Over the past month an interesting debate has involved liberal commentator Matt Yglesias, who defends large-scale immigration of poor people from Third World countries, and conservative Ross Douthat, who suggests that immigration should be limited in order to avoid overwhelming our ability to provide poor immigrants with the opportunity to incorporate themselves economically and civically into American society. See, for example, here and here.
Their debate has contrasted the liberal tendency to regard national identity as subordinate to our common human identity with the conservative inclination to believe that the nation state and national boundaries are both natural and necessary.
It has been a high-level discussion. But now MSNBC is out with another 30-second spot that manages both to lower the level of the national immigration discussion and elevate its temperature. It is sadly typical of the poor quality of many of the spots in which MSNBC personalities attempt to convey their political philosophy.
The new spot features Alex Wagner, former culture editor at the liberal Center for American Progress and former White House correspondent for Politics Daily. It shows her standing in front of the border fence just east of downtown Nogales, Ariz.
Wagner delivers her message with liberal use of "air quotes" to demonstrate her disdain for those on the other side of the immigration policy divide. She summarizes their arguments with the simplistic, scornful, tendentious distortion that has become a hallmark of MSNBC's work on immigration. Here it is, in its tiresome entirety:
Around immigration there's a sense that we need to punish people when they come here and they don't know our language. We've got to punish people who came here the wrong way, even if they've been contributing to American society for a decade or more. Bigger, meaner, scarier fences by people suggesting electrified, alligator-filled moats to prevent "them" from coming in. By the language that we use to talk about "those people" who want to be here. You know what? Those people who want to be here are us. That's what this country is made of.
The Yglesias-Douthat debate has substance. Wagner serves up cotton candy — probably fine for those true-believers with MSNBC taste receptors, but vacuous for anyone who is actually interested in immigration. (Scroll down here to see the ad.)