t fit into your narrative, but that’s a problem with your narrative.

As a last point for now, your lament about the need for “bold elite leaders” on the pro-amnesty side actually has some merit. While our society’s elite is clearly much more supportive of mass immigration, and less concerned with border enforcement, than the public at large, the actual political movement for amnesty has two components: business and libertarians on the one hand and ethnic chauvinists and leftists on the other. In essence, the amnesty movement is an alliance of the post-American Right with the anti-American Left. And getting these two camps to work together has been very difficult, because the Left’s first goal is amnesty and while they want essentially unlimited immigration, they’re hostile to guest-worker programs, which are the only politically saleable way to increase immigration. The Right on the other hand (and I use “Right” in reference to business only for the sake of simplicity) doesn’t really care that much about amnesty, so long as the law isn’t being enforced; if it is going to be enforced, they want guest workers, captive labor imported for and tied to specific jobs, rather than simply general increases in green cards.

If the leaders of either side are too “bold” about their demands, they’ll alienate their strange-bedfellows allies. Thus the apparent lack of “bold elite leaders.” I encourage you in your efforts at getting the pro-amnesty leaders to be more bold in their pronouncements — it can only help the pro-enforcement side.

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