Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Brat and Broader Consequences

Bill Kristol draws an interesting parallel between Jeff Bell's 1978 victory over New Jersey senator Clifford Case and Dave Brat's victory over Eric Cantor last night:
So it is—perhaps the most stunning upset since in congressional history since an underfunded and little known challenger, Jeff Bell, defeated a 24-year incumbent, Clifford Case, in the 1978 New Jersey GOP Senate primary. Like Brat, Bell focused on one issue to oust the incumbent. In Bell's case, it was supply-side tax cuts. In Brat's case, the issue was immigration. But like Brat, Bell used his main issue as a kind of example and pivot point for the need for a broader change in orientation by the Republican party.
In both cases, the challengers made a broad populist case for a Republican party focused on Main Street and Middle America, not on Wall Street and corporate interests. The reigning Republican orthodoxy in 1978 was that if tax cuts were needed, they should be business-friendly ones, not cuts in personal marginal income tax rates. Similarly, Brat used his critique of "amnesty" to launch a broad assault on GOP elites who put the interests of American corporations over American workers, of D.C. lobbyists over American families. Also, in both cases most national conservative leaders and groups stayed out of the race, thinking the challenge was hopeless or that the challengers' issues was too eccentric. Both Bell and Brat won authentic grassroots victories.

Change in the Seventh District

Over at NRO, I reflect on what led to Eric Cantor's defeat in his primary race against Dave Brat.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Civic Stakes of Immigration Reform

At NRO, I look at some of the broader possible effects of the White House efforts at immigration reform.  The Obama immigration agenda may undermine American aspirations toward civic equality:
The kind of “comprehensive immigration reform” that enamors some in the upper echelons of both parties might be called bad-faith open borders, which is a distorted hybrid of the United States’ tradition of ordered borders and of the transnationalist aim of entirely open borders. Lacking the principled clarity of open borders, bad-faith open borders holds that immigration laws should remain on the books but that they should be enforced only marginally, thereby inculcating a sense of disregard for the law. Bad-faith open-borders policy encourages an increase in illegal immigration. We could see the demand for an increased number of guest-workers as a feature of bad-faith open borders: Rather than the free flow of people who have full rights to citizenship and freedom to move within the U.S. economy, guest-worker programs provide a supply of immigrants who have neither total freedom in the marketplace nor political enfranchisement. Guest-worker programs pretend to be free-market activities when, in actuality, they pervert the market... 
Bad-faith open borders has significant long-term implications for the structure of the body politic. It threatens one of the great aspirations of the American republic: the notion that all have equal access to the civil sphere. As with many other aims, this aspiration has not always been realized. But it has persisted as a guiding light for the American experiment, and many of the great victories of the Republic have been about defending and advancing this notion of equal access. According to this aspiration, even the hardest labor has profound dignity and in no way demeans the laborer. In the public square, we meet as equals — not as master and serf but as citizen and citizen. Neither wealth nor power gives one a special moral priority in this aspirational vision. All may differ in their talents and places in life, but all are alike in essential human dignity. Part of this vision is that a rising tide lifts all boats and that opportunity should not be the preserve of the few but the birthright of the many. This aspiration aims for a republic both diverse and unified, at once enriched by difference and by equality.

Read the rest here.