Post-Americans: They've Just "Grown" Beyond Their Country

By Mark Krikorian on June 22, 2004

National Review Online, June 22, 2004

The Wall Street Journal editorial page published another of its periodic eructations on immigration last week. This one was essentially a campaign ad for Utah Congressman Chris Cannon, the administration point-man on immigration in the House of Representatives, who was forced into a primary (being held today) because of his avid support for illegal-alien amnesties.

The reason for the Journal editorial, not to mention its sneering tone, is not obvious. Cannon is way ahead of his opponent, former state legislator Matt Throckmorton, according to separate polls published Sunday by the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News. This is to be expected, since Cannon is a wealthy incumbent (with a personal fortune of as much as $12 million), he's outspent his challenger 9-to-1, he's avoided any conventional scandal, and his brother is the head of the state Republican party. Although Throckmorton may yet pull off an upset, it's likely that he's too poor - and too decent - to do what's needed to win against an opponent like Cannon.

So why all the ink, why the lead editorial with 25 column-inches of smears, innuendo, and half-truths? (Full disclosure - some of it's about me personally.) Why the belabored efforts to paint pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, anti-tax traditionalist conservatives like congressmen Tom Tancredo and John Hostettler as part of a cabal of ChiCom-loving, baby-killing white supremacists?

Because for post-Americans, there can be no legitimate opposition to their open-borders views. To the degree that Cannon is facing political trouble, it must be because his opponent is "running hard on xenophobia," as the Journal writes, "courtesy of deep-pocketed restrictionists." (Attention any "deep-pocketed restrictionists." Call me!) To concede that supporters of more moderate immigration levels and tighter enforcement might be anything other than racists or "humanity-is-a-virus" leftists would be to acknowledge the legitimacy of a nationalist, as opposed to a post-nationalist, worldview; in other words, to admit that borders have value, rather than being awkward anachronisms that interfere with business.

Let me be clear what I mean by a post-American. He's not an enemy of America - not Alger Hiss or Jane Fonda or Louis Farrakhan. He's not necessarily even a Michael Moore or Ted Kennedy. A post-American may actually still like America, but the emotion resembles the attachment one might feel to, say, suburban New Jersey - it can be a pleasant place to live, but you're always open to a better offer. The post-American has a casual relationship with his native country, unlike the patriot, "who more than self his country loves," as Katharine Lee Bates wrote. Put differently, the patriot is married to America; the post-American is just shacking up.

Now, there are two kinds of post-American. David Frum, in his "Unpatriotic Conservatives" article for NR last year, highlighted what I think is the less important kind: Those who focus on something less than America, whether white nationalists or neo-Confederates, etc. The second, more consequential and problematic kind are those who have moved beyond America, "citizens of the world," as the cliché goes - in other words citizens (at least in the emotional sense) of nowhere in particular.

The Journal and Chris Cannon are exemplars of this second kind of post-Americanism, and thus the editorial makes sense - it's not the candidate as such that's at issue but the validity of his post-American worldview. Though his lifetime ACU rating is almost exactly the same as restrictionist leader Tom Tancredo's (96 and 97, respectively), their answers to Sam Huntington's "Who Are We?" couldn't be more different.

Central to Huntington's question is the distinction (or lack thereof) between us and them, between Americans and foreigners, and especially, between legal and illegal immigrants. And Cannon minces no words here. Two years ago, upon receiving an award from MALDEF, a left-wing racial-identity group created by the Ford Foundation, Cannon said "We love immigrants in Utah. And we don't make the distinction very often between legal and illegal." He went on to boast of Utah's acceptance of Mexico's illegal-alien I.D. card and even praised pregnant women who sneak across the border to have their children.

Nor was this an isolated incident. Just last month, Cannon and an aide appeared on a Spanish-language radio show (Cannon did his LDS missionary work in Guatemala), where the aide to urged illegal aliens to surreptitiously contribute to the Cannon campaign in the name of their U.S.-born children. It's worth looking at an excerpt of what aide Marco Diaz said, as Cannon sat next to him:

. . .if you are undocumented you must find, we welcome this money, but you have to find someone who is legal in order to donate money, or in other words the federal law really does prohibit us from doing some things and we want to do everything by the rule, if not, our opponent can attack us and say "you see, he is trying influence the race with people that, that are not here legally in this country." Therefore, it has to be done with precaution.

The Journal made such a big deal of this race because the Cannon primary is the latest skirmish in the ongoing struggle over the most important long-term political question we face: Who are we - America or post-America?

Mark Krikorian is Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.