alien & sedition.
Friday, August 17, 2007
  The Immigration Quandary

Returning to the question of "Movement 2.0" -- Ruffini and Dayton, while they seem understandably intrigued by the galvanizing possibilities, for conservatives, of a Hillary Clinton nomination, nonetheless recognize that Hillary hatred would not suffice as an ideological basis for a new movement. They go on to review a number of issues around which such a movement could potentially be organized.

The approach is interesting in how it seems to reflect a very common pattern of instrumentalist thinking among conservatives. In other words: here are two conservatives saying, "we need a movement -- what issues can we use to build it?" It seems to me that the liberal habit is the opposite: "We need health care -- how can we get it?" This is a gross oversimplification, of course, but I do think it has something to do with why conservatives have shown such a genius for politics -- for them, politics is the point; ideas are the means. In its more vulgar forms this instrumentalism manifests, for instance, as the "Konservetkult" culture war mentality so vividly described by Brad Reed and Roy Edroso; this is the mentality that brought us such joys as the Half Hour News Hour and the "Top 50 Conservative Rock Songs of All Time." Ruffini and Dayton are serious thinkers, not themselves prey to such mania; it's just interesting, on the larger level, how a useful adaptation (a flair for politics) can mutuate into a serious deformity.

With that long aside out of the way, let's briefly consider the first instrument in the new movement's potential arsenal of ideas. Ruffini says:
Even if Movement 2.0 is two or more years away, there are things we should be doing now to prepare. At this point in the Clinton years, MoveOn had already started. Perhaps the analog to that is the immigration issue, where the right kicked ass. But, again, what did we create with the immigration issue? Where is the million person email list of people who got involved because of immigration, and can now be activated on other issues? It sounds like people were thinking of the right techniques for radio, but not for online.
I can understand why conservative activists are tempted to see immigration as an issue upon which they can build. After all, in a pretty bad year for the right, it's where they scored their most significant victory. It fires up the base and it can be milked for patriotism points.

At the same time, I'm astounded. The victory was tactical, not strategic. Conservative activists forced Congressional members of their own party to react to the demands of the base and kill the immigration bill, even though the bill's provisions were broadly popular among the general public. And, of course, achieving the "victory" meant months of noisy activism that put the rather vicious bigotry of so much of the Republican base on public display, even as the party's more sober thinkers have realized that, if it cannot expand beyond white Christian nationalism, the GOP is doomed to long-term minority status. Thus Dayton says:
Yesterday, one of the stand-ins at Andrew Sullivan’s blog argued that perhaps we could add African-Americans through railing on immigration. I, personally, find the idea both morally repugnant and unlikely to succeed. We want to get African-Americans back by increasing racist sentiment? Probably not a winner. Nevermind that we would lose our Hispanics, so it might not even add votes. And business wouldn’t tolerate a protectionist agenda....

Another [option] would be to try to organize and reach out to Hispanics. Bush tried that with immigration, and the party revolted. (wrongly, in my opinion).
Dayton is entirely correct. The experience of "victory" seems to have confused very many conservative activists and pundits, but if they don't pay close attention to the bigger picture, that victory will be Pyrrhic (more than it already was). Immigration is an issue that divides the existing Republican coalition, prevents outreach to a crucial new constituency (and no matter how much conservatives reassure themselves that "a lot of Hispanics oppose illegal immigration too," there's simply no way the GOP can act on the issue without unleashing the bigotry that will cost them even those Hispanic votes), and puts them on the wrong side of majority opinion. I can't see how any sensible conservative could possibly imagine that it would make a useful issue for a Movement 2.0.

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Bismarck, our German Godfather of Conservatism, had a not-so-American idea of meaningful policy. One aspect of it:

Be humble and patient concerning reality: Rely on the course of history!
Grasp it, and then let yourself be carried with it, and thus you KEEP IN POWER yourself and those to whom you belong, and you get the opportunity to impose YOUR politics IN this stream of history, and not against it.

(That is why the anti-nationalist, anti-democratic, anti-socialist Bismarck embraced nationalism, democracy and socialism - to some degree - and modelled them for conservative purposes and securing conservative power.)

It takes a sense of history. I don't see much of that in the American debate.

I would not be so upset right now if I were "conservative" in the Bushist sense (which may not be conservative; to me it looks like a new - postmodern - version of Fascism, yet still fledgling).

F.e.: There might be two big trends hitting the USA 2009-2013:
a) global recession
b) US global decline (some loss of competitiveness, growing power of adversaries, more "antiAmericanism" all over the world, etc.

First, these trends will kill automatically any liberal or moderate Presidency and party in power.

Second: These nightmares will scare and inflame people, make them more radical, more prone to charismatic and reckless leadership, to authoritarian presidency, to kind of civil war with the "liberals", and to risky military adventures.

I fear that, despite of the momentary slump, Karl Rove is on the right track, when you consider the longterm trends. (Whether they are the real trends, that would need inquiry, of course. I don't mean prophesy, I just state them here as hypotheses without further elaboration.)

The American debate is rather short-termist. Effect, or success must be round the corner. But in politics - like in chess - usually those prevail who are best capable of long-term anticipation and design.

Who knows - maybe in some hidden think-tank corner the Bushist designers are secretly designing their long-term policy ... They just don't talk about it, publicly. And need not talk about it, publicly.

Note 1: In politics, do not talk about things of salient importance!
Language, as Talleyrand quipped, is made to DISTRACT and DECEIVE.
(I wonder what that could mean for a blog like this one here ... How to get BELOW the surface, to the substantial things that DRIVE history?)

Note 2: In politics and history, we are driven, and not drivers.
You've got to accept this to become able to move appropriately - but always only with the flow.

I suppose, you, Paul Curtis, have a more optimistic and idealistic view of all of this.
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"An obscure but fantastic blog." - Markus Kolic


Critical analysis of the American conservative movement from a progressive perspective. Also some stuff about the Mets.

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