The post-mortems are in full swing, each more depressing than the last. They range from Hugh Hewitt’s Pollyannish optimism – “Romney can still win this!” – to Michael Graham at National Review, who more aptly expresses my own sentiments as follows:
So it is over. Finished. In November, we’ll be sending out our most liberal, least trustworthy candidate… to take on Hillary Clinton—perhaps not more liberal than Barack Obama, but certainly far less trustworthy.
And the worst part for the Right is that McCain will have won the nomination while ignoring, insulting and, as of this weekend, shamelessly lying about conservatives and conservatism.
You think he supported amnesty six months ago? You think he was squishy on tax cuts and judicial nominees before? Wait until he has the power to anger every conservative in America, and feel good about it.
Every day, he dreams of a world filled with happy Democrats and insulted Republicans. And he is, thanks to Florida, the presidential nominee of the Republican party.
Graham expects to spend the next nine months drinking himself silly. Right now, I would find that a very attractive option if it weren’t for those darn Mormons.
I still have no silver linings, but I do have an explanation. John McCain’s nomination is symptomatic of the irreparably fractured conservative movement.
And the issue that has created that fracture is illegal immigration.
You may not have noticed, but whenever I cite my own personal list of John McCain’s sins against conservatism – and they are legion – I fail to mention one that is at the top of all the talk show host’s lists – namely McCain/Kennedy, the so-called amnesty bill.
It’s not because I necessarily think McCain/Kennedy is a good idea. Certainly it is a politically disastrous one, pragmatically speaking. Very few people fully understand it – including me – and the thought of giving amnesty to lawbreakers is unpalatable. The bill is, however, an attempt to solve an intractable problem, one for which real conservatives don’t seem to have any solution, except “secure the borders first,” which, frankly, doesn’t address the problem at all.
Let’s start with an immutable principle: you cannot repeal the law of supply and demand.
As long as Mexico and other South American countries remain mired in crushing poverty, people will look to escape that poverty and cross over the border into the United States. “Secure the borders” all you want; they will keep coming. The demand for economic freedom is ever present, and it will not be denied. Certainly the supply is all but unlimited. Fences can be circumvented. Border guards can be eluded. Short of deploying the entire might of the American military on the border, people will continue to break into America in search of a better life.
That’s not to say that we should open our borders entirely. The “no borders” folks sound a lot like those who think we should legalize drugs. After all, both the supply and demand for dope are constant, too, so why not just give in? Because the consequences of legalization would be disastrous. Same with completely open borders. We decrease the demand by enforcing drug laws, just as we decrease demand by enforcing our borders. If we made no attempt to enforce border laws, we would be completely overrun by unskilled immigrants, and our economy would collapse under the strain.
Both in drugs and in immigration, enforcement of existing laws is necessary, but it is far from sufficient.
Continuing with the drug analogy, imagine saying “let’s not deal with people who are already addicted until we stop the drug supply first!” That would be lunacy, because current addicts are the primary reason for the continued demand. It’s all part of the same problem; you cannot separate the two.
Similarly, “securing the borders” requires some sort of accommodation for the 12 million people who are already here. They’re looking to bring over their families and friends. They’re creating a culture that feeds the demand, and they will not be entirely deterred by a great big fence.
A guest worker program makes sense, would ease the demand and help solve the problem, and it doesn’t have to be amnesty. If you doubt that, look at the precedent of the former Braceros program, instituted in 1942 for agricultural and railroad projects. Thousands would participate in the program and then return home with their earnings to Mexico. Evidence suggests that many, if not most, of illegal immigrants today would do the same.
So why don’t we do it today? Well, the problem back then was that Braceros were underbidding the unions, and Jack Kennedy decided to discontinue the program to make the Teamsters happy. And today, to conservatives, any accommodation smells like amnesty. And that’s why Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot.
Under McCain/Kennedy, all illegals would instantly be eligible for a Braceros-type guest worker program. If they wanted to be citizens, they’d have to pay $5,000 bucks and get in the back of the application line. Yet Rush and Co. scream “amnesty,” because they wouldn’t be deported en masse.
Holy living crap, folks. Deporting 12 million people is all but impossible.
OK, you may say. Then lock ‘em all up! They’re lawbreakers!
Well, we have six million beds in our jails in this country today. You’d need to triple that number to make this happen. How do you do that? Even more, why would you want to? Most of these people are willing to work, and work hard. They’re guilty of putting the welfare of their families above the law. That’s a crime, yes, but so is speeding. How we punish lawbreakers is tempered by the criminal’s intent, and the impact the crime has on society at large. If we’re going to solve this problem, we’re going to need laws that reflect the reality of the situation.
I am not saying, however, that McCain/Kennedy is the answer. It was bungled badly, particularly by Senator McCain, whose heavy-handed arrogance in ramming it down our throats with minimal debate did much to offend the GOP base. But Republican resistance to immigration reform has alienated the massive Hispanic vote, and that’s the reason McCain beat Romney among Latino voters by a ridiculously large 30-point margin.
It’s the main reason Romney lost.
I’m being squishy here, because I’m not sure what the ultimate answer is. I do know that all immigrants need to learn English. If people want to come to this country, they need to become part of the culture for their own economic survival.
The Left will have none of that. They want to open the borders, set up a Balkanized nation, and dismantle American culture. It’s atrocious, but it appeals to a large number of people, particularly in the absence of alternatives.
The Right, in turn, has no solutions. All they have is anger. They want to build a big freakin’ fence, and that’s all they’ve got. It’s not enough. It’s not going to win.
And it’s going to keep on hurting us for decades to come.