Friday, May 25, 2007


Should Good Politics Trump Good Policy?

Michael Gerson is a new Op-Ed writer for the Washington Post. He comes to them via the Council on Foreign Relations and 5 years as George W. Bush’s speechwriter. Decent credentials but…

…so far I am not impressed. Mr. Gerson was writing for the President up until last year and may be illustrative of the mindset producing this Administration’s out-of-touch approach to the issue of immigration.

Today’s missive Letting Fear Rule - takes note of many conservatives’ antipathy to the new immigration rules proposed and makes a common argument:

“Conceding Latinos to the Democrats in perpetuity is a stunning failure of political confidence. If the Republican Party cannot find ways to appeal to natural entrepreneurs, with strong family values, who are focused on education and social mobility, then the GOP is already dead.”

He expounds later by quoting a minister:

“"The elephant in the room," says Rodriguez, "is the Latinoization of America. What are the results? America will be a more religious nation. America will continue to be a nation that promotes family values. Wow, that really turns American culture upside down."

Well, maybe – just maybe – many Americans are looking at countries that are already Latinoized and not finding it an attractive picture. After all, the first wave of Latinoization in North and South America seems to have produced countries – for the most part, run by Latinos – that fellow Latinos can’t wait to leave. In fact, they are so anxious to depart these countries; these family values exemplars leave behind their families, obviously convinced that their own Latinoized country lacks the right environment to provide them the opportunity to make a living. Tough to blame that massive cultural and economic failure on US ‘nativism’.

I think it would also help smooth some ruffled feathers and ease stereotypical fears if we weren’t bombarded with the conventional wisdom that finally getting tough on present and future illegal immigrants is somehow an insult to many legal immigrants. What this tells us is that for those immigrants, ethnic and birth nationality identity trumps their American identity. While that may seem a natural response, no one should have any reason to expect the rest of us to find that a particularly admirable or desirable trait.

An interesting counterexample is Costa Rica, which has a stable government, relative prosperity and, from what I hear, a respect for property rights far closer to that of New Hampshire than that of Cuba. One does not hear often of Costa Rican illegal immigrants, and it's not paradise economically (though in scenery it comes close). But it is a counterexample that tends to highlight and reinforce the rule.
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