Ideological purity
Posted by aogMonday, 04 June 2007 at 11:20 TrackBack Ping URL

I put a quick comment elsewhere about the travesty of letting Sandy Berger get away with destroying national archive documents and how this was of a piece with President Bush forgiving his political enemies while despising his allies.

But two things occurred to me about this with regard to Brothers Judd unflagging devotion to all policies promoted by the Bush Administration.

The first is the apparent drive for ideological purity by Bush. Judd is, of course, highly dismissive of ideology purity for political parties. Yet he’s strongly supportive of the Bush drive for purity on illegal immigration, adopting the same frenzied anyone who opposes amnesty is a racist tactic. We’ll see which Judd turns out to be correct on the effects of an uncompromising drive for ideology purity.

The other is to what extent my previous support for various large scale Bush initiatives was the result of post-facto rationalizations by Judd. As I see more things like this bit of obtuseness I have to wonder if that hasn’t been the case all along, it’s just that the rationalizations have become too thin to work on me anymore1. I am also left wondering which came first, Bush’s policies or Judd’s rationalizations. Or perhaps it’s all just a traffic building pose.

1 As exemplified by the previous point, in which the situation is so desperate that only purity and smears of racism can cover the gap.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Tom C., Stamford,Ct Monday, 04 June 2007 at 17:22

If it’s a traffic building pose, as you say, it’s failing miserably. The site is becoming an obnoxious bore. Even his Red Sox thing is getting a little strange in it’s lack of any meaningful objectivity. When the guy becomes a rooter for a particular view in politics, sports, the conflict between faith and reason, the politics of Islam, the third way, the end of history, etc.,etc., etc., all critical thought leaves the building. Critical thought is fun, not threatening. He’s becoming too insecure to be interesting. If you hope to sell stuff from a web site you’ve got to be interesting.

pj Monday, 04 June 2007 at 18:25

The “bit of obtuseness” you link to was Instapundit getting taken in by a bogus news story. See Stuart Buck’s account.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 04 June 2007 at 21:01


OK, I removed that link and substituted another one, about Secretary of State Rice going off to pull an Albright with Egypt and Syria. I could use the firing of the Attorney Generals as another example of how the Bush administration helps its political enemies turn mole hills in to mountains by failing to have a clear idea of why they did what they did.

David Cohen Tuesday, 05 June 2007 at 15:55

I must admit that I don’t understand the argument (and that’s not my cute way of saying that I disagree — I really don’t understand it). How is the immigration bill an issue of ideological purity? I think that it’s consistent with conservatism, but it’s by no means compelled by conservatism, and I haven’t seen anyone, including GWB and OJ suggesting that it is. OJ’s point about ideological purity is that, in politics, the best can’t be the enemy of the good. We’ve got to live with steel tariffs or increased federal education funding in order to get things that are more important to us: fast track authority or high-stakes testing and the potential end of the teachers’ unions. In short, that we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that the Republican Party is an ideological conservative party. I think the pretty explicit argument being made by the White House to conservatives is that, although there are problems with the immigration bill from the conservative viewpoint, in the end it’s enough of a net win for Republicans to make it worth while. If anything, the White House is arguing against intellectual purity.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 05 June 2007 at 19:03

Mr. Cohen;

It’s not the immigration bill, it’s the reaction to the opposition to it. The kind of language used is not what you would use on people with whom you want to continue to associate. It’s the language of a purge, not a disagreement. President Bush and his direct reports are saying that people who oppose this legislation are not fit to be in the GOP.

it’s by no means compelled by conservatism, and I haven’t seen anyone, including GWB and OJ suggesting that it is

You think the frequent labeling of opponents as “nativists”, “bigots”, and “racists” does not directly imply exactly that? That people who don’t want to do the right thing for America are conservatives?

OJ has been far more explicit —

Let me know how many more you want.

You wrote

I think the pretty explicit argument being made by the White House to conservatives is that, although there are problems with the immigration bill from the conservative viewpoint, in the end it’s enough of a net win for Republicans to make it worth while.

I have yet to see that argument made by the White House or its spokesmen. Everything I read is of the previously noted opponents are bigoted, xenophobic racists style. Or Senator McCain’s argument that we have to pass the legislation for fear of rioters if we don’t and that opponents are people who would intentionally make our country’s problems worse. Does all of that sound explicitly like the argument you claim they are making?

P.S. If you want to see how opponents of this legislation think of proponents, watch the video on this page. Note carefully that it is not a parody, it is a real, serious, meeting of the WSJ editorial board.

David Cohen Wednesday, 06 June 2007 at 06:42

AOG: But much of the opposition to the bill is racist. Among other things, it’s bizarre for National Review Online to host John Derbyshire — who explicitly opposes the bill on racist grounds — and then act all offended when someone notices. Mark Krikorian is better at hiding it, but is just as bad. His day job is to traffic in anti-Mexican stereotypes.

I’m not thrilled with the bill. It’s a compromise and I don’t like many of the compromises. Among other things, it doesn’t allow in nearly enough immigrants. Because of that, and for tangential political reasons (anything that makes Nancy Pelosi look weak in ok in my book), I’m hoping that it fails.

But the opposition to immigration qua immigration, legal or illegal, is racist to its core, regardless of whether individual proponents of that view are, subjectively, racist at all. The arguments against immigration have been the same for 250 years and have been wrong for 250 years. Most of them, today, are demonstrably false, obviously weak or unfalsifiable. So why do people keep making them, and why is it the Mexicans that have them riled up. For that matter, why are the border states, which would seem to have the most to lose, unconcerned?

David Cohen Wednesday, 06 June 2007 at 06:59

Oh, and as for OJ’s position:

  • anti-immigration is a natural Democratic position — Clearly correct. Read Kausfiles. You can’t have a cradle to grave European style welfare state and immigration.
  • Indeed, the folks who object to letting in “others” and letting them become fellow Americans are being European — See above. If it makes you feel better, they’re also becoming Japanese.
  • Folks who want to end that [immigration] are definitionally anti-American — Absolutely. America is a nation of immigrants.
  • The only group in the GOP that’s up for grabs is the Nativist-Protectionist-Isolationist-Old Right. Their natural allies are Big Labor and the anti-war Left. This is the only one a disagree with. However, it is clearly true that the Paleocons will be leaving the GOP soon, if they haven’t already. Pat Buchanan has already moved so far right that he’s left.
  • the nativists are natural Democrats. Yes, because the Democrats will give them cover on the one issue they care about.

Remember, though, that the Republican Party is not a ideological conservative party and that OJ is not a conservative.

Don’t indent your asterisks, and preview is your friend.

David Cohen Wednesday, 06 June 2007 at 07:38

One more comment: This is a common problem for conservatives. Lot’s of the things that conservatives want to do are supported by racists because they misunderstand the point. That doesn’t make conservatives racist but it should make us think twice to make sure that the racists aren’t right.

Peter Burnet Wednesday, 06 June 2007 at 08:23

Playing the racist card indiscriminately on this one is wrong and unfortunate, as is the “anti-American” adjective. But, AOG, if you replace anti-American with un-American, not in the sense of subversive but in the sense of contrary to American history and ideals, surely there is a lot of truth in those five points. With very few exceptions, immigration is and always has been an inherently dislocating process that brings poverty, crime and various social frictions. Not even the most tolerant, pro-immigration type walks around saying: “What this town needs is more Somalians”. It is whether you believe in growth and the miracle of the second generation that separates the two positions and, as David says, they have been proven so many times that the burden of proof is on the other side.

This issue suffers from over-rationalization and too much media exposure. We are deluged with endless statistics about all the problems. Add that to the anti-people, anti-growth ethos of the modern left, and you have lots of ways to rationalize mean-spiritness, if not outright racism. People rail about securing borders we all know can’t be secured. The whole issue of “legal vs illegal” is now painted in such bureaucratic, constructionalist terms that it seems too many folks have convinced themselves they would be completely justified in embracing a neighbour with the right papers but put him and his family on a bus at midnight whatever the circumstances if he fudged his medical history ten years ago. Everybody is now an immigration officer. And as well, there are lots of people who are now proclaiming fealty to traditions and cultural values they disowned generations ago.

That being said, I agree the pro-immigration camp is too morally smug and is ducking what I sense may really be worrying folks and distinguishing the States from other pro-immigrant countries like Canada and Australia (both of which have higher rates)—the implications of so many immigrants coming from one adjacent country whose government seems to be accorded endless, unmerited deference. E Pluribus Unum has been proven to work, but is the verdict in on E Duo Unum?

David Cohen Wednesday, 06 June 2007 at 09:15

Actually, we could use some more Somalis. Jewish Family Services of Western Mass. has sponsored a couple of hundred Somli Bantu refugees in the area and, other than freaking out at the Fourth of July fireworks, they’ve done fine.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 06 June 2007 at 09:28

Mr. Cohen;

I disagree that “much” of the opposition is racist. Given the massive unpopularity of the legislation, that statement is equivalent to labeling “much” of the American public as racist. That seems a rather strong statement. I will also note that you pick out non-central figures2, where I quote President Bush and people who report directly to him. Who has stronger evidence that their characterizaion is accurate?

As for OJ’s points, and the previous paragraph, note that all of this vitriol is applied to anyone who opposes this legislation. The “anti-immigration” label is an almost pure smear, a canard. Do I need to dredge up all the posts / comments from OJ doing exactly that equivalence? Or the Chertoff quote to the effect that any opponent of this legislation thinks illegal immigrants should be executed? Is opposing this legislation anti-immigrant? Is wanting to have control of the borders really un-American?

That’s what I mean by “ideological purity” — all this purging is not about immigration qua immigration but about a very specific bill before Congress. If you didn’t keep that firmly in mind, then I understand why you didn’t grasp the point of my original post.

P.S. You write

why are the border states, which would seem to have the most to lose, unconcerned

Uh, perhaps you should check out the situation in Arizona before making such a claim.

P.P.S. Doesn’t OJ claim to be a conservative? Further, I realize that he’s not but it was you who framed the question in terms of conservatism.

2 I honestly have no idea who Mark Krikorian is. A NRO writer? Does that make your two examples both writers at the same magazine? Rather lacking in breadth, I would say.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 06 June 2007 at 09:32

Mr. Burnet;

Curse you for stealing my thunder! I tried to write a post on how discussion of immigration has been poisoned last night but was too tired. I expect that kind of garbage from the real racists, but that President Bush has embraced it against his own party over a piece of legislation is brutally demoralizing.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 06 June 2007 at 09:41

Mr. Cohen;

The entire approach of the Bush administration on this issue is almost identical to the MAL’s “It’s For The Children™” approach to its legislative priorties, i.e. “if you don’t vote for this bill, that means you hate children”. I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now. It’s a stupid and divisive approach, generally used by people who know they don’t have good arguments in their favor and just want to pound the table. Shouldn’t that make supporters think twice about whether they’re right?

David Cohen Wednesday, 06 June 2007 at 09:48

Krikorian runs the Center for Immigration Studies and has devoted his life to anti-immigrationism. Krikorian is, of course, an old Cherokee name. And I don’t know if OJ ever has claimed to be a conservative. From memory, I believe that when asked directly, he denies it.

Let’s look at this through the prism of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. There were perfectly valid conservative and, even better, libertarian reasons to oppose the bill. But, nonetheless, opposing the bill was wrong and those politicians who opposed it (mostly Democrats) were largely acting out of racism under cover of states’ rights, the right of association and the sanctity of private property. In the end, they did terrible damage to those very important concepts, because people now assume that, whenever those terms are used, it’s a cover for racism.

The problem is that those reasons for opposing the CRA were ten times as compelling as any reason given for opposing this bill and yet look how bitter that opposition is. In the absence of any reason to oppose the bill on the merits that seems even colorable, what am I suppose to conclude? Forget all the border control nonsense and the welfare nonsense and the Aztlan nonsense and the sanctity of American law nonsense and tell me this. If all those other concerns were satisfied, would you support an immigration system that allowed legal immigration of up to 1% of the population every year?

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 06 June 2007 at 14:02

Interesting. I used to associate with CIS but they were too xenophobic for me so I tuned them out. I had forgotten that until you mentioned them.

OJ continually praise conservatism as the one true political belief, but doesn’t consider himself one? Normally I’d laugh at the plausibility of that, but with OJ it’s believable.

As for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I don’t agree that opposing the bill was wrong. I think the principled opposition was right, that passage was a net negative for race relations, and that American of all races would have done better without it.

Further, isn’t your argument basically pure ad hominem? I.e., you should support something if people you don’t like oppose it? If that’s really what you think, then the commentary I have been citing makes much more sense.

In the absence of any reason to oppose the bill on the merits that [doesn’t?] seems even colorable, what am I suppose to conclude?

That you’re not looking deeply enough at the reason to oppose the bill? Isn’t hoping it fails at least a weak form of opposition, so what about those reasons? Moreover, any argument is “colorable” if you have sufficient rhetorical skill, so once again you’re left with pure ad hominem.

As for evidence that you’re not looking deeply enough —

Forget all the border control nonsense and the welfare nonsense and the Aztlan nonsense and the sanctity of American law nonsense and tell me this.

Obviously you’re not going to see any non-racist reasons for opposition if you simply dismiss all non-racist counter-arguments as “nonsense”. Nevertheless, I won’t reciprocate.

If all those other concerns were satisfied, would you support an immigration system that allowed legal immigration of up to 1% of the population every year?

1%? 3 million per year? Maybe. One million a year? Probably. It would depend a lot on the geographical diversity of the immigrants. The more diverse, the higher the total I would accept. What about 1% / year as long as no more than 1% of any nation emigrates here per year? I would give that very serious consideration. Would you?

But this gets back to the very argument you dismissed as nonsense, border control. If we don’t control the border, this whole discussion is moot because we, the American government, won’t be the ones deciding that. You’re arguing about saddle selection with the barn door open.

But since I answered your question, perhaps you could answer one of mine — if the arguments for the legislation are so strong, and there isn’t any non-racist reason to oppose it, why have the proponents, from the very top, resorted to such harsh and divisive rhetoric? If the case is so strong, why did they chose to not argue it on the merits instead of using vicious ad hominem attacks? (Note: you had to reach down to find the racist opposition, while the smears I quoted are from the top leadership of the proponents)

pj Wednesday, 06 June 2007 at 15:54

It seems to me we have a corrupt political culture, in which there is a profound divergence between action and rhetoric, in order to build the largest possible base of support by pleasing a highly interested part of the electorate with action and a news-focused segment of the rest with rhetoric.

And our politicians are having a hard time adapting to the Internet age, when such divergences often are exposed and backfire.

In immigration, the Democrats want to simultaneously maximize illegal immigration (and voting fraud),thereby building their minority-based voting coalition; at the same time, they want to appeal to their labor unions and racist base by excluding legal immigration. If they could, they would ban legal immigration entirely. And they want Hispanics, including illegal immigrants already here, to think they’re on their side, so they don’t want to openly oppose amnesty. But they don’t want much of their base to see them supporting it either.

On the Republican side, most would like high rates of legal immigration and no illegal immigration. But there are some, like Derbyshire or Krikorian or Tancredo, who oppose legal immigration as well, possibly for racist or paranoid reasons. And nearly everyone has some discomfort with some aspects of likely legislation: for instance, stopping illegal immigration might involve stern enforcement measures that could wreck the lives of American small businesspeople who just want to get work done and help people who need jobs, and of immigrants who have built families here and have American-citizen spouses and children. Meanwhile, Bush and Rove built this grand political strategy of appealing to Hispanics and seemingly racist anti-immigrationists are ruining it. The issue could be politically helpful to the Republican party, but not with incoherent angry anti-immigrationism dominating the debate.

There’s so many contradictory positions that it’s going to be extremely hard to get legislation through, except through backroom maneuvering like we’ve seen, creating complex and ugly legislation. I’d rather see a debate on principles, but I guess that’s beyond us right now.

pj Wednesday, 06 June 2007 at 15:57

I guess that was a long way of answering AOG’s question: If the case is so strong, why did they chose to not argue it on the merits instead of using vicious ad hominem attacks? Because arguing it on the merits would upset political calculations and the ability to present one’s self in multiple ways to multiple audiences (or, Bush-style, to be quiet and let each group project their own beliefs onto you).

pj Wednesday, 06 June 2007 at 16:00

And, I might add, there is a prisoner’s dilemma element. Though we might be better off if everyone debated openly, for Republicans to debate openly while the Democrats maneuver deceptively to present the best face to every competing interest group would be political suicide (or so the Rove-types and professional pols believe). So they prefer equality with the Dems in poker-faced maneuvering. But they are human, and get angry when their plans are upset, and say things they shouldn’t from time to time.

David Cohen Wednesday, 06 June 2007 at 21:35

As for the Civil Rights Act of 1964,… So, you oppose the Civil Rights Act and the Immigration bill, but think that it’s just completely out of bounds to wonder whether there might be a racial problem there? I hate to be the one to break it to you, but that is functional racism, regardless of whether, subjectively, you feel any antipathy towards other races. You also say that passage of the civil rights act was a net negative for race relations, and that American of all races would have done better without it. That’s not quite the same as saying that race relations have gotten worse since 1964 (when discrimination was legal and a number of states made it a point to prevent blacks from voting) but it comes awful close, and to think that would be to be blind to the world around you.

Further, isn’t your argument basically pure ad hominem? No, it’s not. I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I was saying that conservatives are often making common cause with racists and, although that’s not a reason to change our position, it does mean that we should be very careful that our position is actually correct before proceeding. Here, you are making common cause with racists, but I get no sense — because the arguments made against legal and illegal immigration are based on incorrect facts or ae irrelevant or non sequitors or have been wrong for the last 250 years — that you or other opponents have thought twice.

You’re not looking deeply enough at the reason to oppose the bill? That’s what I’m asking: what are the reasons? Because so far, the arguments made sound to me like “I oppose the bill because automobile Martians pink.”

Isn’t hoping it fails at least a weak form of opposition That’s why I said “on the merits.” I don’t oppose it on the merits. I hope it fails because it doesn’t give me much that I don’t get through the status quo and failure would be good for partisan reasons.

Obviously you’re not going to see any non-racist reasons for opposition if you simply dismiss all non-racist counter-arguments as “nonsense”. No, what I’m saying is that those are the arguments that I’ve already heard and dismissed as illogical, irrelevant and factually mistaken:

Border control: We can and should control the borders better, but that doesn’t imply that we shouldn’t allow greater immigration and, in any event, the bill does improve border control over what is done today. I’d like an Ellis Island type system, where anyone who can get themselves to our intake center gets to come in so long as he or she passes a simple background check and physical.

Welfare: Immigrants, legal or illegal, are not entitled to welfare.

Aztlan: You can’t possibly believe that there is any danger of the Southwest seceding.

Sanctity of American law: When anyone suggests that criminals be stripped of their citizenship, I’ll believe that it’s really reverence for the law that motivates the anti-illegal lobby. (Ah, who am I kidding. I still won’t believe it.)

So what’s left? Just the same old arguments that have been wrong for 250 years: this wave is different, this wave won’t assimilate, their not like the Japanese, the Chinese, the Filipino, the African, all of whom have assimilated and made our nation better and richer.

Net immigration today is about 1 million per year.

But since I answered your question, perhaps you could answer one of mine — if the arguments for the legislation are so strong, and there isn’t any non-racist reason to oppose it, why have the proponents, from the very top, resorted to such harsh and divisive rhetoric? I don’t understand the question. If your opponents are racists, objectively and, sometimes, subjectively, why wouldn’t you point that out?

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 06 June 2007 at 23:31

think that it’s just completely out of bounds to wonder whether there might be a racial problem there?

No, I never said it was about of bounds to wonder about it. I didn’t even say it was out of bounds to blindly claim it despite stating that there were many good arguments in favor of that position. I said I thought it was incorrect to assume such and a very poor way to make an argument.

My view of the Civil Rights Act is that, had it not passed, race relations would be better today than they are. That makes it a net negative. That’s not even close to saying race relations are the same or worse now as they were in 1964.

But let’s see — you find my arguments against the bill total gibberish. You claim my facts are incorrect but you have yet to enumerate any such. I, on the other hand, haven’t seen a single argument of yours in favor of the bill, and you’ve even said that the bill will do very little. It leaves me wondering at the political acumem of people willing to create such a firestorm of political controversy for a bill that has no arguments in favor of it and won’t do much of anything.

But let’s take your points —

We can and should control the borders better, but that doesn’t imply that we shouldn’t allow greater immigration

I never said it did. You’re setting up straw men again. And note that you’re not even consistent with your previous derision, which was about this particular piece of legislation, not immigration qua immigration. I’d say it’s not clear the gibberish problem is on my end. It might all become much clearer if you apply my arguments to this bill and only this bill and stop confusing yourself with spasmodic topic shifts.

the bill does improve border control over what is done today

I don’t believe that. There are huge numbers of loopholes in the bill and, moreover, history, especially recent history, shows that enforcement provisions are generally just window dressing. The federal government, and President Bush in specific, have broken faith on this and it’s their responsiblity to repair the damage.

Children of immigrants, legal and illegal, are eligible for welfare. Is your claim now that welfare has no negative effects on families, work ethic, and assimilation? And by “welfare” I don’t just mean direct payments, but all government handouts.

Aztlan: You brought it up, not me.

Sanctity of American Law: You brought it up, but your analogy is so poor I have to take a shot. I’ll believe you find this gibberish when you support not repatriating stolen property when the thief is caught with it. Are people who think convicted criminals shouldn’t profit from writing stories of their crimes against free speech?

If your opponents are racists, objectively and, sometimes, subjectively, why wouldn’t you point that out?

If they’re wrong, it’s not because they are racists, it’s because their policies are wrong. If you can’t point out the latter, you really ought to re-examine your position to change your mind or come up with actual arguments. Going on about the former is the sign of a lazy mind that can’t be bothered to think about policy instead of people. It’s slovenly.

And, of course, I do not think it’s the case that opponents of this legislation are (in general) objectively racists. Subjectively, one can believe anything one likes — rather weaselly rhetoric on your part.

David Cohen Thursday, 07 June 2007 at 07:30

To take the last first: I’m not saying that “subjectively” I believe that opponents of the bill are racist. I’m saying that opposition is objectively racist and, for many people, subjectively racist. That is, they don’t like the bill because they don’t like Mexicans. That is clearly Krikorian’s position, although he denies it. It’s not weaselly rhetoric at all. It’s my way of not calling you a racist because (other than the objective racism of the positions discussed here) I haven’t seen any evidence that you are a racist.

I’m almost indifferent to the bill. I like that it regularizes the status of illegal aliens in the country. I like that it promises to increase border security. I don’t like that it continues to constrict legal immigration far below what I consider to be the bare acceptable minimum. Because of the last, I agree with you that any increase in border security will be a chimera — not because of the federal government’s corrupt hypocrisy but because we’ll never keep people out while they can improve their life and their family’s life dramatically by getting into the country and people in the country want to employ them. This is just like people’s conviction that the woes of the auto makers could be solved easily and cheaply if only the executives weren’t stupid and corrupt.

What I do care about, strongly, is immigration. America is not America when it closes its borders to new Americans. If the opposition to this bill were about the technical details of border security, or even about the particular details of the Z visa, I would be more open to the idea that the bill should be opposed. But the opposition to this bill is based solely upon hostility to immigration. The details don’t matter at all. You still haven’t listed the reasons you oppose the bill, other than you don’t believe that it will improve border security. That’s an odd reason to oppose the bill unless you think that it will make things worse. How does it make things worse?

As for welfare, we’ve had this discussion before. Your problem isn’t that immigrants get welfare. Your problem is that Americans get welfare. Two quick points: First, welfare was not handed down from Mt. Sinai. It is something we choose to do. If it is unsustainable, then it won’t be sustained. We’ve already changed it dramatically once. If we have to, we can do so again. Second, that’s one of the benefits of allowing lots of immigration. It makes cradle to grave welfare unsustainable. That’s why opposition to immigration is a symptom of the European disease.

As for the Civil Rights Act, we can’t rerun history, but your position strikes me as very naive. I think you underestimate the extent to which the CRA gave blacks new political power and resulted, for the first time, in blacks and whites getting used to rubbing elbows, so to speak. That’s not to say that some of its effects weren’t unfortunate, but they were the price to be paid for remaking American society. I’d like to see a renaissance of property rights and respect for the right of association and I think we can do that. I’d like to see literacy tests for voters, but that’s probably lost for ever.

David Cohen Thursday, 07 June 2007 at 07:32

Even the President isn’t saying that opponents are racists, so we must scorn them. He’s saying that they’re racists and thus their goals would hurt America, because immigration makes America stronger and richer.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 07 June 2007 at 09:36

Oh, yeah, that’s what President Bush says now. But subjectively that’s not what most of his fellow party members think.

David Cohen Thursday, 07 June 2007 at 09:43

Actually, I think most of his fellow party members oppose the bill, so they are objectively racists.

Oh, and the big lie being told by the opponents is that the President is willingly sacrificing national security for political advantage.

Peter Burnet Thursday, 07 June 2007 at 10:34

Have you two considered that you are both losing it? Objectively, I mean, not subjectively.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 07 June 2007 at 10:40

Mr. Cohen;

I am saying that opposition to this legislation is not objectively racist. As far as I can tell, your logic goes

  • I support unlimited immigration.
  • I don’t view any objections to it as valid.
  • This legislation will have no real effect on immigration, legal or illegal.
  • Therefore anyone opposing this legislation is being objectively racist.

There are numerous unsupported jumps and contra-factuals in there.

  1. Just because you don’t understand the objections, or dismiss them, doesn’t make them objectively invalid.
  2. If this bill isn’t going to have much effect, how can opposing it be objectively racist? It could only be (as you use the term) subjective.
  3. You are conflating culture and race by presuming that objecting to the culture of some set of immigrants is identical to objecting to their ethnicity / race. IMHO this view point is particularly pernicious in poisoning race relations in the USA. It’s a very multi-culturalist view because it delegitimizes any objection to another culture or its effects. I reject it utterly.
  4. You base all of your arguments on the false dichotomy of immigration as being either unlimited or non-existent. While our capacity to control immigration is and never will be perfect, none the less it can be controlled at the macro scale, therefore it is possible to select rates of immigration other than ∞ or 0.

On specific issues, I dispute the following claims you made:

  1. “Your problem isn’t that immigrants get welfare. Your problem is that Americans get welfare” — Yes, had I the power, I would wipe out the welfare system because of its negative effects on everyone it touches and not specifically immigrants. I would get rid of it regardless of the immigration rate. BUT this is yet another effort at distraction. We are discussing illegal immigration and the current immigration “reform” legislation, therefore the effects of welfare on immigration is specifically relevant. You say “history shows …”, I say “the welfare state didn’t exist back then”, to which you non-substantively reply “but you hate welfare in general”. I may, of course, be wrong in my view of how much the welfare state changes assimilation but this response completely avoids addressing that point in order to rhetorically dismiss it.
  2. “the opposition to this bill is based solely upon hostility to immigration” — No. You keep saying that, but that doesn’t make it accurate. Even if every argument of the opponents is wrong, naive, historically ignorant, and gibberish, doesn’t mean that those making those arguments don’t believe them, in which case the hostility isn’t about immigration. You’re very inconsistent on this point, here implicitly claiming knowing cynicism, elsewhere claiming naivite and historical blindness.

How will this legislation make things worse?

  • It will decrease border security.
  • It will forestall efforts to improve border security for years, possibly a decade or more.
  • It makes legal immigrants (who I quite like) total chumps.
  • It will support the continued existence of the dysfunctional society in Mexico by allowing it to export its problems here.
  • It be costly (in terms of new laws, regulations, token but expensive efforts at enforcement, civil acrimony, etc.) without “solving” or even reforming anything.
  • Success will encourage the ram-rod, lack of debate, and vicious smearing rhetoric style used to push the legislation through, the sort of thing I spent years despising about the Clinton administration.
  • Passage will severely damage the GOP which, for all its faults, is still much preferable to me than the Democratic Party.

Basically, lots of costs, no benefits. That makes it a bad bill that should be opposed.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 07 June 2007 at 10:43

the big lie being told by the opponents is that the President is willingly sacrificing national security for political advantage.

Uh, isn’t that being said by the President’s supporters, that all of these illegal immigrants will turn out to be Republicans? That GOP party members should support it for the long term electoral advantages and avoidance of short term electoral disadvantage?

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 07 June 2007 at 11:17

Woops, forgot this one —

that’s one of the benefits of allowing lots of immigration. It makes cradle to grave welfare unsustainable.

Why then have open borders proponents claimed exactly the opposite, that immigration will sustain our welfare state, specifically Social Security?

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 07 June 2007 at 11:34

Mr. Burnet;

I think we’re well beyond the “considered” stage. Closer to the “committed” stage, I would say.

David Cohen Thursday, 07 June 2007 at 14:19

Much to say. No time. Will respond tomorrow (probably).

cjm Friday, 08 June 2007 at 08:59

a nice display of the politics of personal emotion vs the politics of national preservation. selfishness dressed up as selflessness.

pj Friday, 08 June 2007 at 11:02

AOG - If the welfare state is to be removed, we’ll have to evolve from it. Thus, Social Security will evolve from a single account to private accounts, and then from general taxation to tax-funding of the private accounts, and to investment options other than Treasury securities. In all of these cases, having a stronger tax base of young workers will help with the evolution. In particular, shifting to private accounts requires recognizing the underfunded nature of the current trust fund ($1.7 trillion assets, $18 trillion liabilities). These are the ‘transition costs.’ If we have surplus tax revenues, it’s easier to recognize them, and thus easier to transition away from Social Security as it now exists.

Similarly, welfare will not be eliminated in one cut, it will evolve into a system where taxpayers get more control over what welfare dollars are used for, and many private organizations running private welfare systems compete for the taxpayers’ money.

Arguably, greater diversity in the populace will increase support for conservative structures (involving competing options) over socialist structures (no options). If so, then immigrants can provide tax revenues and undermine the welfare state at the same time.

Michael Herdegen Friday, 08 June 2007 at 11:15
  • America can use more workers than are being provided by organic population growth.
    • This shortage will become especially acute once all of the Boomers have retired.
  • The American middle class, which comprises most of the population of the U.S. and the overwhelming majority of those who actually vote, prefers immigrants to be illegal, thus protecting the value of education, accreditation, and licensing, and relegating the bulk of jobs competition from illegals to low-level, semi- or unskilled types of work.
    • Due to the shortage of high-paying jobs at home, Mexicans are over a barrel: They have to accept the cruddy situation. There aren’t going to be any en masse withholdings of Mexican labor unless they get legal status.

So where is the cause or impetus for change ?

pj Friday, 08 June 2007 at 11:40

Michael - I largely agree with your analysis; with two caveats:

1. It’s not the “American middle class” but the Democratic portion of it that prefers the immigrants to be illegal. It is a kind of protectionism, but it is based on the intellectual mistake that the costs to them of having more competitors will overbalance the gains to them from having better cooperators. This is the same error that leads Democrats to favor protectionism, cartelized labor and production (e.g. agriculture), single-payer health care, and other similar anti-competitive legislation.

2. The cause or impetus for change is that everyone’s welfare can be improved by taking immigrants legally rather than illegally. The immigrants are much better off, as they can become better contributors to the American economy and society; we would gain more from their participation.

Annoying Old Guy Friday, 08 June 2007 at 13:49


I generally agree, but I wasn’t arguing one way or the other on the subject, only that the open borders proponents can’t have it both ways. For me, at least, the debate over the welfare system and its future evolution isn’t much (if at all) affected by immigration. That which is wrong with it, and that which should be done, remains the same irrespective of how immigration is handled. Asymmetrically, however, the welfare system does have (IMHO) a big impact on how immigration should be handled.

And that brings me back (how odd!) to the original topic of the post, which is ideological purity. Mr. Cohen and OJ, our resident open borders proponents, frequently mock libertarians for being too ideologically pure, for insisting on all or nothing political platforms, and being unwilling to accept half a loaf. Yet is that not their position on immigration and border control? Open /unlimited or nothing? And that anyone who doesn’t support unlimited is “objectively racist”? If nothing else comes of this, at least I will have it as a tu quoque response for that kind of mockery in the future. And perhaps they’ll see what it’s like to have what one considers an absolute moral imperative blithely dismissed by the political realists’ compromising.

Michael Herdegen Friday, 08 June 2007 at 13:50

While I strongly agree with your (2), that’s a logical treatment of what is largely an emotional issue. If logic were going to rule the day, the policy would have changed years ago.

The thing about (1) is that your position, (and mine), is elitist. I don’t fear competition, but that’s because I have a (completely unsupported and delusionally) high opinion of myself. It seems to me, based on human cultural groupings, that most people would rather have a static, safe, and non-optimal position, rather than a high-risk/high-reward situation.

Tom C., Stamford,Ct. Friday, 08 June 2007 at 17:03


Be careful with your reasoning. Folks like you depend on common sense. Others look at common sense and see hate crimes. (Common sense as a hate crime!)

David Cohen Friday, 08 June 2007 at 19:48

First, thank G-d for the Fourteenth Amendment, which forestalls a lot of this nonsense.

Second, AOG, after all your caterwauling about how I misrepresent your position, it’s odd that you continue to call me an open borders advocate when I’ve said, expressly, that I favor better border control. But, of course, your position is perfectly consistent if what you favor is keeping the immigrants out rather than border security.

Third, when people like cjm talk about “the politics of national preservation” that is pure in-our-face racism.

This is not, however, the long post I planned because I got distracted. (If anyone’s interesting, UCLA has posted a series of training courses in how to use SPSS that is just great.)

Annoying Old Guy Friday, 08 June 2007 at 21:45

Mr. Cohen;

“Open borders” is the commonly used term to describe people who support unlimited immigration. Is that not your position?

cjm Saturday, 09 June 2007 at 10:38

cohen, i would never guess you were a lawyer.

how is preserving our nation racisim ? you must therefore be in favor of abolishing our nation. what a preening little man you are, admiring yourself so self-righteously, our own Lord Farquaad.

Comment redacted to remove excessive and gratuitious Nazi reference. Those aren’t helpful to anyone.

Tom C., Stamford,Ct. Saturday, 09 June 2007 at 10:55

By my estimation and real world experience, a large percentage of the current immigrant population is more concerned with gaming the system rather than becoming Americans. When records of criminal behavior and health issues are no longer relevent in determining qualifications for legal status one has to assume that there are other issues at play here, half-baked ideological predispositions at odds with the traditional welcoming attitude for legitimate, deserving, value adding immigrants. The ‘racist’ canard disqualifies the critics of the opposition to this bill from the get-go.A nation of properly processed immigrants who have become Americans over time is now a nation of ‘racists’? Absurd.

David Cohen Saturday, 09 June 2007 at 13:30

AOG: No, that’s not my position. My position is for allowing immigration with a low threshold in numbers much larger than we allow now, something like ten times as many.

cjm: To suggest that immigration threatens our national preservation is pure racism.

Tom: I’m not sure if that’s aimed at me, since I’ve said on numerous occasions that I support criminal background checks and physicals for new immigrants. Of course, the anti-immigrationist position is one that is completely impervious to evidence. I have been careful not to call everyone who opposed the comprehensive bill racist. But a lot of the opponents are obviously racist, like cjm, and it would be silly, not to mention dishonest, not to call him or her out on it.

cjm Saturday, 09 June 2007 at 13:43

No one here is against immigration; we are talking about illegal immigration. Of course you know that already — but acknowledging that point makes it hard for you to preen around. I guess we should take it as a compliment that you take time away from the mirror to correct our misplaced notions of right and wrong.

David Cohen Saturday, 09 June 2007 at 14:13

cjm: So you agree with me that anyone who can get themselves to the States and pass a simple background check and medical exam should be allowed to immigrate (though I admit that I think that we can legitimately limit immigration to about 3 million a year)? Since we agree, I can’t imagine what all the invective has been about.

h-man Saturday, 09 June 2007 at 14:56

I guess I got into this late, but in defense of CJM I presume he meant that preserving the Nation meant preserving the rules and mores of our nation to some semblence of that which we would agree separates America from the rest of the world. Your point that immigration is a part of that conception of America is well taken by everything I’ve read so far.

Some people might think that limiting but not ending immigration thru the operation of law will prevent America from being swamped by peoples not dedicated to the spirit of America’s founding. I would say that it would be preferable for people with an ethos exemplified by Emile Zapata or Pancho Villa to be allowed into the country at a rate that we can confidently say would not disrupt our present blended culture. In other words assimilation.

Your 1% figure certainly is a possibility, but in the present situation I think President Bush and Clinton have not acted in good faith to enforce our presently existing immigration laws specifically as regards Mexicans. To grant amnesty with that being the case would encourage even more illegal immigration. However if confidence is restored in the executive branch I see no reason why amnesty can’t be granted to resident illegals and furthermore there would be no embarassment in using the “A” word. Shout it from rooftops.

BTW here’s a link to George Borjas’ Blog which shows a chart of usage of public assistance by immigrants as opposed to citizens.

Have a nice day

Michael Herdegen Saturday, 09 June 2007 at 15:08

All a tempest in a teapot, unless anyone can answer my previous post.

We aren’t going to cut off the flow of Mexican labor, and it appears that there’s a large bloc of voters against legalization, as well.

That leaves the status quo, however racist or ill-spirited that might be.

cjm Saturday, 09 June 2007 at 15:25

why don’t you teach that straw man to dance ?

my view is that legal immigration should be partitioned into three categories:

1. special skills or knowledge 2. humanitarian needs 3. general admission

what is most important to me, and h-man put it better than i can/did, is that the character and essence of America is preserved. there is no need to let in socialists or anarchists or followers of a totalitarian creed. America should be for Americans, whether they are born here or move here from other countries. To this end there is a real need to expel people who are clearly working to subvert America. And before you get on your high horse again (presuming you deign to get down off it occassionally) I am not talking about loyalty tests and political purges, just an insistence that citizens not engage in traiterous activity.

is america best served by having 12 million unskilled people form south of the border, people who for the most part don’t actually care what the consequences of their behavior are to America — or would America be best served by reserving the bulk of immigration slots for people from all over the world, that genuinely understand what America is, and want to contribute to its continued well being ?

cjm Saturday, 09 June 2007 at 15:28

mh: why can’t we cut off the flow of illegal mexican labor ? just put a bounty on any illegal caught here, and they will all be gone in a month. replace them with documented guest workers from any other continent.

h-man Saturday, 09 June 2007 at 15:43


“We aren’t going to cut off the flow of Mexican labor”

If that is your premise then any question you have will be answered by Mexicans, not Americans.

David Cohen Saturday, 09 June 2007 at 15:45

”[F]rom any other continent.” Ah, you’re not a racist, you’re a continentalist.

Annoying Old Guy Saturday, 09 June 2007 at 15:47

Mr. Cohen;

My mistake, I apologize for the misrepresentation. But I must say, that makes your position nearly incomprehensible to me. I can see only two possibilities:

  1. Your position of wanting to restrict the immigration rate is objectively racist.
  2. There is some tipping point value between 300,000 / year and 3,000,000 / year at which opposition to immigration becomes no longer objectively racist.

Could you enlighten me as to which one of these represents your position? And note, this is about your claim of objective racism, so motivations and purposes are totally irrelevant (those fall in the category you labeled “subjective”).

Michael Herdegen Sunday, 10 June 2007 at 08:40


We can cut off the flow. We’re just not going to so do.



David Cohen Sunday, 10 June 2007 at 08:57

h-man: Thanks for the pointer to that article and chart. I would just point out that the chart shows number of households receiving some state assistance, not the amount spent on immigrants v. natives(!) and that it doesn’t differentiate between legal and illegal immigrants. The other point about welfare worth making is that it doesn’t seem unfair to me to allow California to decide how much it wants to spend on immigrants, legal or illegal. If Californians decide that they are spending too much money on welfare for immigrants, the solution is for California to change its welfare laws rather than have the nation change its immigration laws. This is, in fact, one of the mechanisms that leads me to conclude that immigration makes cradle-to-grave welfare unsustainable.

Krikorian’s CIS puts the net cost of immigration to government at about $10 billion per year and immigrants send $10 billion back to Mexico annually. On the other hand, illegal immigrants are thought to earn about $60 billion per year. (All these figures come from immigration opponents.) To me, that seems a cheap price to pay.

David Cohen Sunday, 10 June 2007 at 09:48

And another quick note. The point about social security is that immigrants are, as a group, younger than Americans as a whole and working. Therefore, in the near term, they contribute to social security without collecting. (This is especially true of illegal immigrants who work under a false social security number.) Since social security is a huge Ponzi scheme, their contributions are used today to pay off retired and disabled workers and then the excess is used as part of the general fund. That’s what people mean when they say that immigration will shore up social security.

cjm Sunday, 10 June 2007 at 10:29

mh: agreed

with respect to social security one only has to look to europe to see how that works out. let me give you a clue…lean in a bit…granting amnesty to the young illegals allows them to bring in their extended family who then procede to overwhelm the ss system without ever contributing to it.

in california, my state, with one of the highest levels of illegal immigration, all social services are in collapse or near to it, because of the “contributions” of illegal immigrants. it’s so bad here, that even some illegal immigrants are leaving.

maybe i missed something, but i can’t recall cohen ever saying one word about how America benefits from the policies he advocates. perhaps the posts here are really by an illegal alien he has working in his household or something.

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 10 June 2007 at 10:52


Here’s a link for you which nicely illustrates your point.

As for Mr. Cohen, despite the fact that he seems to have stoppped responding to me on this subject, I think he has been clear about what he views as the benefits of immigration, and that he expects more of such benefits under his policies. And I’m not sure we disagree on the benefits (because, as you said, everyone in this discussion is pro-immigration), only on the potential costs, particularly as a function of the immigration rate.

David Cohen Sunday, 10 June 2007 at 11:25

I haven’t stopped responding to you, it’s just that there’s a lot out there to respond to and I need to wait until I have the time to write a lot.

David Cohen Sunday, 10 June 2007 at 11:29

Also, I’m not sure what European experience you’re thinking of. All I can think of is France and the problems its Algerian population is causing it and Germany and its Turkish population. Neither of those strike me as being like our own situation.

David Cohen Sunday, 10 June 2007 at 11:31

On the other hand, in London, which finds itself the destination of choice for immigrants from eastern Europe, you are rarely if ever served by a native in restaurants or shops.

David Cohen Monday, 11 June 2007 at 12:05

Over at the secret blog, AOG properly skewers me for being inconsistent. I said more than I intended to say and suggested that any opposition to the immigration bill was racist. I don’t believe that, I was sloppy in using my own terminology, it was entirely my own fault and I apologize unreservedly to anyone who was, understandably, offended. There are valid non-racist reasons to oppose the bill, that was always what I intended to say, although not what I said, and, in fact, my own position on the bill was mild opposition and this wasn’t one of the times I was willing to be racist for the greater good.

I will try to restate my position as concisely and clearly as I can. The bill was a flawed compromise. If it fails, I am content with its failure because I’m content with the status quo. Nonetheless, much of the opposition was xenophobic. I conclude this based upon, among other things, the following:

  • The bitterness of the opposition, which was out of all proportion to what the bill actually did.
  • Statements to the effect that the bill threatened our national identity, or that what was at stake was national preservation, which are in context xenophobic.
  • Arguments about the cost of immigration which drastically overstate those costs and completely ignore the benefits.
  • The use of arguments that have been made and disproved consistently over the course of American history.
  • Appeals to a history that never existed (for example, the implicit statement that America had once had control of her borders but now was being betrayed by loose border enforcement).
  • The extent to which the argument against illegal immigration and/or the current level of legal immigration focus on Mexican immigrants.
  • Arguments that, implicitly or explicitly, assumed that Mexicans were dirtier, sicker, more criminal or less liable to assimilate than previous immigrant groups, which in fact, were dirt poor, spoke strange languages and followed odd religions and, always, made up a goodly portion of the criminal class. (Didn’t you ever wonder what Mark Twain meant when he said that America had no native criminal class except Congress?)
  • Appeals to the explicitly racist immigration laws of the 1920s as a necessary lacuna in immigration that allowed for assimilation.
  • Paranoia about continued loyalty to Mexico and, in particular, that increased Mexican immigration was part of/was useful to a movement to return the southwest to Mexico and undo the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo. (Dual loyalty claims are, always and everywhere, xenophobic and a claim that I am particularly sensitive to.)

And, of course, some of the opponents were explicit that their concern was that they don’t like Mexican immigrants or that they want to preserve a certain racial and ethnic balance in the US.

I also wanted to make a few more points. Regardless of any one person’s reasons for opposing the bill, the bill is separate from the different but related questions of what the proper rate of legal immigration is; what we should do, if anything, about illegal immigration; what we should do about illegal aliens; and to what extent we can or should wish to control the border. Much of the opposition to the bill completely conflated these issues. For example, lots of people argue that we should get control of the border before we address illegal or legal immigration. This is a superficially appealing position, because there is broad agreement on controlling the border and it allows us, in the best American political tradition, to push back the contentious issues of legal immigration, illegal immigration and illegal aliens already in the country. The problem with this position is two fold. First, good control of the border is hard and perhaps impossible (remember, the “border” is not just with Mexico; it includes Canada and 20,000 miles of coastline). Pushing decisions on immigration and illegal aliens back until we control the border is, likely, to push those decisions back indefinitely. Also, the implicit assumption behind this “solution” is that the legal rate of immigration is either just about right or too high and that stopping illegal immigration while continuing at this rate of legal immigration wouldn’t hurt the country. Just as a matter of policy, that seems clearly wrong to me.

Second, I have also been trying to make the point that, regardless of any one’s personal reasons for opposing the immigration bill, opponents shouldn’t simply ignore the fact that they were making common cause with racists. (This is what led to my unfortunate use of the objective/subjective language.) That fact, alone, is morally neutral. Racists are, by definition, wrong and can easily be wrong about whether a particularly position necessarily advances their, for lack of a better word, ideas. But when marching with racists, we need to very certain that the route is right and we should leave some space between us. Here, I think that even well-meaning people have been too willing to make common cause with others who oppose the bill for the wrong reasons and are in danger of being drawn further along with their new allies into places they didn’t intend to go. For example, Mark Krikorian and his Center for Immigration Studies have been very active in opposing the immigration bill. But Krikorian and CIS are not well-meaning citizens acting to stop overreach. They are xenophobes. Use them now, if you must, but don’t just assume that you would agree with their other causes.

Finally, a personal appeal. People who would laugh at the idea that the patent office should only approve patents for products likely to be successful, or that business plans should be monitored for quality before company’s could be incorporated, seem to believe that they can pick which immigrants will succeed in America. We can’t. And we certainly can’t decide which immigrant will have children or grandchildren who will serve in our military, or pay taxes faithfully, or contribute to our collective well-being. But the inerrant American experience is that almost all immigrants give more than they get. It was true of my ancestors and I’m willing to bet that it was true of yours.

David Cohen Monday, 11 June 2007 at 12:07

OK, I might have missed “concisely.”

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