Thursday, April 30, 2015

Two Links

A couple brief points:

In NRO, I look at the toxic combination of weaponized of cultural politics and mob violence.

In another piece, John Fonte celebrates what he terms "the conservative populist breakout."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Why So Angry?

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's comments about legal immigration, reported earlier this week by Matthew Boyle, have raised a semi-ruckus on the Net. This paragraph in particular seems to have ignited howls of outrage and yelps of pleasure:
In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying—the next president and the next congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages, because the more I’ve talked to folks, I’ve talked to Senator Sessions and others out there—but it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today—is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages, and we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.
It's interesting that some should view as controversial the idea that protecting the American worker should be an important consideration for immigration policy. But some apparently do. Mark Krikorian outlines some of the vituperative attacks directed at Walker's comments (even some Senate Republicans are grousing).

But some of these attacks lack argumentative clarity. For instance, this Talking Points Memo story breathlessly warns that Walker "shows openness to limiting legal immigration," which it portrays as some hardcore right-wing viewpoint. TPM is not alone in its suggestion that limiting legal immigration is somehow beyond the norms of acceptable political debate.  However, current immigration law already limits legal immigration (setting particular caps on it), and very few politicians are running on pure open borders. Barack Obama has not called for removing all limits on legal immigration, and neither has Hillary Clinton. Are they now rabidly right-wing?

For the record, only 7% of Americans want immigration levels increased, so supporters of unlimited legal immigration are a tiny minority.  And, if we are going to have limits on legal immigration, what standard should we use?

The intensity of the attacks on Governor Walker's remarks suggests how some in the Beltway want to avoid having a real debate about how to ensure opportunity for all and how to integrate immigrants into the American body politic. Many in the elite want to foist a narrow vision of immigration "reform" on the nation (basically, window-dressing enforcement, instant legalization of illegal immigrants, and expanded guest-worker programs). But they do not have a monopoly on "reform."

As I've suggested earlier, conservatives and Republicans should not be afraid to put forward immigration reform that helps immigrants succeed in the American economy and become full members of the American body politic. Part of the defense of the wages of the American worker includes the defense of the wages of legal immigrants, so seeking to defend the American worker is hardly anti-immigrant. We can have an immigration policy that is both pro-middle class and pro-immigrant.  And I think it is at least arguable that one of the key ideas of this immigration policy would include defending the ladder of opportunity so that immigrants and the native born (which often includes the children of immigrants) have a chance at prosperity.

Governor Walker's exact policy proposals for immigration are still evolving (as Mickey Kaus reminds us), but these remarks hint that he might at least be thinking about how to forge an immigration policy that encourages opportunity and civic integration.  Far from being a right-wing pander, that kind of policy vision should be of interest to people across the political spectrum.

UPDATE: For more along these lines, see these remarks by Jeffrey H. Anderson, Ross Douthat, Ian Tuttle, and Ramesh Ponnuru.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Realizing the American Dream for All

In NRO today, I make a case for expanding opportunity so that immigrants and native born can both have access to opportunity and the civic space.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

GOP and the Union

Last week saw the 150th anniversary of the Union victory in the Civil War, and a bevy of thinkpieces about the war as a whole.  Perhaps one of the more incendiary pieces was this essay by Harold Meyerson, which argued that today's Republican party was the party of the Confederacy:
Fueled by the mega-donations of the mega-rich, today’s Republican Party is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis. It suppresses black voting; it opposes federal efforts to mitigate poverty; it objects to federal investment in infrastructure and education just as the antebellum South opposed internal improvements and rejected public education; it scorns compromise. It is nearly all white. It is the lineal descendant of Lee’s army, and the descendants of Grant’s have yet to subdue it.
As a view of contemporary trends, this picture has numerous distortions.

It's hard to say that the ideological Left and the agenda of the Obama administration (and a would-be Clinton administration) have not benefited from the "mega-donations of the mega-rich."  President Obama's boardroom progressivism has relied upon alliances with connected Wall Street players and other corporate interests.

And Meyerson's portrayal of the aims of the contemporary GOP is also somewhat problematic.  To look at only a couple examples:  Many Republicans are not opposed to efforts to alleviate poverty, but they doubt that the Left's preferred efforts to deal with poverty will be helpful over the long-term.  The fact that Republicans propose alternative policies to deal with poverty does not mean that they don't want to help limit it.  On education policy, anxiety about a federal takeover is hardly confined to Republicans. Americans left, right, and center are worried about putting education policy in the hands of unelected federal bureaucrats.

This portrait of the GOP is also troubled on a historical level.  For instance, Rich Lowry's 2013 book about Lincoln, Lincoln Unbound, argues that, contrary to Meyerson, there are substantial continuities between an opportunity-driven conservatism and Lincoln's policies.  Lincoln's case for economic uplift, popular prosperity, and the dignity of the individual has many resonances with contemporary conservatism.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Defending Pluralism

A couple points to add to my NRO article yesterday looking at the contrast between a support for civic pluralism and a devotion to an imperialist secularism (that demands the removal of all religion from the public square):

On Twitter, Andrew Walker notes a tweet by Zack Ford at ThinkProgress:

This tweet demonstrates the impulses of some (especially on the far left) to argue that religious beliefs have no place in the public square.  The fact that folks like Martin Luther King did not divorce their beliefs from there actions reveals some of the limits of Ford's declaration.  It is unclear why religious people in Ford's worldview should be particularly burdened and not be allowed to work to express their beliefs.

At the Corner, Yuval Levin draws attention to the way that extremist progressives are attempting to turn back the clock on religious tolerance:
Madison’s case against an established church, perhaps most notably in his 1785 “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments,” was rooted in a core principle of religious liberty that is particularly important to remember in the kinds of debates we have seen in the last few years: That religious freedom is not a freedom to do what you want, but a freedom to do what you must. It’s not a freedom from constraint, but a recognition of a constraint higher than even the law and therefore prior to it and deserving of some leeway from legal obligations when reasonably possible.
Levin finds that, unlike Madison, many radical leftists want to say to believers that they can have their own private beliefs but that they cannot form institutions in accord with these beliefs because such institutions could challenge the established church of progressive secularism.