We are at a remarkable moment. We have an open, 2,000-mile border to our south, and the entity with the power to enforce the law and impose safety and order will not do it. Wall Street collapsed, taking Main Street’s money with it, and the government can’t really figure out what to do about it because the government itself was deeply implicated in the crash, and both political parties are full of people whose political careers have been made possible by Wall Street contributions. Meanwhile we pass huge laws, bills so comprehensive, omnibus and transformative that no one knows what’s in them and no one—literally, no one—knows how exactly they will be executed or interpreted. Citizens search for new laws online, pore over them at night, and come away knowing no more than they did before they typed “dot-gov.”
It is not that no one’s in control. Washington is full of people who insist they’re in control and who go to great lengths to display their power. It’s that no one takes responsibility and authority. Washington daily delivers to the people two stark and utterly conflicting messages: “We control everything” and “You’re on your own.”
All this contributes to a deep and growing alienation between the people of America and the government of America in Washington.
This is not the old, conservative and long-lampooned “I don’t trust gummint” attitude of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. It’s something new, or rather something so much more broadly and fully evolved that it constitutes something new. The right never trusted the government, but now the middle doesn’t. I asked a campaigner for Hillary Clinton recently where her sturdy, pantsuited supporters had gone. They didn’t seem part of the Obama brigades. “Some of them are at the tea party,” she said.
None of this happened overnight. It is, most recently, the result of two wars that were supposed to be cakewalks, Katrina, the crash, and the phenomenon of a federal government that seemed less and less competent attempting to do more and more by passing bigger and bigger laws.
Add to this states on the verge of bankruptcy, the looming debt crisis of the federal government, the likelihood of ever-rising taxes. Shake it all together, and you have the makings of the big alienation. Alienation is often followed by full-blown antagonism, and antagonism by breakage.
Which brings us to Arizona and its much-criticized attempt to institute a law aimed at controlling its own border with Mexico. It is doing this because the federal government won’t, and because Arizonans have a crisis on their hands, areas on the border where criminal behavior flourishes, where there have been kidnappings, murders and gang violence. If the law is abusive, it will be determined quickly enough, in the courts. In keeping with recent tradition, they were reading parts of the law aloud on cable the other night, with bright and sincere people completely disagreeing on the meaning of the words they were reading. No one knows how the law will be executed or interpreted.
Every state and region has its own facts and experience. In New York, legal and illegal immigrants keep the city running: They work hard jobs with brutal hours, rip off no one on Wall Street, and do not crash the economy. They are generally considered among the good guys. I’m not sure New Yorkers can fairly judge the situation in Arizona, nor Arizonans the situation in New York.
But the larger point is that Arizona is moving forward because the government in Washington has completely abdicated its responsibility. For 10 years—at least—through two administrations, Washington deliberately did nothing to ease the crisis on the borders because politicians calculated that an air of mounting crisis would spur mounting support for what Washington thought was appropriate reform—i.e., reform that would help the Democratic and Republican parties.
Both parties resemble Gordon Brown, who is about to lose the prime ministership of Britain. On the campaign trail this week, he was famously questioned by a party voter about his stand on immigration. He gave her the verbal runaround, all boilerplate and shrugs, and later complained to an aide, on an open mic, that he’d been forced into conversation with that “bigoted woman.”
He really thought she was a bigot. Because she asked about immigration. Which is, to him, a sign of at least latent racism.
The establishments of the American political parties, and the media, are full of people who think concern about illegal immigration is a mark of racism. If you were Freud you might say, “How odd that’s where their minds so quickly go, how strange they’re so eager to point an accusing finger. Could they be projecting onto others their own, heavily defended-against inner emotions?” But let’s not do Freud, he’s too interesting. Maybe they’re just smug and sanctimonious.
The American president has the power to control America’s borders if he wants to, but George W. Bush and Barack Obama did not and do not want to, and for the same reason, and we all know what it is. The fastest-growing demographic in America is the Hispanic vote, and if either party cracks down on illegal immigration, it risks losing that vote for generations.
But while the Democrats worry about the prospects of the Democrats and the Republicans about the well-being of the Republicans, who worries about America?
No one. Which the American people have noticed, and which adds to the dangerous alienation—actually it’s at the heart of the alienation—of the age.
In the past four years, I have argued in this space that nothing can or should be done, no new federal law passed, until the border itself is secure. That is the predicate, the commonsense first step. Once existing laws are enforced and the border made peaceful, everyone in the country will be able to breathe easier and consider, without an air of clamor and crisis, what should be done next. What might that be? How about relax, see where we are, and absorb. Pass a small, clear law—say, one granting citizenship to all who serve two years in the armed forces—and then go have a Coke. Not everything has to be settled right away. Only controlling the border has to be settled right away.
Instead, our national establishments deliberately allow the crisis to grow and fester, ignoring public unrest and amusing themselves by damning anyone’s attempt to deal with the problem they fear to address.
Why does the federal government do this? Because so many within it are stupid and unimaginative and don’t trust the American people. Which of course the American people have noticed.
If the federal government and our political parties were imaginative, they would understand that it is actually in their interests to restore peace and order to the border. It would be a way of demonstrating that our government is still capable of functioning, that it is still to some degree connected to the people’s will, that it has the broader interests of the country in mind.
The American people fear they are losing their place and authority in the daily, unwinding drama of American history. They feel increasingly alienated from their government. And alienation, again, is often followed by deep animosity, and animosity by the breaking up of things. If our leaders were farsighted not only for themselves but for the country, they would fix the border.
Posts Tagged ‘immigration’
Obama’s immigration strategy is to destroy the Republican brand for many election cycles to come. He is less interested in actually passing legislation and more interested in “winning” politically by marginalizing Republicans with Hispanic voters.
Obama will insist on elements of immigration reform that he knows will never pass a Republican House. The bipartisan Senate reform group (lead by Sen. John McCain) announced an outline of a reform package on Monday and President Obama is speaking in Las Vegas today. Already the White House is pushing out reasons that the Senate package doesn’t go far enough.
Republicans need to travel this road carefully. They need to get the messaging right about providing opportunities to those who truly want to be here and lay out the principles of reform and call Obama out on playing politics with immigration reform.
Immigration hard-liners need to take the long view about the position the stake out. To insist on mass deportation (unworkable), will only allow the leftist media to make Republicans a caricature of heartless hicks, and set back Republican opportunities for many election cycles to come.
Peggy Noonan has a great column about our current illegal immigration problem, and more specifically, the problem with our southern border, that will run in this weekend’s edition of the Wall Street Journal. It is worth the read, and the entire piece follows. I have been a huge fan of Noonan even before I knew it. She was a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan and has a beautiful way with words. As is demonstrated in this column, she always makes you think.
You knew it would happen. Despite Obama picking a Latina for the Supreme Court, there are some in the Latino community that just aren’t as happy as they wanted to be. Why? She’s the wrong kind of Latina – that is, she’s Puerto Rican, not Mexican.
Many Latinos are elated that Obama has nominated a Hispanic, and they relate to her story of success from humble beginnings.
But some would have preferred to see Obama nominate a Mexican-American considering that they make up 70 percent of the nation’s 47 million Latinos.
“The argument could be made for (a Mexican-American nominee),” said Raul Yzaguirre, former head of the National Council of La Raza, one of the nation’s largest Hispanic civil-rights organization. He is now presidential professor of community development and civil rights at Arizona State University. “I want unity, so I am more inclined to overlook those things and say, ‘Let’s work together.’ “
Though Puerto Ricans and Mexicans share a common language, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and are not considered immigrants like Mexicans, said Louis DeSipio, a political-science and Chicano/Latino studies professor at the University of California-Irvine.
As a result, Sotomayor could be less sensitive to immigration issues she may face as a Supreme Court justice than if she were Mexican-American, DeSipio said.
Luz Sarmina, president and CEO of Valle del Sol, a non-profit community-based Latino organization in Phoenix, said that she was thrilled with the choice of a Hispanic but admits that she would have liked to have seen Obama nominate a Mexican-American.
“I’m thrilled having a Latina, but I also think there are many Mexican-Americans well-qualified for that role. I don’t want to pit one group against the other, but I think I would have been thrilled to see a Mexican-American.”
In the name of unity, Yzaguirre will “overlook” the snub. DeSipio thinks Sotomayor will be “less sensitive to immigration issues” because she isn’t of Mexican descent.
Watch for this issue to get some more legs as Sotomayor’s record starts getting exposed. What Mexican-Americans will learn is that she really isn’t much like them.
White House officials are saying that Obama plans to tackle immigration this year after all. Many Hispanic activists and lawmakers have not been shy lately about reminding Obama that he made promises to the Hispanic community during the campaign. Those promises didn’t make much news, because the positions of the two candidates for President were pretty close to the same.
There are three things working against those who would like to see comprehensive immigration reform this year. First, Obama continues to push a very aggressive agenda to deal with the financial crises – essentially trying to nationalize every industry he can get his hands on. Second, with card check and cap-and-trade headed to the dust-bin of history, the last big agenda item near and dear to Obama’s heart is health care reform – in the form of more government involvement in every aspect of your health. Finally, as long as the economy is struggling and unemployment continues to rise, the argument for the need for more labor will ring hollow with more and more Americans.
My guess is that the only way immigration reform happens this year is if health care reform follows the same path as card check and cap-and-trade, because then Obama will be desperate for a legislative accomplishment.
I am a little surprised immigration reform didn’t make the “A” list of agenda items for Obama. You would think with how hard the Democrats (and some Republicans) were pushing comprehensive reform for the last couple years that this needed to be done. Right. Now.
With strong majorities in the House and Senate, I would think a comprehensive immigration bill would be a slam dunk. So, maybe it’s being used as leverage for something else. Only time will tell.
Rasmussen has done a poll in Arizona testing voters on Obama’s approval rating, Gov. Jan Brewer’s approval rating, whether voters support a temporary tax increase to fix the budget, whether they think a tax increase is going to happen and other issues like immigration and drug trafficking. The results are very instructive. Clearly, there are some issues that raise the ire of Arizonans.
1* How would you rate the job Barack Obama has been doing as President… do you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, or strongly disapprove of the job he’s been doing?
32% Strongly approve
21% Somewhat approve
8% Somewhat disapprove
39% Strongly disapprove
1% Not sure
No real news here. In a red-shaded state like Arizona, it would be a surprise if Obama had strong approval. People are still willing to give him some time, but nearly half are not liking what they see.
2* How would you rate the job Jan Brewer has been doing as Governor… do you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, or strongly disapprove of the job she’s been doing?
9% Strongly approve
48% Somewhat approve
26% Somewhat disapprove
11% Strongly disapprove
6% Not sure
The surprise here is that only 6% had no opinion. That is good news for the Governor, because she is having a better honeymoon than Obama. These number make any potential opponents (primary or general) take pause.
3* Do you favor or oppose a temporary tax increase to help stem the state’ budget shortfall?
13% Not sure
People don’t like higher taxes. Period.
4* How likely is it that a temporary tax hike will become permanent?
70% Very likely
19% Somewhat likely
8% Not very likely
1% Not at all likely
2% Not sure
While people don’t like taxes, there is a feeling of inevitability.
5* Should there be a special election to raise state sales tax to help with the budget shortfall and to save some programs that have to be cut?
17% Not sure
The 17% of people who are not sure are the target audience for the Governor.
6* Should taxes only be raised by a majority vote of the people?
8% Not sure
People want a say, and they hold out hope that most people will think like they do, and not raise taxes.
The rest of the poll – just for kicks and giggles:
7* Would you favor or oppose doing away with property taxes completely if it meant an increase in sales tax?
26% Not sure
8* Would you favor or oppose doing away with property taxes completely if it meant a loss of programs?
22% Not sure
9* Do you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable impression of Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio?
46% Very favorable
22% Somewhat favorable
10% Somewhat unfavorable
16% Very unfavorable
7% Not sure
10* If a police officer pulls someone over for a traffic violation, should the officer automatically check to see if that person is in the country legally?
5% Not sure
11* If law enforcement officers know of places where immigrants gather to find work, should they sometimes conduct surprise raids to identify and deport illegal immigrants?
6% Not sure
12* How concerned are you that efforts to identify and deport illegal immigrants will also end up violating the civil rights of some U.S. citizens?
32% Very concerned
24% Somewhat concerned
30% Not very concerned
13% Not at all concerned
1% Not sure
13* Which concerns you more – illegal immigration or drug violence?
29% Illegal immigration
60% Drug violence
10% Not sure
14* If drug violence continues to escalate along the Mexican border should the U.S. Military be used along the border to protect American citizens?
9% Not sure