Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tom Tancredo

Republicans and the Hispanic Vote

Rep. Lamar Smith gets it partially right when he touts the election of Hispanic Republican candidates and of non-Hispanic pro-border-enforcement Republicans with the help of a significant number of Hispanic voters. “Exit polls reported by CNN and updated this week reveal that a historically robust 38 percent of Hispanic voters cast ballots for House Republican candidates in 2010 — more than in 2006 (30 percent) and 2008 (29 percent).” He observes:

Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, one of the most trusted commentators on Spanish-language television, concluded that “the United States moved to the right, and Latino politicians did so too — among them, a new generation of Hispanic Republicans who support policies that are essentially opposed to the undocumented immigrants in this country.”

Who are these pro-rule-of-law Hispanic rising stars in the Republican Party? Voters elected Susana Martinez governor of New Mexico, Brian Sandoval governor of Nevada and Florida’s Marco Rubio to the U.S. Senate. Bill Flores, Francisco Canseco, Jaime Herrera, Raul Labrador and David Rivera went to the U.S. House of Representatives.

But we should add a couple of caveats. First, Smith notes that Gov. Jan Brewer got 28 percent of the vote, a good result, he suggests, since in 2006 the GOP candidate got 26 percent. Umm … I don’t think barely exceeding the vote totals for 2006, a wipe-out year for the Republicans, should be the goal for the GOP. (Moreover, the percentage of voters who are Hispanic has been increasing in each election, so Republicans will need to do better with each election if they are to retain that share of the general electorate.) And while Rick Perry got 38 percent of the Hispanic vote, he got 55 percent of the overall electorate, suggesting that a huge gap still remains in the GOP’s appeal to Hispanics.

Second, Smith ignores the real issues: tone, rhetoric, and position on legal immigration. Marco Rubio believes in border control, but his life story is built around the immigrant experience, and he eschews inflammatory language that has plagued Republicans like Tom Tancredo. As Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell pointed out to me a few years ago, if the Republicans want to continue to make progress among Hispanic voters, they need to object to the “illegal” part, not the “immigration” part, of the equation.

Smith is on solid ground with his conclusion:

On many of the most important issues of our day – jobs, education, support for small businesses and the economy – the Republican positions line up with Hispanic values. Republican approaches to better education, small businesses and job creation demonstrate that the GOP will put policy over politics when it comes to Hispanic outreach. The right way to attract Hispanic support is to emphasize our shared values.

Too often, Republicans assume that their positions are so intrinsically true that they need no explanation. Wrong. If they want to attract a growing portion of the electorate, they need to explain both that Republicans value Hispanics’ contributions and participation in American society and that school choice, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and other mainstays of the GOP agenda are the best avenue to upward mobility and progress for Hispanics, and for all Americans. Election of impressive candidates like Rubio, Gov. Susana Martinez, Gov. Brian Sandoval, and Reps. Bill Flores, Francisco Canseco, Jaime Herrera, Raul Labrador, and David Rivera is a good start but hardly sufficient.

Rep. Lamar Smith gets it partially right when he touts the election of Hispanic Republican candidates and of non-Hispanic pro-border-enforcement Republicans with the help of a significant number of Hispanic voters. “Exit polls reported by CNN and updated this week reveal that a historically robust 38 percent of Hispanic voters cast ballots for House Republican candidates in 2010 — more than in 2006 (30 percent) and 2008 (29 percent).” He observes:

Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, one of the most trusted commentators on Spanish-language television, concluded that “the United States moved to the right, and Latino politicians did so too — among them, a new generation of Hispanic Republicans who support policies that are essentially opposed to the undocumented immigrants in this country.”

Who are these pro-rule-of-law Hispanic rising stars in the Republican Party? Voters elected Susana Martinez governor of New Mexico, Brian Sandoval governor of Nevada and Florida’s Marco Rubio to the U.S. Senate. Bill Flores, Francisco Canseco, Jaime Herrera, Raul Labrador and David Rivera went to the U.S. House of Representatives.

But we should add a couple of caveats. First, Smith notes that Gov. Jan Brewer got 28 percent of the vote, a good result, he suggests, since in 2006 the GOP candidate got 26 percent. Umm … I don’t think barely exceeding the vote totals for 2006, a wipe-out year for the Republicans, should be the goal for the GOP. (Moreover, the percentage of voters who are Hispanic has been increasing in each election, so Republicans will need to do better with each election if they are to retain that share of the general electorate.) And while Rick Perry got 38 percent of the Hispanic vote, he got 55 percent of the overall electorate, suggesting that a huge gap still remains in the GOP’s appeal to Hispanics.

Second, Smith ignores the real issues: tone, rhetoric, and position on legal immigration. Marco Rubio believes in border control, but his life story is built around the immigrant experience, and he eschews inflammatory language that has plagued Republicans like Tom Tancredo. As Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell pointed out to me a few years ago, if the Republicans want to continue to make progress among Hispanic voters, they need to object to the “illegal” part, not the “immigration” part, of the equation.

Smith is on solid ground with his conclusion:

On many of the most important issues of our day – jobs, education, support for small businesses and the economy – the Republican positions line up with Hispanic values. Republican approaches to better education, small businesses and job creation demonstrate that the GOP will put policy over politics when it comes to Hispanic outreach. The right way to attract Hispanic support is to emphasize our shared values.

Too often, Republicans assume that their positions are so intrinsically true that they need no explanation. Wrong. If they want to attract a growing portion of the electorate, they need to explain both that Republicans value Hispanics’ contributions and participation in American society and that school choice, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and other mainstays of the GOP agenda are the best avenue to upward mobility and progress for Hispanics, and for all Americans. Election of impressive candidates like Rubio, Gov. Susana Martinez, Gov. Brian Sandoval, and Reps. Bill Flores, Francisco Canseco, Jaime Herrera, Raul Labrador, and David Rivera is a good start but hardly sufficient.

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Boneheaded Birthright Citizenship Fight

Jen is right on both the substance and politics of a GOP move to revoke birthright citizenship from children born to illegal aliens. As I’ve written here and here, the 14th Amendment was carefully drawn and debated to exclude only two categories of persons: the children of diplomats and children born on Indian reservations that were deemed sovereign territories at the time.

But the political objections are even greater. Republicans lost two Senate seats — in Nevada and Colorado — that they should have won on Election Day, largely because of the nasty tenor of debate on illegal immigration. Sharron Angle ran ads depicting illegal immigrants as gang members and criminals and accused them of stealing jobs from Nevadans in a state in which nearly one in five voters were Hispanic. Ken Buck lost in Colorado in part because former Republican congressman and anti-immigrant stalwart Tom Tancredo was on the ticket as an independent running for governor, a race that turned out Hispanic voters who do not normally vote in non-presidential years.

Bashing illegal immigrants may work in districts where Hispanics don’t vote, but it’s a loser nationally and in states that the GOP has to win in 2012 if it has any hope of replacing the current occupant in the White House.

Jen is right on both the substance and politics of a GOP move to revoke birthright citizenship from children born to illegal aliens. As I’ve written here and here, the 14th Amendment was carefully drawn and debated to exclude only two categories of persons: the children of diplomats and children born on Indian reservations that were deemed sovereign territories at the time.

But the political objections are even greater. Republicans lost two Senate seats — in Nevada and Colorado — that they should have won on Election Day, largely because of the nasty tenor of debate on illegal immigration. Sharron Angle ran ads depicting illegal immigrants as gang members and criminals and accused them of stealing jobs from Nevadans in a state in which nearly one in five voters were Hispanic. Ken Buck lost in Colorado in part because former Republican congressman and anti-immigrant stalwart Tom Tancredo was on the ticket as an independent running for governor, a race that turned out Hispanic voters who do not normally vote in non-presidential years.

Bashing illegal immigrants may work in districts where Hispanics don’t vote, but it’s a loser nationally and in states that the GOP has to win in 2012 if it has any hope of replacing the current occupant in the White House.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Never underestimate the ability of GOP candidates to turn off voters who should be their natural allies. “Clearly, Sharron Angle’s ad depicting dark-skinned figures violating U.S. immigration laws angered many Hispanic voters in Nevada, especially after she clumsily tried to claim they might have been Asian. Similarly, the presence of anti-immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo on Colorado’s ballot as the de facto Republican candidate for governor helped fuel Hispanic turnout.”

A lot of conservatives wish Chris Christie had abided by the “never say never” rule and left just a crack open for a 2012 run.  He has a “51-38 percent approval rating, higher than President Barack Obama or any other statewide leader, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.”

Never confuse Keith Olbermann for a journalist, says Michael Kinsley. “Does anyone doubt what Olbermann’s views are on politics in general and these races [in which he contributed to the Democrats] in particular? Most journalists try to suppress their biases — Olbermann gets paid to flaunt his biases.”

George W. Bush was never self-pitying or a buck-passer, writes Mark McKinnon. “Bush never complains. He never blames others. He takes full responsibility for his campaigns, his administration, his life. He accepts the cards he’s dealt. That’s the George Bush I know.” Get ready for the Bush nostalgia. (His approval rating is statistically identical to Obama’s. Says as much about Obama as it does Bush, huh?)

Never mind luring him to switch parties. The National Republican Senate Committee is already going after Joe Manchin.

Never think “no” means “no.” Rick Perry says he’s not running in 2012, but he sure is going after someone who certainly will be.

Never mess with Stephen Hayes. Especially if you don’t have your facts straight.

Never forget: in victory, minor spats tend to fade. “[Sen. Jim] DeMint is co-sponsoring an amendment [Sen. John] Cornyn plans to offer that would put the Senate GOPers on record in support of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal budget to be balanced and thereby force Congress to put the brakes on government spending and require a supermajority to raise taxes. … Funny, Cornyn and DeMint working together to stop earmarks, require a balanced budget and prevent future tax increases without a congressional supermajority. DeMint was the major force behind the Senate Conservative Fund that contributed mightily the victories of many of the incoming GOP senators, while Cornyn headed the Senate Republican Campaign Committee that made some moves earlier in the 2010 campaign that were strongly criticized by conservatives.” Victory tends to make pols magnanimous.

Never underestimate the ability of GOP candidates to turn off voters who should be their natural allies. “Clearly, Sharron Angle’s ad depicting dark-skinned figures violating U.S. immigration laws angered many Hispanic voters in Nevada, especially after she clumsily tried to claim they might have been Asian. Similarly, the presence of anti-immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo on Colorado’s ballot as the de facto Republican candidate for governor helped fuel Hispanic turnout.”

A lot of conservatives wish Chris Christie had abided by the “never say never” rule and left just a crack open for a 2012 run.  He has a “51-38 percent approval rating, higher than President Barack Obama or any other statewide leader, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.”

Never confuse Keith Olbermann for a journalist, says Michael Kinsley. “Does anyone doubt what Olbermann’s views are on politics in general and these races [in which he contributed to the Democrats] in particular? Most journalists try to suppress their biases — Olbermann gets paid to flaunt his biases.”

George W. Bush was never self-pitying or a buck-passer, writes Mark McKinnon. “Bush never complains. He never blames others. He takes full responsibility for his campaigns, his administration, his life. He accepts the cards he’s dealt. That’s the George Bush I know.” Get ready for the Bush nostalgia. (His approval rating is statistically identical to Obama’s. Says as much about Obama as it does Bush, huh?)

Never mind luring him to switch parties. The National Republican Senate Committee is already going after Joe Manchin.

Never think “no” means “no.” Rick Perry says he’s not running in 2012, but he sure is going after someone who certainly will be.

Never mess with Stephen Hayes. Especially if you don’t have your facts straight.

Never forget: in victory, minor spats tend to fade. “[Sen. Jim] DeMint is co-sponsoring an amendment [Sen. John] Cornyn plans to offer that would put the Senate GOPers on record in support of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal budget to be balanced and thereby force Congress to put the brakes on government spending and require a supermajority to raise taxes. … Funny, Cornyn and DeMint working together to stop earmarks, require a balanced budget and prevent future tax increases without a congressional supermajority. DeMint was the major force behind the Senate Conservative Fund that contributed mightily the victories of many of the incoming GOP senators, while Cornyn headed the Senate Republican Campaign Committee that made some moves earlier in the 2010 campaign that were strongly criticized by conservatives.” Victory tends to make pols magnanimous.

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Searching

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories. Read More

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, who on paper might seem well-suited to the times (businessman, successful governor), is hobbled, maybe fatally, by his authorship of a health-care plan that bears a striking resemblance to the one which both Republican insiders and Tea Party activists are determined to obliterate. This is no small handicap.

So what’s the formula for success? Republicans supported and emerged victorious with serious-minded conservative candidates – Rob Portman in Ohio, Dan Coats in Indiana, and John Boozman in Arkansas – while finding new faces (Rubio, Ron Johnson) who avoided the hot-button rhetoric that derailed a number of the Tea Party candidates. Although ideologically not all that different from the Tea Party–preferred candidates, the GOP victors demonstrated how to meld fiscal conservatism with a more accessible brand of populism. They hardly disappointed the Tea Party crowd; but neither did they alienate independent voters.

Are there GOP hopefuls in 2012 who can fuse Tea Party populism with sober conservative governance? Many in the conservative intelligentsia pine for Gov. Chris Christie, who has become a rock star on YouTube; he won in a Blue State and now is battling against the Trenton insiders. And he’s doing it with showmanship that only Palin can top. But he joked that apparently only “suicide” would convince us that he wasn’t interested. I’m thinking he might be serious about not running.

Then there is Rep. Paul Ryan, soon to take over the chair of the Budget Committee. He excites many conservatives in and outside the Beltway. He’s brainy and articulate, with a shake-up-the-status-quo approach to entitlement and budget reform. He already matched up well against Obama, arguably winning a TKO in the health-care summit. And he will be front and center in the key legislative battles, in some ways the face of the GOP House majority, for the next two years. While he’s said he’s not interested in a 2012 run, he’s not been Christie-esque in his denials. As for the “rule” that House members can’t make viable presidential candidates, I think the rulebook was shredded in the last few years.

Of course, there is Marco Rubio, the party’s genuine superstar (with an immigrant story and deep belief in American exceptionalism), who proved to be an especially effective messenger of conservative principles. However, both he and his most fervent supporters seem to agree: it’s too soon.

So the search goes on. The good news for the GOP is that they have a slew of new governors (e.g., John Kasich) and senators and some retiring ones (Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels) who understand how to forge the center-right coalition needed to get elected. A few faces familiar to political junkies (Mike Pence, John Thune) are also considering a run, which will test whether a Washington insider can nevertheless take on the mantle of reformer/outsider. Can any from this group of Republicans — who frankly lack magnetic personalities – also engage Tea Partiers? We will see.

So conservatives keep looking and trying to persuade the reluctant pols to throw their hats into the ring. Those who imagine they can win back the White House without full engagement of the 2010 winning formula (Tea Partiers plus traditionalists) should think again. A plan by half of the Republican alliance to overpower the other half is a formula for a second Obama term.

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The Perils of Palin Punditry

You can bet the “how to stop Palin” columns will keep proliferating. There’s one in the Daily Beast today, warning the GOP establishment “to treat her with respect, and to avoid any hint at all of a patronizing attitude.” Not bad for platitudinous advice, albeit a little late. Tunku Varadarajan asserts that “the party cannot ‘manage’ Sarah Palin unless she agrees to manage herself.” Actually, if she were managing herself, she might advise herself not to be managed by the people who backed Charlie Crist. He then opines:

Palin knows her own strengths. In all likelihood, she knows her own weaknesses even better. The Republican Party must flatter her for her strengths, all the better to use them well in the next year. Equally, it must be diplomatic about her weaknesses, alluding to them in private and not blaring them out to the nation in the incendiary manner of a Karl Rove. Palin will come to concede her electoral limitations—sooner than most people expect. And when she does, she will leave the presidential field open to a candidate better able than she to tackle Obama in 2012. That would be her finest contribution to the Republican Party. In not running herself, she will make the party electable.

How does he know all this? He certainly hasn’t talked to her and cites no source (he couldn’t even manage a blind quote or two) for his “upon clear reflection, she’ll not run” view.  The problem with most of these “managing Palin” stories is that they are based on nothing more than the wishful thinking of her skeptics and potential adversaries. They tell us a lot about them, but nothing about Palin.

Far more helpful and certainly more reliable than peering into the Palin crystal ball is to analyze what she has done and said. The 2010 midterms show the promise and the peril of Palin. She spotted some unique talent (e.g., Nikki Haley), knew enough to stay away from Charlie Crist, and encouraged the Tea Party to remain within the two-party system. She also has been a consistent voice for a robust foreign policy, providing an important counterweight to neo-isolationist strains on the right. But there was also plenty to raise concerns. Mike Gerson explains:

Palin’s endorsement of Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Republican Senate primary revealed a preference for a shallow ideological purity above achievement, qualification or electoral success. And on Monday, Palin issued a robocall for Constitution Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo in Colorado, one of the most divisive figures in American politics.

Gerson is dismayed by what he calls an “odd mix of Tea Party Jacobinism and feminist grievance.” If Palin is inclined to run, she should take these concerns and the lessons of 2010 to heart.

And the pundits would do well to stop playing Carnac the Magnificent. There’s plenty of news to opine on without making up fanciful scenarios.

You can bet the “how to stop Palin” columns will keep proliferating. There’s one in the Daily Beast today, warning the GOP establishment “to treat her with respect, and to avoid any hint at all of a patronizing attitude.” Not bad for platitudinous advice, albeit a little late. Tunku Varadarajan asserts that “the party cannot ‘manage’ Sarah Palin unless she agrees to manage herself.” Actually, if she were managing herself, she might advise herself not to be managed by the people who backed Charlie Crist. He then opines:

Palin knows her own strengths. In all likelihood, she knows her own weaknesses even better. The Republican Party must flatter her for her strengths, all the better to use them well in the next year. Equally, it must be diplomatic about her weaknesses, alluding to them in private and not blaring them out to the nation in the incendiary manner of a Karl Rove. Palin will come to concede her electoral limitations—sooner than most people expect. And when she does, she will leave the presidential field open to a candidate better able than she to tackle Obama in 2012. That would be her finest contribution to the Republican Party. In not running herself, she will make the party electable.

How does he know all this? He certainly hasn’t talked to her and cites no source (he couldn’t even manage a blind quote or two) for his “upon clear reflection, she’ll not run” view.  The problem with most of these “managing Palin” stories is that they are based on nothing more than the wishful thinking of her skeptics and potential adversaries. They tell us a lot about them, but nothing about Palin.

Far more helpful and certainly more reliable than peering into the Palin crystal ball is to analyze what she has done and said. The 2010 midterms show the promise and the peril of Palin. She spotted some unique talent (e.g., Nikki Haley), knew enough to stay away from Charlie Crist, and encouraged the Tea Party to remain within the two-party system. She also has been a consistent voice for a robust foreign policy, providing an important counterweight to neo-isolationist strains on the right. But there was also plenty to raise concerns. Mike Gerson explains:

Palin’s endorsement of Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Republican Senate primary revealed a preference for a shallow ideological purity above achievement, qualification or electoral success. And on Monday, Palin issued a robocall for Constitution Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo in Colorado, one of the most divisive figures in American politics.

Gerson is dismayed by what he calls an “odd mix of Tea Party Jacobinism and feminist grievance.” If Palin is inclined to run, she should take these concerns and the lessons of 2010 to heart.

And the pundits would do well to stop playing Carnac the Magnificent. There’s plenty of news to opine on without making up fanciful scenarios.

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Answering William Galston

Unlike a number of the bloggers at the New Republic, William Galston is a serious, mature, and insightful writer and thinker. He is an accomplished academic who was also a high-ranking figure in the Clinton White House. I worked with him on some projects in the 1990s, which only increased my admiration for him. So his recent blog post caught my attention.

“With the passage of time,” former Bush administration official Pete Wehner writes today, “President Bush’s decision to champion a new counterinsurgency strategy, including sending 30,000 additional troops to Iraq when most Americans were bone-weary of the war, will be seen as one of the most impressive and important acts of political courage in our lifetime.” Wehner may turn out to be right. And his argument has broader implications that deserve our attention.

Wehner tacitly defines political courage as the willingness to go against public opinion in pursuit of what a leader believes to be the public interest. Fair enough. And unless one believes—against all evidence—that democracies can do without courage, so defined, it follows that there’s nothing necessarily undemocratic about defying public opinion when the stakes are high. After all, the people will soon have the opportunity to pass judgment on the leader’s decision. And they will be able to judge that decision, not by the claims of its supporters or detractors, but by its results.

Galston goes on to write this:

Note that to accept this argument, as I do, is to deny that President Obama and the Democrats are acting high-handedly—let alone anti-democratically—in moving forward with comprehensive health insurance reform. They genuinely believe that the public interest demands it­—and that the people themselves will eventually agree. And they know that the people will have the last word.

This approach has the firmest possible roots in our constitutional traditions. The Framers deliberately established a republican form of government that is representative rather than plebiscitary. And Alexander Hamilton explained why in Federalist #71: “[T]he people commonly intend the PUBLIC GOOD. … But their good sense would despise the adulator who should pretend that they always reason right about the means of promoting it.” In a republic, the people are always the ultimate source of legitimacy. They are not always the proximate source of wisdom.

Many conservatives don’t seem to understand this distinction…. So today’s conservatives have a choice: They can contest health reform and the rest of the Democratic agenda on its merits, or they can go down the populist road that Sarah Palin and her followers represent. But let’s call that populism by its rightful name—namely, shameless flattery of the people and the manipulation of public fears and prejudices for short-term political advantage. Honorable conservatives such as Wehner know better. We’re about to find out how many of them there are.

As it happens, two days before the piece that Galston cites appeared, I wrote a post for CONTENTIONS in which I said this:

The Speaker [Nancy Pelosi] touched on one of the important debates in American political history, which is what the role of legislators is. Is it to reflect the views of their constituents, rather like a seismograph? Or, as Edmund Burke put it when speaking about constituents, “Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinions high respect; their business unremitted attention.” But in the end, a legislator owes them something more: his “judgment.” He should not be guided by merely “local purposes” or “local prejudices.” Parliament, Burke insisted, was a “deliberative assembly.”…

I place myself in the latter camp, more now than ever — in part based on my own experience in the White House, when President Bush was advocating a new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq that was unpopular with the political class, with Congress, and with the American public. He proceeded anyway; and the results were stunningly successful. If the surge had failed — if Bush had pulled back, or listened to key Republicans, or decided that his job was to mirror public sentiment — America would have been dealt a terrible geopolitical and moral defeat. What George W. Bush did was right — and it was also politically courageous.

I went on to add this:

The acid test on these matters is always the wisdom of the act itself. Insisting on political courage from Members of Congress on behalf of a legislative monstrosity would be unwise, whereas insisting on political courage from Members of Congress on behalf of a piece of legislation that advances the common good would be commendable. Since I consider ObamaCare to fit in the former category, I naturally believe what Nancy Pelosi is asking her caucus to do is politically insane. Why issue political death warrants to your allies in behalf of a terrible idea? But her broader point, which is that self-perpetuation in Congress should not be the lawmaker’s primary concern, strikes me as quite right — and since she believes that nationalization of health care is in the public interest, her argument is understandable.

I don’t believe, and have never believed, vox populi, vox Dei.

As for Sarah Palin: I’ve made my concerns about her — and people like Glenn Beck and Tom Tancredo — known in several different forums. And while I wouldn’t go as far as Galston in my criticism of populism, I have expressed concerns about the dangers of it, as well as about what I consider to be reckless attacks on government. For example, I recently wrote this:

And [the GOP] can be responsible by taking the public’s scorn for government and channeling it in a constructive manner, in a way that translates into an actual governing and reform agenda. It is not enough to simply pour kerosene onto the bonfire. Republicans need public figures (like Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Rep. Paul Ryan) who can articulate an alternative view of government in a way that isn’t simplistic, that isn’t angry, or that doesn’t appeal (as I worry Sarah Palin sometimes does) to cultural resentments.

So I believe Professor Galston and I are making somewhat similar points. Which is reassuring to me, given my regard for him.

Unlike a number of the bloggers at the New Republic, William Galston is a serious, mature, and insightful writer and thinker. He is an accomplished academic who was also a high-ranking figure in the Clinton White House. I worked with him on some projects in the 1990s, which only increased my admiration for him. So his recent blog post caught my attention.

“With the passage of time,” former Bush administration official Pete Wehner writes today, “President Bush’s decision to champion a new counterinsurgency strategy, including sending 30,000 additional troops to Iraq when most Americans were bone-weary of the war, will be seen as one of the most impressive and important acts of political courage in our lifetime.” Wehner may turn out to be right. And his argument has broader implications that deserve our attention.

Wehner tacitly defines political courage as the willingness to go against public opinion in pursuit of what a leader believes to be the public interest. Fair enough. And unless one believes—against all evidence—that democracies can do without courage, so defined, it follows that there’s nothing necessarily undemocratic about defying public opinion when the stakes are high. After all, the people will soon have the opportunity to pass judgment on the leader’s decision. And they will be able to judge that decision, not by the claims of its supporters or detractors, but by its results.

Galston goes on to write this:

Note that to accept this argument, as I do, is to deny that President Obama and the Democrats are acting high-handedly—let alone anti-democratically—in moving forward with comprehensive health insurance reform. They genuinely believe that the public interest demands it­—and that the people themselves will eventually agree. And they know that the people will have the last word.

This approach has the firmest possible roots in our constitutional traditions. The Framers deliberately established a republican form of government that is representative rather than plebiscitary. And Alexander Hamilton explained why in Federalist #71: “[T]he people commonly intend the PUBLIC GOOD. … But their good sense would despise the adulator who should pretend that they always reason right about the means of promoting it.” In a republic, the people are always the ultimate source of legitimacy. They are not always the proximate source of wisdom.

Many conservatives don’t seem to understand this distinction…. So today’s conservatives have a choice: They can contest health reform and the rest of the Democratic agenda on its merits, or they can go down the populist road that Sarah Palin and her followers represent. But let’s call that populism by its rightful name—namely, shameless flattery of the people and the manipulation of public fears and prejudices for short-term political advantage. Honorable conservatives such as Wehner know better. We’re about to find out how many of them there are.

As it happens, two days before the piece that Galston cites appeared, I wrote a post for CONTENTIONS in which I said this:

The Speaker [Nancy Pelosi] touched on one of the important debates in American political history, which is what the role of legislators is. Is it to reflect the views of their constituents, rather like a seismograph? Or, as Edmund Burke put it when speaking about constituents, “Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinions high respect; their business unremitted attention.” But in the end, a legislator owes them something more: his “judgment.” He should not be guided by merely “local purposes” or “local prejudices.” Parliament, Burke insisted, was a “deliberative assembly.”…

I place myself in the latter camp, more now than ever — in part based on my own experience in the White House, when President Bush was advocating a new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq that was unpopular with the political class, with Congress, and with the American public. He proceeded anyway; and the results were stunningly successful. If the surge had failed — if Bush had pulled back, or listened to key Republicans, or decided that his job was to mirror public sentiment — America would have been dealt a terrible geopolitical and moral defeat. What George W. Bush did was right — and it was also politically courageous.

I went on to add this:

The acid test on these matters is always the wisdom of the act itself. Insisting on political courage from Members of Congress on behalf of a legislative monstrosity would be unwise, whereas insisting on political courage from Members of Congress on behalf of a piece of legislation that advances the common good would be commendable. Since I consider ObamaCare to fit in the former category, I naturally believe what Nancy Pelosi is asking her caucus to do is politically insane. Why issue political death warrants to your allies in behalf of a terrible idea? But her broader point, which is that self-perpetuation in Congress should not be the lawmaker’s primary concern, strikes me as quite right — and since she believes that nationalization of health care is in the public interest, her argument is understandable.

I don’t believe, and have never believed, vox populi, vox Dei.

As for Sarah Palin: I’ve made my concerns about her — and people like Glenn Beck and Tom Tancredo — known in several different forums. And while I wouldn’t go as far as Galston in my criticism of populism, I have expressed concerns about the dangers of it, as well as about what I consider to be reckless attacks on government. For example, I recently wrote this:

And [the GOP] can be responsible by taking the public’s scorn for government and channeling it in a constructive manner, in a way that translates into an actual governing and reform agenda. It is not enough to simply pour kerosene onto the bonfire. Republicans need public figures (like Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Rep. Paul Ryan) who can articulate an alternative view of government in a way that isn’t simplistic, that isn’t angry, or that doesn’t appeal (as I worry Sarah Palin sometimes does) to cultural resentments.

So I believe Professor Galston and I are making somewhat similar points. Which is reassuring to me, given my regard for him.

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What You’d Find at a Real Tea Party

Unlike most of the mainstream media and punditocracy, Glenn Reynolds has been to a lot of tea party protests, interviewed scores of activists, and spent time to understand what they  are all about. Not surprisingly, the mainstream-media portrait bears only a passing resemblance to the real thing.

For starters, there is the tone. Reynolds writes of the Nashville gathering and the movement more generally:

Pundits claim the tea partiers are angry — and they are — but the most striking thing about the atmosphere in Nashville was how cheerful everyone seemed to be. I spoke with dozens of people, and the responses were surprisingly similar. Hardly any had ever been involved in politics before. Having gotten started, they were finding it to be not just worthwhile, but actually fun. Laughter rang out frequently, and when new-media mogul Andrew Breitbart held forth on a TV interview, a crowd gathered and broke into spontaneous applause.

Nor is the group merely waiting for Sarah Palin to sweep them off their feet. (“Press attention focused on Sarah Palin’s speech, which was well-received by the crowd. But the attendees I met weren’t looking to her for direction. They were hoping she would move in theirs. Right now, the tea party isn’t looking for leaders so much as leaders are looking to align themselves with the tea party.”) And these are hardly a bunch of racists, as Chris Matthews et al. would have us believe. It seems they are backing a number of African American candidates. (To echo Pete’s point, Tom Tancredo does the tea partiers no favors by spouting racial venom and peddling in conspiracy theories; activists as well as elected officials would do well to reject his eagerness to “play to people’s worst instincts.”)

What the tea party activists do have is a well formulated set of ideas — small government, debt reduction, spending restraint, and an aversion to hurried, secret deal making. It is an agenda that is resonating with conservatives and independent voters who see the opposite behavior in Washington.

This is, as much as anything else, yet another “mainstream media misses the boat” story. First they ignored and ridiculed the tea party activists. Now the media misrepresent them to the point of deliberate distortion. The media’s distorted characterization is not simply a matter of getting the details wrong, I think. This is, just as surely as that Big Labor slush fund, an effort to kill the movement in its crib and discredit it among average Americans. Treating them as rubes, extremists, religious nuts, and racists seems to be a bit of Saul Allinsky-type strategy. (“Pick the Target, Freeze It, Personalize It  and Polarize It,” was Alinsky’s mantra.)  But the media is less and less credible and the tea-party activists are doing a good job of getting their own message out.

In a contest between the elite media and the tea-party protesters for control of the message, I’m betting on the latter. For one thing, the tea-party activists’ numbers are increasing while the elite media is shrinking. That should tell you something about their relative health.

Unlike most of the mainstream media and punditocracy, Glenn Reynolds has been to a lot of tea party protests, interviewed scores of activists, and spent time to understand what they  are all about. Not surprisingly, the mainstream-media portrait bears only a passing resemblance to the real thing.

For starters, there is the tone. Reynolds writes of the Nashville gathering and the movement more generally:

Pundits claim the tea partiers are angry — and they are — but the most striking thing about the atmosphere in Nashville was how cheerful everyone seemed to be. I spoke with dozens of people, and the responses were surprisingly similar. Hardly any had ever been involved in politics before. Having gotten started, they were finding it to be not just worthwhile, but actually fun. Laughter rang out frequently, and when new-media mogul Andrew Breitbart held forth on a TV interview, a crowd gathered and broke into spontaneous applause.

Nor is the group merely waiting for Sarah Palin to sweep them off their feet. (“Press attention focused on Sarah Palin’s speech, which was well-received by the crowd. But the attendees I met weren’t looking to her for direction. They were hoping she would move in theirs. Right now, the tea party isn’t looking for leaders so much as leaders are looking to align themselves with the tea party.”) And these are hardly a bunch of racists, as Chris Matthews et al. would have us believe. It seems they are backing a number of African American candidates. (To echo Pete’s point, Tom Tancredo does the tea partiers no favors by spouting racial venom and peddling in conspiracy theories; activists as well as elected officials would do well to reject his eagerness to “play to people’s worst instincts.”)

What the tea party activists do have is a well formulated set of ideas — small government, debt reduction, spending restraint, and an aversion to hurried, secret deal making. It is an agenda that is resonating with conservatives and independent voters who see the opposite behavior in Washington.

This is, as much as anything else, yet another “mainstream media misses the boat” story. First they ignored and ridiculed the tea party activists. Now the media misrepresent them to the point of deliberate distortion. The media’s distorted characterization is not simply a matter of getting the details wrong, I think. This is, just as surely as that Big Labor slush fund, an effort to kill the movement in its crib and discredit it among average Americans. Treating them as rubes, extremists, religious nuts, and racists seems to be a bit of Saul Allinsky-type strategy. (“Pick the Target, Freeze It, Personalize It  and Polarize It,” was Alinsky’s mantra.)  But the media is less and less credible and the tea-party activists are doing a good job of getting their own message out.

In a contest between the elite media and the tea-party protesters for control of the message, I’m betting on the latter. For one thing, the tea-party activists’ numbers are increasing while the elite media is shrinking. That should tell you something about their relative health.

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The Repulsive Politics of Tom Tancredo

I consider the Tea Party movement to be, on balance, a positive force in American politics. It is a spontaneous and fully justified response to the reckless policies, the fiscal ones in particular, of the Obama administration. It is comprised of admirable and civic-minded Americans. And as Ramesh Ponnuru and Kate O’Beirne point out in National Review, it is, for the GOP, an opportunity rather than a threat.

But it is a movement, like many movements, that carries with it some risks. This weekend we learned, for example, that some Tea Party members are apparently receptive to appeals from the worst angels of our nature. I have in mind the comments at last week’s Tea Party Convention by former Representative Tom Tancredo, who told a cheering audience that “people who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. His name is Barack Hussein Obama.” The reason we elected “Barack Hussein Obama,” Tancredo went on, is “mostly because I think that we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.”

This is ugly (to say nothing of stupid and ignorant) stuff. It is the manifestation of a person filled with rage and obsessions, bitter and brittle, eager to play to people’s worst instincts. Tancredo — who was a Member of the House of Representatives and ran for president in 2008 — should be condemned by all Republicans who believe that such an individual does not represent the GOP, which, after all, is the party of Lincoln and Reagan. It is inconceivable that either man on his worst day would utter anything remotely this offensive. Both Lincoln and Reagan were politicians of conviction, whose words and conduct were most often marked by grace and civility, who came across as irenic rather than enraged. They were, in other words, the polar opposite of Mr. Tancredo.

There are plenty of legitimate ways to criticize President Obama and his agenda. Leave it to Tom Tancredo to cross the line, not by inches but by miles.

No party, and no movement, should provide a home or a platform to a man who practices this kind of repulsive politics.

I consider the Tea Party movement to be, on balance, a positive force in American politics. It is a spontaneous and fully justified response to the reckless policies, the fiscal ones in particular, of the Obama administration. It is comprised of admirable and civic-minded Americans. And as Ramesh Ponnuru and Kate O’Beirne point out in National Review, it is, for the GOP, an opportunity rather than a threat.

But it is a movement, like many movements, that carries with it some risks. This weekend we learned, for example, that some Tea Party members are apparently receptive to appeals from the worst angels of our nature. I have in mind the comments at last week’s Tea Party Convention by former Representative Tom Tancredo, who told a cheering audience that “people who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. His name is Barack Hussein Obama.” The reason we elected “Barack Hussein Obama,” Tancredo went on, is “mostly because I think that we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.”

This is ugly (to say nothing of stupid and ignorant) stuff. It is the manifestation of a person filled with rage and obsessions, bitter and brittle, eager to play to people’s worst instincts. Tancredo — who was a Member of the House of Representatives and ran for president in 2008 — should be condemned by all Republicans who believe that such an individual does not represent the GOP, which, after all, is the party of Lincoln and Reagan. It is inconceivable that either man on his worst day would utter anything remotely this offensive. Both Lincoln and Reagan were politicians of conviction, whose words and conduct were most often marked by grace and civility, who came across as irenic rather than enraged. They were, in other words, the polar opposite of Mr. Tancredo.

There are plenty of legitimate ways to criticize President Obama and his agenda. Leave it to Tom Tancredo to cross the line, not by inches but by miles.

No party, and no movement, should provide a home or a platform to a man who practices this kind of repulsive politics.

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LIVE: Blogging the Republican Candidate Debate, Part One

Mike Huckabee is doing very well in this debate so far, which means he is winning it in a walk.

The worst question so far: “Mr. Keyes, what do you think?”

Rudy Giuliani and John McCain say climate change is real and Giuliani says we need energy independence to deal with it. Note he doesn’t use the term “nuclear.” Nor does Mitt Romney, who uses the term “new technologies.” “Nuclear” must poll really, really, really badly.

Fred Thompson refuses to be bullied by the debate moderator, who wanted candidates to raise their hands in answer to whether they believed climate change was the result of human action.

Tom Tancredo says we’re losing our sovereignty because Mexican trucks can cross our border without being checked.

Fred Thompson makes a commitment to free and fair trade.

Rudy Giuliani praises NAFTA. America should think about “free trade, global economy as things we want to embrace.”

John McCain, the world’s least pandering politician, attacks agricultural subsidies in Iowa.

Mitt Romney wants to create a “level playing field” on trade. In this way, as in so many others, you can see how a brilliant businessman has become a compulsively pandering pseudo-populist.

Ron Paul wants to open Cuba to the American market, which would, according to experts, contribute roughly 11 cents to the U.S. economy.

Duncan Hunter says he would finish the border fence with Mexico in six months when he is president, which is impressive, and in every respect, science-fictional.

John McCain says he has devoted his life to making our country safe. Claims responsibility for the surge. Has one “ambition: To keep America safe and maintain our greatness.”

Rudy Giuliani says he wants a flatter, fairer tax, reducing corporate taxes, and eliminate the inheritance tax (death tax).

Fred Thompson just said Mitt Romney was really rich. Romney essentially said, “Aw shucks.” Thompson said he’s becoming a good actor.

Mike Huckabee just said that his lunatic “fair tax” plan for a national sales tax might help “make poor people rich.”

Alan Keyes is literally ranting and raving.

Thompson “takes a risk”: He says we can’t afford entitlements at the level they are offered now. He’s going for the “I’m the truth teller” spot.

Quick first impression: Everybody is talking very softly, in measured terms. It’s said Iowans don’t like negative campaigning. The problem is that unless the candidates engage each other in debate, there will be no change in the dynamic of the race.

Ten minutes in. How to lower our debt? Giuliani says we need to restrain government spending, an important message for him to deliver in order to convince conservative voters that he is not a liberal. Giuliani uses the term “nanny government.” Ron Paul says we can cut government spending by looking to foreign policy: Isolationism as budgetary policy. Huckabee wants to reduce health care costs by moving to disease prevention rather than curing ills. Romney says he worked in the private sector, and wants to bring efficient methods of management to government — he’s trying to show his command of data about government waste. That’s good, but as usual, Romney is packing his answer with too much.

Five minutes in. So far, the debate indicates the degree to which the American economic debate has shifted toward protectionism. A question about the national debt has become the occasion for candidates to complain about foreign investment. Mike Huckabee claims the United States is no longer feeding itself, which is an astonishing thing to say about the world’s leading exporter of agricultural goods. John McCain says he will bring America to energy independence in five years, which suggests he will bring a magic wand to the White House. Alan Keyes is saying…what a minute, what on earth is ALAN KEYES doing here?

Mike Huckabee is doing very well in this debate so far, which means he is winning it in a walk.

The worst question so far: “Mr. Keyes, what do you think?”

Rudy Giuliani and John McCain say climate change is real and Giuliani says we need energy independence to deal with it. Note he doesn’t use the term “nuclear.” Nor does Mitt Romney, who uses the term “new technologies.” “Nuclear” must poll really, really, really badly.

Fred Thompson refuses to be bullied by the debate moderator, who wanted candidates to raise their hands in answer to whether they believed climate change was the result of human action.

Tom Tancredo says we’re losing our sovereignty because Mexican trucks can cross our border without being checked.

Fred Thompson makes a commitment to free and fair trade.

Rudy Giuliani praises NAFTA. America should think about “free trade, global economy as things we want to embrace.”

John McCain, the world’s least pandering politician, attacks agricultural subsidies in Iowa.

Mitt Romney wants to create a “level playing field” on trade. In this way, as in so many others, you can see how a brilliant businessman has become a compulsively pandering pseudo-populist.

Ron Paul wants to open Cuba to the American market, which would, according to experts, contribute roughly 11 cents to the U.S. economy.

Duncan Hunter says he would finish the border fence with Mexico in six months when he is president, which is impressive, and in every respect, science-fictional.

John McCain says he has devoted his life to making our country safe. Claims responsibility for the surge. Has one “ambition: To keep America safe and maintain our greatness.”

Rudy Giuliani says he wants a flatter, fairer tax, reducing corporate taxes, and eliminate the inheritance tax (death tax).

Fred Thompson just said Mitt Romney was really rich. Romney essentially said, “Aw shucks.” Thompson said he’s becoming a good actor.

Mike Huckabee just said that his lunatic “fair tax” plan for a national sales tax might help “make poor people rich.”

Alan Keyes is literally ranting and raving.

Thompson “takes a risk”: He says we can’t afford entitlements at the level they are offered now. He’s going for the “I’m the truth teller” spot.

Quick first impression: Everybody is talking very softly, in measured terms. It’s said Iowans don’t like negative campaigning. The problem is that unless the candidates engage each other in debate, there will be no change in the dynamic of the race.

Ten minutes in. How to lower our debt? Giuliani says we need to restrain government spending, an important message for him to deliver in order to convince conservative voters that he is not a liberal. Giuliani uses the term “nanny government.” Ron Paul says we can cut government spending by looking to foreign policy: Isolationism as budgetary policy. Huckabee wants to reduce health care costs by moving to disease prevention rather than curing ills. Romney says he worked in the private sector, and wants to bring efficient methods of management to government — he’s trying to show his command of data about government waste. That’s good, but as usual, Romney is packing his answer with too much.

Five minutes in. So far, the debate indicates the degree to which the American economic debate has shifted toward protectionism. A question about the national debt has become the occasion for candidates to complain about foreign investment. Mike Huckabee claims the United States is no longer feeding itself, which is an astonishing thing to say about the world’s leading exporter of agricultural goods. John McCain says he will bring America to energy independence in five years, which suggests he will bring a magic wand to the White House. Alan Keyes is saying…what a minute, what on earth is ALAN KEYES doing here?

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The GOP’s Immigration Meltdown

The debate over immigration reform has once more shown its capacity to fracture the Republican coalition. John McCain, a co-author of last week’s reform bill, recently engaged in a nasty exchange on the Senate floor with fellow Republican John Cornyn of Texas, who opposed the bill. And bill supporters Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina were roundly booed at their respective state conventions.

So far, the response by the Republican faithful to the Bush-Kennedy-McCain immigration reform proposal is redolent of both the 1976 uproar surrounding the Panama Canal treaty (which would help make Reagan president in 1980) and the current administration’s Dubai ports fiasco. As with the Panama Canal treaty, which roused patriotic sentiment, immigration in general touches on American’s sense of national identity. But the phenomenon of illegal immigration, which this bill was designed to address, strikes closer to the heart of citizens: working and middle-class voters feel that they have been made foreigners in their own localities by the influx of cheap labor. As with the Dubai ports deal, the Bush administration seems to be undermining its own core principles by failing to put security first.

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The debate over immigration reform has once more shown its capacity to fracture the Republican coalition. John McCain, a co-author of last week’s reform bill, recently engaged in a nasty exchange on the Senate floor with fellow Republican John Cornyn of Texas, who opposed the bill. And bill supporters Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina were roundly booed at their respective state conventions.

So far, the response by the Republican faithful to the Bush-Kennedy-McCain immigration reform proposal is redolent of both the 1976 uproar surrounding the Panama Canal treaty (which would help make Reagan president in 1980) and the current administration’s Dubai ports fiasco. As with the Panama Canal treaty, which roused patriotic sentiment, immigration in general touches on American’s sense of national identity. But the phenomenon of illegal immigration, which this bill was designed to address, strikes closer to the heart of citizens: working and middle-class voters feel that they have been made foreigners in their own localities by the influx of cheap labor. As with the Dubai ports deal, the Bush administration seems to be undermining its own core principles by failing to put security first.

The Washington Post noted in a front-page story that there is little reason to believe that the (deservedly maligned) Department of Homeland Security will be up to the enormous administrative task of implementing the legislation. Similarly, many voters will remember the 1986 immigration reform bill, which provided amnesty for illegal immigrants in exchange for enforcement provisions that never took hold.

McCain will no doubt be hurt by the fallout from the deal and his show of temper in defending it; Mitt Romney, in yet another flip-flop, now claims to oppose the bill. Rudy Giuliani has done little other than question the bill’s security implications. Though immigration is unlikely to boost a second-tier candidate into the top rank, it might provide the opportunity for an outsider like Tom Tancredo (who has already murmured about running) to put together a breakaway campaign based on his opposition to both abortion and illegal immigration. Whatever happens, it is obvious that for the Republican party, the political costs of this deal are going to be high.

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¡Viva la Inmigración!

The New York Times reports that an anti-immigrant backlash is building among Republican primary voters in Iowa. There is room to doubt how significant this trend is, since the two most anti-immigrant candidates in the Republican field are Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter, who are struggling to register in single digits, while the early leaders, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, are both fairly pro-immigrant. But there is no question that, even if it remains a minority sentiment, there is a substantial nativist, even xenophobic, wing in the Republican party.

As it happens, I was in Miami yesterday and got a chance to observe diversity in action. I loved it. What a booming, vibrant city! I reveled in the Latin and Caribbean accents, the variety of foods, the multiplicity of cultures. My lasting taste of Miami was a terrific Cuban sandwich, espresso, and guava pastry at a Cuban coffee shop at the airport. Beats Hardees hollow.

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The New York Times reports that an anti-immigrant backlash is building among Republican primary voters in Iowa. There is room to doubt how significant this trend is, since the two most anti-immigrant candidates in the Republican field are Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter, who are struggling to register in single digits, while the early leaders, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, are both fairly pro-immigrant. But there is no question that, even if it remains a minority sentiment, there is a substantial nativist, even xenophobic, wing in the Republican party.

As it happens, I was in Miami yesterday and got a chance to observe diversity in action. I loved it. What a booming, vibrant city! I reveled in the Latin and Caribbean accents, the variety of foods, the multiplicity of cultures. My lasting taste of Miami was a terrific Cuban sandwich, espresso, and guava pastry at a Cuban coffee shop at the airport. Beats Hardees hollow.

I’ve been to Des Moines before, and I hope I don’t unduly offend any Iowans by noting that I prefer Miami or other multicultural metropolises like Los Angeles, San Diego, and New York. It’s not just a matter of the weather—though there is that too. And it’s not that the Midwest doesn’t have any ethnic spice; every part of the U.S. was settled by someone from somewhere, who brought along native customs, foods, languages, and cultures. The big difference is that the dominant immigrant groups in the Midwest arrived long ago, generally in the 19th century. Their cultures have blended into a generic white-bread Americana, so now these assimilated German-Americans or Scandinavian-Americans or Polish-Americans resent new arrivals just as much as they were once resented by English-Americans.

All this immigrant-bashing, itself a long American tradition, is pretty silly. Ambitious young immigrants, both high-tech inventors and low-tech lettuce-pickers, provide much of the vigor that keeps our economy vibrant. They always have. The contrast with insular, graying Japan, which is only now recovering from a decade-long recession, couldn’t be starker.

Concerns that these immigrants won’t assimilate or will destroy our common culture seem to me vastly overblown. American culture is spreading all over the world, much to the distress of the Academie Francaise and other guardians of traditional folkways. People all over the world are acting, dressing, and speaking like Americans, while watching American-produced TV shows and movies, playing American video games, and listening to American music. (Indeed, on a recent trip to Berlin I did very well speaking English to everyone from army officers and government officials to waiters and taxi drivers.) Do nativists really mean to suggest that, while American culture is conquering cities from Singapore to Santiago, it will die out in San Diego or Miami? It seems implausible, to put it mildly. Indeed, Miami remains identifiably American. Its secession from Florda—the lurid and implausible nightmare of some immigrant-bashers—isn’t remotely in the cards.

This isn’t to minimize some of the problems with immigration, which undoubtedly puts a strain on schools and social services. But on the whole I’d say immigration was and remains a major plus for the United States. There is even something to be said, dare I say it, for the concepts of “multiculturalism” and “diversity.” Shorn of some of their radical academic dogma, they are a realistic recognition that America is the sum of divergent parts. The inevitable process of assimilation, which is going on now as in the past, is a good thing on the whole, but it does have its downside. I, for one, hope that Miami never loses its Latin flair.

*Editor’s Note: The title of this post originally contained an error.

 

 

 

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