Saturday, May 01, 2010

This is not your father’s McCarthyism

Megan McArdle on Arizona’s immigration reform:

[I]t’s not just wrong.  It’s un-American.

Funny how people who can’t be bothered to defend the actual American identity rush to denounce as “un-American” those who can.

Earth to Megan:  unlike libertarianism, “Americanism” is not a national suicide pact.

20 comments:

Elusive Wapiti said...

I'd like for her to define what "Americanism" is, rather than a facile catch-all code word for "something I don't like".

Maybe to her, it's not getting hassled because 20M+ people who look and sound a lot like you are in the country illegally. Guarantee you that if Mexico were swarmed with 20M gringos stealing jobs Mexicans wouldn't do in their ag sector, the Federales would be all over my anglo butt like white on rice.

But then again, her outrage on behalf of Mexicans and other central/south Americans is curious. Typical SWPL condescension...the group you are defending obviously isn't able to take care of itself, so you gotta pitch in.

Let's turn this around a little bit. It's not as if we're flooded with hordes of blonde haired blue eyed Germans crossing the border illegally to work in our cornfields and meat plants...if we were, well I suspect that I'd get hassled too and if it meant that the fuzz would get on me 'cuz I looked like an illegal Kraut, well I think I'd be okay with it if it meant that the ones here illegally were under pressure to leave.

Jehu said...

Was Eisenhower un-American? Hardly, I like Ike! Most of America did too. One of his great accomplishments was 'Operation Wetback', wherein he ejected large numbers of illegal immigrants from the US. Would that we could have such an 'un-American' president again.

Φ said...

I think I'd be okay with it if it meant that the ones here illegally were under pressure to leave

This isn't obvious, especially if you yourself were a Kraut.

Likewise for Mexicans with legal residency. Sure, continued immigration both legal and illegal hurts them since they compete for the same type of work. Yet polls show that they are torn between this and their sense of solidarity with other Mexicans. I don't blame them for this solidarity -- indeed I would feel it mysef -- but that goes to the heart of the problem: calling someone "American" whose loyalties lie with a foreign nation.

The world works better when we all live among our own people in our own land.

Megan, of course, doesn't see it that way. To her, the definition of "American" is believing that it has no definition.

Elusive Wapiti said...

"...the heart of the problem: calling someone "American" whose loyalties lie with a foreign nation."

MikeT came across this the other day in one of his posts. Loyalty to another nation apparently was one of the criteria the Founders used to separate the citizens from the non-citizens.

trumwill said...

Yet polls show that they are torn between this and their sense of solidarity with other Mexicans.

I don't think it's just that. I think there is also the sense that they are going to be specifically inconvenienced by having to prove their citizenship in the event of police interaction. That's not how the law is supposed to work, but it's not unreasonable to think that's how the law ultimately will work. I can definitely understand some resistance to that. I don't want to get hauled downtown if I forget my license and don't have a passport handy.

To her, the definition of "American" is believing that it has no definition.

I think it (in the context used) has more to do with American as a concept or characteristic rather than an identifier of individuals. In that sense, laws put forth by the American government that only applies to American individuals can still be "un-American."

I view "Americanism" as a combination of both, but I also think the term "un-American" is something of a useless phrase. Even if something is un-American, the solution may be to simply redefine what Americanism is.

Φ said...

Trumwill: the conflict I describe applies to Mexican opinion of immigration in general, not just with regard to this particular law. Though certainly their concerns about enforcement, reasonable or otherwise, give salience to those opinions in this case.

I agree that "un-American", in an of itself, is pretty useless as a guide to policy, and I suspect that Megan used it with more than a hint of irony. But to the extent that she meant anything, the context supports my contention that the "concept or characteristic" behind it was something like "tolerance", "anti-racism", "non-discrimination" . . . in other words, "don't pretend like there is a difference between American citizens and non-citizens." Empty of content.

trumwill said...

You would say "American citizens and non-citizens", but she would likely say "Non-Hispanics and Hispanics." It's not clear to me that when she says the latter, she really means the former.

Φ said...

I suspect that the difference in Megan's mind between a "citizen vs non-citizen" paradigm and a "gringo vs hispanic" paradigm is as small as mine, which is pretty small. The difference is that I think these paradigms are important in a way that she doesn't.

trumwill said...

This quote makes me think otherwise: I'd be pretty pissed if I had to carry my passport at all times because there was a lot of Irish illegal immigration (as there was, until recently) and my nose is suspiciously flat. Yet I wasn't particularly enamored of giving Irish illegals a free pass on the immigration laws.

My reading is that she is agitated on behalf of Hispanics as a whole. Not just non-citizens or those that are here illegally. Nor the assumption that the difference between "Hispanic" and "non-citizen" is slight.

Φ said...

That Megan makes periodic nods toward the disinterested enforcement of immigration law (Arizona's excepted) in the interest of law-and-order in the abstract sense doesn't change the fact that she generally opposes laws restricting immigration in the first instance. She sees those laws as making distinctions among individuals, and it doesn't much matter to her whether those distinctions are between Americans and Mexicans or between Whites and Hispanics.

Otherwise, the passage you quoted mystifies me. Megan's parents weren't even alive the last time we had an illegal Irish population of any size, so her ex-post opinion about it is pretty sterile.

trumwill said...

The point is not limited to a nod to opposing illegal immigration. The point is that she is seeing this from the perspective of someone that is not here illegally. She's not saying "This would be terrible if I were not a citizen" but "this would be terrible for people that look like people that are not citizens."

Another example:

I fully understand that illegal immigration causes a lot of problems in border areas, and that pro-immigration people are often too flip in dismissing these. But the problems are not so bad as to justify such broad and crude increases in the power of the state to hassle its citizens

And a third:

These are places where enforcement can be stepped up quite dramatically without massive intrusion into the ordinary lives of law-abiding citizens.

In the context of what she is saying in this post, the difference between being a citizen and not being a citizen is quite relevant.

Φ said...

The context of what she is saying is that she would delete the "reasonable suspicion" clause and require the police to verify everybody's citizenship status. Obviously, this would increase the burden on lawful citizens, but this doesn't bother Megan since she is concerned about the disparate impact on hispanics, AND she hopes that the requirement would make the law unpopular enough to repeal.

trumwill said...

No one is denying that she is concerned about the disparate impact on Hispanics. Like I said, "non-Hispanics and Hispanics." It's pretty plain, though, that when she talks about the Hispanics that will feel the impact she is not being euphemistic for non-citizens. She's as clear as she can be that she's talking about the burden placed on Hispanic citizens. This does not indicate me an indifference to the status of citizenship.

Φ said...

Megan may well recognize the difference in abstract categories, but she regards them as equally unimportant. This is the weight of her writing on immigration issues.

trumwill said...

Well, she recognizes them as far as Arizona enforcement goes and in the post that we are discussing. If she has elsewhere written something that implies a disregard for the distinction between citizenship and non-citizenship, I can't really comment on everything else she has written on the subject since my radar on immigration issue commentary is not as finely tuned as yours.

All that comes to mind about it is that she supports allowing more non-citizens to come here and work and have the ability to become citizens. Does this, to you, constitute viewing distinctions between citizenship and non-citizenship as irrelevant? Or is there something else in what she has written that implies it?

Φ said...

Megan's position "allowing more non-citizens to come here and work and have the ability to become citizens" is based on, not a rational econometric analysis of the costs and benefits to existing Americans of further immigration. It is based on the general proposition that national boundaries are in some sense arbitrary impediments to the free-flow of labor. But short of that, yes, I DO think that the position as you described is in practice to erase the distinction between citizen and non-citizen, depending on the definition of "more" and the specifics of "non-citizen".

trumwill said...

It is based on the general proposition that national boundaries are in some sense arbitrary impediments to the free-flow of labor.

Has she said as much?

Φ said...

Rather than comb through her vitae, I will ask this: has she ever affirmed that true citizenship is rooted in shared history, reciprocal loyalty, and mutual interest?

trumwill said...

Given that citizenship is generally discussed as a legal term, the abstract notion of "true citizenship" most likely has not come up within her writing. National boundaries (borders) and immigration have come up, so it seems to me that if she believed that national boundaries were arbitrary, she would have had ample opportunity to say so (as others have). And she wouldn't be doing things like suggesting that it's important that those that come here adapt to American values so that America can "maintain the dominant American culture." The correct line for the transnationalist is "There is no such thing as American culture." Heaven knows I head enough of that in college.

Φ said...

Reducing citizenship to a mere administrative category is the same as saying it is meaningless. I remember this post and probably linked it at the time.

I think the answer is to handle immigration in a way that allows the immigrants to be easily assimilated into your culture.

At some point, intelligent adults ought not be allowed to hide behind this anymore.