My friend Robert Bluey really laid into Michael Gerson’s piece in the Post today. But I think that Rob missed the point. For him, the focus of the piece was this paragraph:

It is a strange spectacle. Conservatives are intent on building a more appealing, post-Bush Republican Party. But their most obvious change so far is to reverse remarkable Republican gains among one of the fastest-growing groups of American voters. The renovators seem more like the wrecking crew.

Rob’s consistent critique of immigration reform has been that it is driven more by politics than by values and policies. From this view, the debate over immigration reform seems clear cut. However, that’s clearly not where Gerson is coming from. I took the key paragraph to be:

One gets the impression of decent men, intimidated by the vocal anger of elements of their own party.

As I have argued before, all the first tier Republican candidates have been what is called by restrictionists "open borders" people. Sam Brownback and John McCain have actually maintained their positions, while Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani have complicated their positions but not caved too much.

What about Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson who have simply sold their principles down the river on this issue?

One gets the impression of decent men, intimidated by the vocal anger of elements of their own party.

So why have McCain, Brownback, and, to a degree, Huckabee, maintained their positions?  My gut is that it is because their positions are deeply grounded in their values and, in particular, their religious values. Gerson actually praised McCain’s religious argument for immigration reform:

For McCain, they were not "illegals," they were human beings, with names. "We can’t let immigrants break our laws with impunity," he said. "But these people are also God’s children who wanted simply to be Americans."

This is not moral exhibitionism; it is just morality. And my respect for McCain, it turns out, is less and less grudging.

It should not be surprising that the two serious candidates of religious voters, Huckabee and Brownback, are members of the two major denominations that have taken a position in support of immigration reform. Their values are deeply grounded.

Some people, myself included, view immigration reform as a moral issue. And a simple one. And a deep one.

Now, Rob doesn’t understand this. For Rob, Gerson’s argument is about politics.  It is about Hispanic votes for the GOP. But for Gerson, McCain, and President Bush, that is a secondary argument. As Gerson said, "it is just morality."

Gerson’s point is, in part, also about integrity. People who are not haters have adopted the language and stance of hatred for votes. That is immoral. Tom Tancredo’s position on immigration is at least sincere. It is a serious position, even if it is irresponsible and wrong. However, the position of Thompson and Romney are different. They are weak. They are insincere for transactional reasons. They are simply acting out of politics. They are, as Gerson points out:

One gets the impression of decent men, intimidated by the vocal anger of elements of their own party.

The Republican Party deserves better than this from its leaders. They are to be leaders. They are to be men of principles. Riding the mob to victory is no way to lead or rule. But some parts of the conservative movement don’t understand that.

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14 Comments

Zarathustra · September 19, 2007 at 8:58 PM

“For Rob [Bluey], [Michael] Gerson’s argument is about politics. It is about Hispanic votes for the GOP. But for Gerson, McCain, and President Bush, that is a secondary argument. As Gerson said, ‘it is just morality.'”

Then it’s rather odd, isn’t it, that Gerson went on for, at least, five fairly long paragraphs on the political implications of immigration reform and only saw fit to address the “moral” dimension of this legislation in, at most, a paragraph and a half?

“Tom Tancredo’s position on immigration is at least sincere. It is a serious position, even if it is irresponsible and wrong.”

And how is Tancredo’s stance “irresponsible” or “wrong”? Furthermore, just why is a policy that floods the an already overpopulated Southwest with even more people “responsible?”

“Riding the mob to victory is no way to lead or rule.”

That’s certainly true, but on the other hand consistently going against the wishes of a majority of the overall electorate, and the vast majority of your base, on an issue of deep significance to them is a wonderful way to consign yourself to long-term irrelevance.

eye · September 20, 2007 at 1:51 AM

Zarathustra, let it suffice to say that, at least in the case of Tancredo, I think he really is a racist and an embarassment to the party.

But, people will scream, that I am for amnesty and a traitor to my country. Whatever.

Rachel · September 20, 2007 at 9:17 AM

You inside the beltway guys just don’t get it.

eye · September 20, 2007 at 9:53 AM

Rachel,

I would disagree. I think it is more that I just disagree about what our priorities should be.

I also grew up in a Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. The two useful languages at the corner store were Spanish and Polish. Didn’t bother me then. Doesn’t bother me now.

Soren

neil · September 20, 2007 at 10:03 AM

Overpopulated? That’s a new one by me. Is it just code for “too many non-white people” or is it an environmentally grounded argument?

eye · September 20, 2007 at 10:05 AM

Overpopulation is a standard lefty argument. The overpopulation guys are also usually eugenicists. That’s why one of Tancredo’s big backers is also a big supporter of Planned Parenthood.

He just wants fewer people.

neil · September 20, 2007 at 10:18 AM

I guess the other possibility is “bald-faced lie” assuming that people won’t know how sparsely populated the Southwest is compared to the east of the Mississippi.

But it probably is environmentalism — not enough water, destruction of habitats. I knew that some environmentalist groups have been moving in an anti-immigration direction, but I didn’t know that anti-immigrant politicians have been making appeals to environmentalism and ZPG rhetoric.

Rachel · September 20, 2007 at 12:15 PM

Soren,
I grew up in a spanish speaking country. I am not anti-hispanic. I want people to come here who want to be Americans. I want them to want to assimilate. But that isn’t what brings them here. It is money.
They flood our schools which in turn drives up our costs, which leads to higher property taxes. They drive on our roads, with no liscence or insurance.
They surpress wages in a lot of areas, not just in the agriculture sector. The agriculture sector is whining about not having enough workers. That is because the illegals have moved on, they are in factories and constuction.
Americans out here in middle America see all this and then are gobsmacked when our representatives in Congress want to reward all that by putting them on a path to citizenship.
There is an anger out here, just below the surface that you cannot imagine. It is not racism. It is anger at business and goverment who seem to want to undermine our standard of living.

neil · September 20, 2007 at 3:21 PM

Racism usually comes with some justification, usually about all the nefarious things that “they” are doing or want to do to “us”.

Zarathustra · September 20, 2007 at 3:57 PM

“I guess the other possibility is “bald-faced lie” assuming that people won’t know how sparsely populated the Southwest is compared to the east of the Mississippi.”

Well, that would be a fairly devastating, knockdown argument if all that was needed to sustain human life was a physical place to locate their domicile. Unfortunately, modern industrial society is substantially more complex and resource intensive than that. The water situation out here in many places is past critical, and even in Texas, which is far from being a desert state, the legislature is ready to spend tens of billions to add reservoirs just about everywhere they can possibly be placed.

“That’s why one of Tancredo’s big backers is also a big supporter of Planned Parenthood.”

Dr. Tanton was last on the board of PP of Northern Michigan years ago, and to my knowledge he hasn’t been affiliated with the group for decades. It’s unfair in the extreme to hold this against Tanton today, but it’s even worse to smear Tancredo by association for the crime of having a supporter who supported legal abortion in the 1970’s.

“but I didn’t know that [pro-immigration reform] politicians have been making appeals to environmentalism and [population].”

It would behoove you to go take a quick peek at the site of NumbersUSA (arguably the leading immigration reform organization in the country) and examine some of their many materials on population and sustainability, then come back and make that same claim again.

Rachel · September 20, 2007 at 8:58 PM

Racism is all you’ve got Neil, isn’t it?

Bluey Blog | Robert B. Bluey » Misunderstanding Michael Gerson · September 19, 2007 at 11:01 PM

[…] Soren Dayton takes me to task for my criticism of former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson this morning. I told Soren earlier on Google Talk that I understood his stance on immigration. While I don’t agree with it, I do respect his opinion. I’ll leave it at that.  Posted at 11:01 PM in Politics         Save to Del.icio.us         Share on Facebook […]

eyeon08.com » The environment among conservatives? · September 25, 2007 at 8:43 AM

[…] The environment among conservatives? digg_url = ‘http://www.eyeon08.com/2007/09/25/the-environment-among-conservatives/’; digg_title = ‘The environment among conservatives?’; digg_bodytext = ‘Last week, I criticized my friend Robert Bluey’s reading of Michael Gerson’s position on immigration. My criticism was, on a broader level, that the conservative movement has very little capacity to understand conservatives who disagree with it on principal. More specifically, when deeply held beliefs begin to come into conflict with the increasingly interest group […]’; digg_skin = “compact”; digg_topic = “politics”; ( function() { var ds=typeof digg_skin==’string’?digg_skin:”; var h=80; var w=52; if(ds==’compact’) { h=18; w=120; } var u=typeof digg_url==’string’?digg_url:(typeof DIGG_URL==’string’?DIGG_URL:window.location.href); document.write(“”); } )() Last week, I criticized my friend Robert Bluey’s reading of Michael Gerson’s position on immigration. My criticism was, on a broader level, that the conservative movement has very little capacity to understand conservatives who disagree with it on principal. More specifically, when deeply held beliefs begin to come into conflict with the increasingly interest group driven conservative movement agenda, the conservative movement struggles. This is, of course, where constituencies are gained and lost. […]

The environment among conservatives? · September 25, 2007 at 9:41 AM

[…] Last week, I criticized my friend Robert Bluey’s reading of Michael Gerson’s position on immigration. My criticism was, on a broader level, that the conservative movement has very little capacity to understand conservatives who disagree with it on principal. More specifically, when deeply held beliefs begin to come into conflict with the increasingly interest group driven conservative movement agenda, the conservative movement struggles. This is, of course, where constituencies are gained and lost. […]

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