The 'Next Great Pundit', Part I: A Master of Immigration Non Sequiturs

By Stanley Renshon and Stanley Renshon on January 31, 2011

Connor Williams, winner of the Washington Post's contest for "America's Next Great Pundit 2010", is a master of non sequiturs, at least if his opinion piece entitled "The Midwest Needs Immigrants" is representative.

The premise of his piece is contained in its title, and on its face it seems like an argument for which one could make a plausible case. John C. Austin, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and president of the Michigan State Board of Education, is quoted as saying, "The economically most vibrant big Midwest communities – specifically Chicago and the Twin Cities in Minnesota – are in part that way because of dynamic immigration inflows."

The Next Great Pundit further argues "there are data to back his claims. The Midwestern cities that are surviving – and thriving – in the 21st-century economy are those with high percentages of immigrants. Between 18 percent and 22 percent of the residents of the Chicago metro areas are foreign-born."

Chicago thriving? Perhaps. However the state in which it is located certainly is not.

Let us however, for purposes of discussion, just say point taken and accepted! "Dynamic immigration flows," whatever they are, are good! Midwest cities that "are surviving and thriving in the 21st-century economy are those with high percentages of immigrants"! By the way, just what is a 21st century economy? And why are a high percentage of immigrants helpful to that economy only in the Midwest?

Just asking.

Anyway, "Meanwhile, cities without robust immigrant communities struggle." Which cities are these? Well, Cleveland for one, because "Only 4 to 5 percent of Cleveland residents are immigrants." The Next Great Pundit quotes author Richard C. Longworth, who in turn quotes Ronn Richard, president of the Cleveland Foundation, as lamenting, "We even have a hard time attracting illegal immigrants."

No so Detroit, in which "8.3 percent of its residents foreign-born" and which "isn't waiting around to see whether it needs more immigrants." The Next Great Pundit then quotes the Global Detroit Study as saying "southeast Michigan's foreign-born residents provide enormous contributions to the region's economic growth and will play a key role in our economic future." Further "The area's immigrants produce '130 percent more of regional economic output than [their] overall share of the regional population.'" From this he concludes that, "Immigrants are a key resource in the region."

OK, maybe so, but the Next Great Pundit clearly does not expect his readers to delve into the actual Global Detroit Study itself, as I will detail in the next entry.

The man point of the opinion piece is to bash Republicans on the immigration issue. You see there's Tim Pawlenty who, "For a Republican, he's relatively moderate on the issue." Yet "his views are hardly moderate at all." Why? Because "Pawlenty has advocated fining or jailing business owners who employ undocumented immigrants."

Fining business owners who employ illegal immigrants? We certainly can't tolerate that. Why, they might even take seriously the requirement that they check legal status, even as E-Verify has become mandatory for most federal contractors and is the heart of the president's enforcement policy.

Perhaps America's Next Great Pundit has not been informed of this aspect of the president's attempt to establish his enforcement credentials so that he can seriously propose legalization of America's 11 million illegal immigrants.

More likely he has just chosen to ignore it because it doesn't fit in with the narrative he has constructed on the foundation of his liberal political and immigration views. But that leaves us with a question. America's Next Great Pundit, Connor Wiliams, clearly takes himself seriously, as his invitation to his readers to write to him at [email protected] suggests; the question is: Should we?

Next: The 'Next Great Pundit', Part II: What Detroit Needs