William J. Stuntz offers both sides a cold shower. For conservatives: the poltiical phase of the culture war over abortion has been lost; and the immigrants are here to stay. For liberals: we’re winning in Iraq, so it would be exceedingly foolish to choose to lose; and there’s no money for big new government programs.
I could quibble with Stuntz’s analysis of the conservative/Republican issues. For example, he seems to assume that political and cultural developments operate on entirely separate tracks, as if pronouncements of political principle don’t affect "the culture." Says who?
On immigration, Stuntz is probably right that the political and governmental price of attempting to deport all the illegal immigrants is too high. But can’t we gain control of the border, reestabish the rule of (immigration) law, and make an effort to "assimilate" the people who are here? This is a political program that’s also a cultural program.
But my main purpose in calling this article to your attention is to prompt a discussion. Here’s Stuntz’s conclusion:
Because these are Democratic-leaning times, Republicans have the most to gain from embracing this year’s inconvenient truths--and may have a nearly ideal candidate to do the embracing. John McCain may be better positioned than anyone in either party to secure the southern border without alienating America’s Latino population. He has a strong pro-life voting record, but has never been in the thick of the culture wars. On Iraq, McCain is prominently identified with Petraeus and the surge. Politically, he stands in much the same position today as Dwight Eisenhower in 1952: tough-minded and hard-nosed without being reckless--and, like Eisenhower with Korea, he bears none of the blame for the war’s mishandling. On spending, McCain may be the country’s leading proponent of fiscal discipline: Ross Perot without the lunacy. A McCain-led Republican party could become the party of deficit hawks--just when deficits are about to become the political liability they were in the 1990s.
The two Democrats seem less impressive on this score. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama talk about border control the way children talk about eating their vegetables. As kids leave the table before the beans and carrots are gone, one suspects a Democratic administration might quit on border security before the borders are secured. Neither sounds much like a deficit hawk. And on the war--the real one--both have made statements that could make wise governance impossible if either reaches power. Political talk matters: It shapes voters’ expectations and defines the political context in which decisions are made. Standing tough in Iraq may be impossible after voters have heard, again and again, that their new president is firmly committed to bailing out, as quickly as possible.
Read and discuss.