Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Our inconvenient truths?

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.

Discussions - 7 Comments

Same advice Conservatives (or is it the GOP?) has been hearing for years - go left, and be relevant. As far as the cultural wars, it again is what you often hear: be quite, unassuming, and for goodness sake don't lead on the issue. It's the same sort of advice that is lead to the meltdown of the GOP: stick with the important things, like spreading the spoils. On Iraq: I think most folks have the sense that we have probably done all we can. The rest is up to the Iraqi people and whatever ground they have to stand on - which as we all know is not much. Their culture does not give them much hope. So what else can we do? Would another 5 or 10 years really make that much of a difference, as their culture is always simmering just below war. In this regard, the Dem's pull out plan does not really strike most as the disaster that neo-cons would want us to believe...

On the two inconvenient truths for the Republicans, Stuntz has it backwards: they're falsehoods, and they're convenient for him.

On abortion, Stuntz ignores the vast amount of evidence that shows the unpopularity of abortion-on-demand has been growing--see Ramesh Ponurru's book. On immigration, he simply refuses to frame the question fairly. The anti-amnesty anti-McCain/Bush position on immigration does not envision those mass deportations. The idea that McCain is positioned to do anything but harm on immigration is a fantasy...and only hard-nosed conservative bargaining with the man will produce anything better.

I don't know Stuntz, but he if wants to embrace McCainite neo-neo-conservatism and preach to us conservative losers to get in line, he'd better accept the hard truth that he's in third-party territory.

Yes, I'll be voting McCain against the Obamanem.

Even if Stuntz is right (and surveys suggest he is wrong; mass deportation wins a plurality among various options), "you can't deport'em all" naysayers like him forget the third option: attrition through enforcement.

Rather than attempt the prodiguous law enforcement and logistical feat of rounding up and physically expelling all illegal aliens, it's much easier and more efficient to induce them to leave.

Each day brings new headlines of locales where illegal aliens are clearing out, thanks to stepped-up state or local enforcement of laws that directly or indirectly target them. Often written in a mournful tone lamenting the loss of diversity or the hardship of lawbreakers, these stories nonetheless illustrate the effectiveness of attrition through enforcement.

So do what these locales do. Step up the pressure by stepping on the money hose. Increase scrutiny and penalties of employers, who are vulnerable and can't melt away. Heavily tax overseas wire transfers and remittances, with the proceeds funding still more enforcement (poetic justice). Ban bank accounts that use consular cards useful only to illegal aliens (legals have visas). Enforce bans on renting housing to illegals.

When illegals get the message that they are not welcome, when daily life becomes more difficult, they leave on their own accord.

I'd add that Stuntz reminds me of those voices that assumed that New York was always going to be a crime-ridden wasteland, and efforts to crack down were politically non-viable and impossible to make work even if attempted.

he'd better accept the hard truth that he's in third-party territory.

I don't know, if you look at the actual results of GOP governance, it's conservatives who are on the outside looking in...

Amazingly enough, the "truth" according to the Standard is that the GOP needs to adapt the Standards policy positions, which are liberal on domestic policy and hawkish on foreign policy.

They seem oblivious to the fact that the effect of their cherished open borders will be to make America an enemy of Israel.

Often clever, seldom wise, these neoconservatives.

John, how does that follow?

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