Carol Platt Liebau: The Internecine Republican Immigration Debate

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Internecine Republican Immigration Debate

This piece, by brilliant commentator, strategist and conservative leader William Kristol, seems like an almost perfect distillation of the views of many Republicans on the immigration issue.

He warns that "turning the GOP into an anti-immigration party could dash Republican hopes of becoming a long-term governing party" -- and he's quite right about that.

But the linked piece also seems to indulge in the convenient conflation of legal immigration and illegal immigration. References to "anti-immigration" politicians eliminate an important distinction, as though opposing illegal immigration is no different than opposing immigration generally.

Certainly Republicans can't win long-term by immigrant bashing, but neither can they win by vilifying other Republicans who have expressed legitimate concerns about illegal immigration (those who resort either to ignorant parochialism or to demonizing immigrants -- legal or not -- are, in fact, fair game for vilification). Surely someone as gifted as Kristol needn't stoop to calling those who disagree with him "yahoos" in order to make his point -- and the namecalling only stokes suspicion on the part of its targets (rightly or wrongly) that there is a socioeconomic/sophistication/elitism component to the internecine debate.

Before I moved to California, I might well have agreed with Kristol's take 100%. But almost eight years in the Golden State have tempered my views, as I noted here, more than a year ago, in warning about the dangers the issue poses to the GOP.

Of course, Bill Kristol is quite right in noting that the GOP can't become a long-term governing party by alienating Latinos. But it's worth noting that not all Latinos are monolithically in favor of illegal immigration -- most notably because it keeps their own wages low.

Republicans should take note: If we want Latinos to become like the Reagan Democrats in the 1980's, Latinos have to have enough of an economic stake to want to be independent of an big, nanny-state government. But it's hard to get to the first rung on the economic ladder when there's what Harold Meyerson has termed a "reserve army of the unemployed" continuing to stream into the country.


Blogger Bachbone said...

Perhaps Mr. Kristol should take a little of his own advice and resist ad hominem attacks (e.g., "yahoo" Tancredo) on those who disagree with him.

His remarks are, to me, intemperate and his attitude holier-than-thou. He defines the debate in his own terms, then essentially derides those who disagree as coarse and uncouth.

The term amnesty need not be specifically used, but if the bill looks, sounds and accomplishes the same, shall we not be call it by its rightful name? A bad piece of legislation is no better because it's labeled "good" by Mr. Kristol.

I'm sick and tired of so-called leaders, especially those on the conservative side, overtly and purposely maligning (e.g., Minutemen = vigilantes, anti-illegal immigration proponents = yahoos) people who are just as sensible and patriotic as they are.

Wake up and smell the Starbucks, Mr. Kristol.

7:51 PM  

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