What is a conservative ?

Right now we have the immigration bill that has been passed by the Senate after being written by the “Gang of 8.” This bill, like so many major pieces of legislation lately, was written in secrecy and has not been through the usual committee process. “We have to pass it to see what is in it.”

As if Obamacare were not enough, here we have another opaque and mysterious bit of legislation that is thousands of pages of incomprehensible legalese.

Jennifer Rubin weighs in with a rather beltway-oriented view. Fair enough as she writes in the Washington Post.

The immigration battle, the debate over U.S. involvement in Syria and the flap over NSA surveillance have suggested two starkly different visions of the GOP as well as two potential paths for the GOP.

The question remains whether the GOP will become the party of: Sen. Rand Paul, Ky., or Sen. Kelly Ayotte, N.H., on national security; The Gang of Eight or the Gang of Three (Sens. Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions) on immigration; Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio, or Rick Santorum on gay marriage; Broad-based appeal (e.g. Govs. Chris Christie, Gov. Scott Walker) or losing ideologues (Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Michele Bachmann). I don’t know that Angle and O’Donnell were “ideologues.” Angle, at least was an amateur, somewhat like other candidates supported by the Tea Party.

I’m not sure I agree with her choices but let’s think about it.

On national security, I tend to agree with Rand Paul. I think we should get out of Afghanistan tomorrow, or as soon as we can do it. I would like to leave Pakistan and cut off aid to Egypt now. Yes, NOW.

Now, by and large, the GOP does remain the party of Christie, Walker, Rubio, etc. But conservative media that gush and mainstream media that ridicule give disproportionate attention to the party of Lee, Cruz, Angle, Paul, etc. That media hype is sometimes translated into elections, but more often than not it simply builds the expectation that the more radical candidate will win while fueling a sense of aggrievement when he or she doesn’t.

I don’t know what that paragraph means. Maybe more sophisticated people will explain it to me.

We are over extended internationally. I see no evidence that we want to do what is necessary to win and wasting the lives of US service members is not acceptable. I meet these people and like them. The same applied to Vietnam but I didn’t know it at the time. I have since read Dereliction of Duty and it seems to describe what is going on right now. Our military is being ignored and used by those who know nothing about strategy. This is very similar to what Johnson did in Vietnam. His strategy was all about domestic politics, just like Obama.

The immigration battle, the debate over U.S. involvement in Syria and the flap over NSA surveillance have suggested two starkly different visions of the GOP as well as two potential paths for the GOP.

The question remains whether the GOP will become the party of: Sen. Rand Paul, Ky., or Sen. Kelly Ayotte, N.H., on national security; The Gang of Eight or the Gang of Three (Sens. Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions) on immigration; Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio, or Rick Santorum on gay marriage; Broad-based appeal (e.g. Govs. Chris Christie, Gov. Scott Walker) or losing ideologues (Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Michele Bachmann).

Immigration ?

Sessions seem to have the right idea. Ted Cruz has taken a lot of abuse, most from Democrats, but it seems some Republicans are unhappy with him, too. I think one path is to obliteration of the GOP in a flood of new voters who will choose “free stuff” over principles.

I spent years treating illegal immigrants for injuries, many when they were drunk. The new bill seeks to remove barriers to legalization even for those convicted of DUIs.

What are the economics of illegal immigration and Amnesty?

In 2006, City Journal tried to answer this question. Nothing really has changed since then.

Since the mid-1960s, America has welcomed nearly 30 million legal immigrants and received perhaps another 15 million illegals, numbers unprecedented in our history. These immigrants have picked our fruit, cleaned our homes, cut our grass, worked in our factories, and washed our cars. But they have also crowded into our hospital emergency rooms, schools, and government-subsidized aid programs, sparking a fierce debate about their contributions to our society and the costs they impose on it

The present “Gang of 8” bill is pure amnesty, nothing more. Hugh Hewitt, who has a law practice on these issues, has some things to say.

We too often assume that legislators actually know how the laws they think they are drafting will actually work. There wasn’t a member of the Congresses in the early ’70s who knew how the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Acts would turn out to be twisted engines of anti-growth extremism, and as the Hoeven interview made clear, one of the authors of the key amendment actually thought he was mandating a fence that would work when he was doing exactly the opposite.

The transcript of the interview shows clearly how clueless the Senator is. He is not a lawyer and the lawyer who drafted the amendment tricked him.

More from City Journal:

[W]hile these workers add little to our economy, they come at great cost, because they are not economic abstractions but human beings, with their own culture and ideas—often at odds with our own. Increasing numbers of them arrive with little education and none of the skills necessary to succeed in a modern economy. Many may wind up stuck on our lowest economic rungs, where they will rely on something that immigrants of other generations didn’t have: a vast U.S. welfare and social-services apparatus that has enormously amplified the cost of immigration. Just as welfare reform and other policies are helping to shrink America’s underclass by weaning people off such social programs, we are importing a new, foreign-born underclass. As famed free-market economist Milton Friedman puts it: “It’s just obvious that you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.”

Libertarians seem to miss that point. We cannot afford to support the “your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” In earlier times, they were expected to support themselves and they did.

What about the Iran problem ? We may need to do something but there was an opportunity in 2009 when the Iranian people rose up after the fraudulent election. Obama chose to ignore them. Now, we may face an emboldened regime that considers suicide an acceptable result. The Iranian people do not seem to have anything like this attitude. Mosque attendance is down to the range of 3% among the people.

The corruption of the politicized clergy has alienated the people.

In recent years Iran has spent millions of dollars building new mosques and refurbishing old ones, but attendance has declined sharply. Leading religious leaders are now suggesting that they should show feature films in order to attract more people to prayers.

In the other hand religious authorities of Iran have acknowledged that the young generation is becoming more and more interesting in Christianity. They also announced that the Bible have(sic) penetrated into the most of the Iranian houses.

How should we deal with this ? Our government seems to have no clue. I certainly don’t want to cause huge casualties to such people but what if they attack us? We, after all, are the “Great Satan” to the clergy.

Now, Egypt is imploding. There are huge riots in Cairo today and they will not stop. Look at this photograph of the crowd

The serious scandals in our own government suggest that we have more problems here than, perhaps, abroad. The IRS and EPA are attacking US citizens for expressing political views opposed to Obama and the Democrats. I fear this far more than an attack by terrorists. For one reason, the NSA and other abuses seem to have been ineffective in preventing attacks like that by the Boston Bombers. The impression left is similar to a Keystone Cops scenario. The FBI seems much more effective in punishing Tea Party founders, like Catherine Engelbrecht.

The Engelbrechts were not, until recently, particularly political. They had been busy running a tiny manufacturing plant in Rosenberg, Texas. After years of working for others, Bryan, a trained machinist, wanted to open his own shop, so he saved his earnings, bought a computerized numerical-control machine, which does precision metal-cutting, and began operating out of his garage. “That was about 20 years ago,” he says. “Now, we’re up to about 30 employees.”

For two decades, Bryan and Catherine drove to work in their big truck. Engelbrecht Manufacturing Inc. now operates out of a 20,000-square-foot metal building on the prairie just outside of Houston, where a “semi-pet coyote lives in the field just behind us,” Bryan says. They went back to their country home each night. Stress was rare, and life was good.

But the 2008 elections left Catherine feeling frustrated about the debates, which seemed to be a string of superficial talking points. So she began attending tea-party meetings, enjoying the political discussion. A spunky woman known for her drive, Catherine soon wanted to do more than just talk. She joined other tea partiers and decided to volunteer at the ballot box. Working as an alternate judge at the polls in 2009 in Fort Bend County, Texas, Catherine says, she was appalled and dismayed to witness everything from administrative snafus to outright voter fraud.

She founded a group called “True the Vote” aimed at preventing vote fraud.

On January 11, the IRS visited the Engelbrechts’ shop and conducted an on-site audit of both their business and their personal returns, Catherine says.

This led to a long history of abuse.

Two months later, the IRS initiated the first round of questions for True the Vote. Catherine painstakingly answered them, knowing that nonprofit status would help with the organization’s credibility, donors, and grant applications. In October, the IRS requested additional information. And whenever Catherine followed up with IRS agents about the status of True the Vote’s application, “there was always a delay that our application was going to be up next, and it was just around the corner,” she says,

This was followed by creepy phone calls asking “how they were doing.”

I think the problem is serious and possibly irreversible. It may be too late. I can only take comfort that I am 75 years old and not in very good health. It’s too bad that our country has come to this. The Whigs collapsed over slavery in the 1840s. Lincoln was a Whig as a Congressman. The Republican Party seems divided on several issues. Immigration and the economy are divisive although one would think the consequences of wrong choices would be obvious. Maybe we will see a new party arise as the country goes through the trauma of financial crises. Adam Smith once said “There is a lot of ruin in a nation.” Maybe we will survive this, too.

I don’t much care about gay marriage and abortion as those battles are lost.

6 thoughts on “What is a conservative ?”

  1. Well, Michael, you have seniority here by 5 years. We probably won’t be around much longer, but our grandchildren will. That’s what concerns me.

    Rubin is the token conservative for the WAPO, just like Brooks for the NYT – northeastern establishment Republicans. They are right to be alarmed. There is no longer room for Liberal light. Obama and the modern Democrats have scared the bejesus out of the base and they are not having it anymore. We have seen the reaction in the House with both the farm bill and the DOA announcement on the Senate immigration bill.

    I’m not making predictions, but I am somewhat optimistic these days.

  2. I feel alienated when I hear what is coming from the Senate – and the Chris Cristies – I would vote for a “throw away your vote” libertarian before I’d vote for him.

    There has been a schism between true conservatives and Eastern “Liberal Light” faction of the GOP since Goldwater.

    On the Mexican immigration – the thing I heard that really resonated with me is that these poor Mexicans coming here believe that they have to align themselves with a government that promises them stuff – so the GOP isn’t going to get their vote no matter what. That is why the fight has been so bitter and why the Democrats half-heartedly enforce border security.

    Maybe it is time for the GOP to dissolve.

  3. To attempt to answer your title question, a conservative in the American context is a person willing to join in the disparate, incoherent electoral coalition that is, at a minimum, marginally committed to restoration and defense of the liberal revolution of 1776.

    As for Jennifer Rubin’s piece, I’m not currently in the mood to answer to a hatchet piece. The bottom line is that the label and the infighting are irrelevant. What is important is the long-term result of whether we retain the republic or move on to something else.

  4. I heard drunk driving was a bigger deal than a lot of legislators thought it would be. They probably aren’t from Texas. Illegals driving drunk is a real problem.

    We could afford more immigration if we had a more intelligent program: my daughter’s close friend is an immigration lawyer and, while she has sympathy for Bosnians who have had a raw deal, she came to dinner when we visited exhausted and pretty much a wreck from dealing with immigrants who were not being truthful – or anything close. (Her practice includes various Gypsies and Chechens and Serbs and Sunni Iraqis – I don’t know if there is any specific ethnicity to the untruths, but have no doubt there are many each day.)

    No welfare (or income credit or, well, anything) for the first decade and some for the whole life of a first generation immigrant would weed out some of the biggest problems – but that’s not going to pass and I doubt I’d be willing to bar the door to an emergency room for an illegal immigrant who has been in a car accident. We could afford immigration if we privileged the smart and the hard working and the self reliant.

    By the way, who thinks the Republicans will get any credit no matter what they do? Ask fifty people on the street who was responsible for the Civil Rights legislation and who stood in its way, ask them where Gore’s father stood, or Carter’s?

    I’m not just a product of the sixties, though that, of course; I’m also the product of a mid-western village that delighted in ethnic diversity because we still lived in the world of WWII propaganda films (you know, the boats with a New York Jew and an Appalachian hillbilly and a California dreamer and . . . , well you get the picture). Assimilation was taken for granted. It can work in a trust state, in a rule of law world (we had no policeman, night watchman, well, anything the whole time I was going up). The sixties diversity seemed natural to me. Now we are living in a time of demagogues and that makes open immigration a much more dangerous thing.

  5. Libertarians seem to miss that point.

    Excellent post overall, but that statement is completely wrong in my experience. You’re either listening to an inferior grade of libertarian, or you’re arguing against what libertarians are accused of saying, rather than what they’re actually saying.

    For any libertarian voice that is worth even a moment of your time, the immigration issue is an argument about almost nothing but the incompatibility of open borders and the welfare state, and there are plenty of different answers proposed, ranging from idiotic to inspired.

    I have often heard it argued that extreme measures to patrol the borders naturally empower the surveillance state, and are therefore a more dire threat than even the worst effects of open borders, but again, that doesn’t constitute ignoring the issue.

  6. ” the incompatibility of open borders and the welfare state”

    To this statement I can only offer my complete agreement.
    The correlation in the past 30 years has been increasing immigration has lead to reductions in welfare. There are undoubtedly many freeloaders on the margins, but migrants in general come to where the jobs are. There haven’t been many jobs lately, and that is why illegal immigration has declined.

    I do see your point with drunken driving. I knew someone who was tragically killed by an illegal who got drunk, stole a car, and hopped the median. It was happening quite a bit for awhile, but seems to have tapered off with better law enforcement.

    I wouldn’t be opposed to amnesty, but this law is a monstrosity that shouldn’t be passed.

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