When All Else Fails, Sell Paranoia

By Stephen Steinlight on December 20, 2011

When ordinary folk espy what they believe is impending disaster, it's not unusual for them to experience desperation, embrace unreason, and imagine conspiracy lurking everywhere. When those crying "conspiracy" are cool-headed mainstream pundits who are opposing a political trend that challenges their household gods, however, it's likely they're consciously fear-mongering. Crying wolf means there's much at stake, persuasion hasn't worked, and they're out of arguments. There will be a great deal of conspiracy talk regarding immigration by earnest-sounding cynical journalists in the months leading up to the presidential election in 2012. It's a good sign it's starting this early.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne's recent allegation of what amounts to a right-wing coup within the GOP is meant to frighten the public, but it also reflects the onset of panic among the chattering class. Watching with great unease as immigration emerges as an issue in the upcoming presidential campaign – perhaps a decisive one – they understand, assuming Gingrich is not the nominee, a Republican victory will likely result in a crushing reversal for the immigration policy they've been ceaselessly advocating. Their devotion to open borders and amnesty is akin to an unshakeable article of religious faith – so much for one-sided zealotry. They can be counted upon to use every weapon at their disposal to try to stave off defeat. Their opinion pieces will become increasingly desperate, as will their sheer number.

In his recent column, "Divided moderates will be conquered", Dionne sees a right-wing conspiracy or, to be more precise, a coup by extreme right-wing ideologues who've seized the Republican Party, effectively ruling out finding "sensible solutions that are broadly popular." "Sensible solutions" presumably may be translated as "Democratic ideas" or, more specifically, "my brand of moderate progressive politics." But Dionne is shrewd enough to leave all political abstractions undefined and his cards face down. He's got enough political savvy to counsel against forming a third "centrist" party, and he urges "moderates" and "centrists" – whatever those extraordinarily subjective and relative terms may mean – to take back the Republican Party from the ideologically inflexible mad dogs now running the show.

His short piece is almost absurdly ambitious, skimming ever-so-lightly across the surface of the gamut of issues which remain unresolved, he argues, due to Republican extremism. Immigration, mentioned last, receives modest coverage even by his minimalist standards – the sum total appears below – but his treatment of every policy area is wafer thin.

Despite its miniscule length, the discussion is a classic of the ugly untruths and elitist anti-democratic attitudes that characterize writing on this subject by every regular contributor to the opinion pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times, not to mention those who dish up additional editorials in the guise of covering immigration news. Dionne writes:

Then there is immigration. Common sense says there is no way the United States can or should deport some 11 million illegal immigrants. But when Newt Gingrich spoke of this reality – and suggested that conservatives ought to worry about how deportations would break up families – he was said to have committed a gaffe that will end his ride as the Republican front-runner. In today's GOP, it's becoming dangerous to be sensible.

This passage unobtrusively and indecently links virtue and vice. "Common sense", that trusty old value, is slimily invoked to establish the impossibility of what Dionne knows full well is a fictive, imaginary scheme "to deport some 11 million illegal immigrants." Such a policy has no advocates among those that oppose illegal immigration or amnesty, and since he's out to sully Republican extremists he'd surely quote a leading one if he could. I've noted on previous occasion this is the biggest of the Big Lies concocted and spread by advocates of amnesty and open borders to vilify their opponents as evil and inhuman and to push decent Americans towards amnesty by thinking these represent the only policy choices available. But no matter the number of times it has been exposed, Dionne falls back on it, and is prepared to lie and to slander to advance the candidacy of that exemplar of "humaneness" and the dean of immigration policy Newt Gingrich.

Having argued it's "becoming dangerous to be sensible", Dionne might consider courageously taking the risk and doing his readers a service by educating himself. He can do it quickly and from the comfort of his home. There's a short pithy account of salient facts Newt conveniently left out about what happened with America's one and only – as well as very large – previous amnesty, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986, in Mark Krikorian's "The Gingrich Amnesty". The blog makes several critically important points with great economy: it unmasks the myth of the supposed huge number of "well-established" illegal aliens who've been here for an alleged quarter-century and replaces it with a realistic number; it reminds us about the failure to follow up on IRCA and "get serious" about enforcement in the wake of that amnesty, the chief accelerator of illegal immigration which led to a nearly five-fold increase; and it also points out that a new amnesty would now legalize precisely those people that didn't qualify for IRCA, a very questionable proposition.

Gingrich's plea for the "humane treatment" of illegal aliens who've stayed beneath the radar is premised on the existence of a large contingent of oxymoronic "law-abiding illegal aliens" whose only offense, so the fairy tale goes, was to violate America's borders and immigration status. He asks us to be humane to those who, while living here for a quarter-century, have purportedly paid their taxes, obeyed the law, gone to church, and reproduced. (Atheists and the infertile need not apply?) But, of course, no one can remain undetected, especially in the workforce, for an extended period without committing a host of additional crimes, some of which are felonies. In an excellent attack on the mythology which underlies Gingrich's proposal and his uninformed assertions about the illegal population, "Questions for Newt Gingrich about His Immigration Proposal", my colleague Ronald W. Mortensen details the sort of crimes committed by those Gingrich would amnesty and asks how they would fit into Newt's harebrained scheme, a huge spanner in the works to which the equally humane and harebrained Dionne makes no reference:

So, just exactly how have these folks been earning income and paying taxes and obeying the law if they have been in the United States illegally for 15 or 20 or 25 years? And what does Gingrich propose to do about the employment-related felonies they have committed?

Are these illegal aliens among the estimated 75 percent of all illegal aliens who routinely use a fraudulently obtained Social Security number which is a federal felony?

Were they ever employed by reputable employers who required them to complete an I-9 form? If so, did they provide false information on their I-9 forms and commit perjury – a federal felony?

Do the Social Security numbers used by illegal aliens that Gingrich would grant legal status to belong to American citizens, including the estimated 50,000 Utah children who have their Social Security numbers being used by illegal aliens to get jobs? If so, this identity theft under Utah law which is another felony with real victims who suffer terrible harm.

If the people Gingrich would extend legal status to committed any or all of these job-related felonies, what does he propose doing about it? Will they be given a pass? Will they be required to make restitution to the victims of their crimes? Will they be denied legal status?

Finally, the other criterion for sound public policy allegedly ruled out by the "Republican coup" must not be forgotten or minimized: according to Dionne it must also be "broadly popular." How can Dionne delude himself that "comprehensive immigration reform" remotely meets this requirement? Public opinion research undertaken for a decade and more shows huge majorities from virtually every demographic social scientists bother to study oppose the key components of the "immigration reform" Dionne does not so much support as worships. Huge majorities of Americans oppose amnesty. Instead, they support attrition, a combination of strict border controls and the tough internal enforcement of immigration law to promote the self-deportation of illegal aliens. A CIS survey, among the largest public opinion polls ever conducted on the attitudes to immigration, contains two large findings of great socio-political importance. One is that the leadership of organized religion across the spectrum of American religious and denominational life strongly supports amnesty and open- borders immigration. The other is a chasm-like divide between the pulpit and the pew, with huge majorities of ordinary congregants from every religious group strongly opposed to their leaders' views. A profoundly revealing question asks congregants whether they find attrition a good policy in dealing with the illegal population; 94 percent of Evangelical/Born-Again Christians answer in the affirmative, 89 percent of Mainline Protestants, 89 percent of Roman Catholics, and 79 percent of Jews.

Do these numbers suggest "broadly popular?" But then E.J. Dionne has always been cavalier in the extreme when it comes to figures about public support for the immigration policy he advocates. This is a gigantic failing in someone who asserts that being "broadly popular" is one of the foundation stones of wise public policy. The only way to rescue him from the charge of outright mendacity is by attributing his ignorance to arrogance. In a blog I wrote in 2009 dealing with the same issue – how does Dionne think he knows how most Americans feel about immigration? – I quoted him as simply making the Caesarian guesstimate that Americans, like Gaul, can be divided into thirds on the issue: a third strongly support, a third opposes, a third isn't sure. He cited no sources then other than his gut instinct, indisputable perhaps when dealing with an absolute monarch but not a columnist for the Washington Post. To his credit, if being data-averse can ever be to one's credit, he didn't point to the push polls used by the mainstream media and other organizations looking to create the false impression of popular support that manipulated respondents with a faulty dilemma between amnesty and mass deportation.

But there is, finally, something inescapably sinister and ultimately anti-democratic about Dionne's dismissal of data. It is part of a larger point we will only adumbrate. A leading member of the left-liberal elite, he addresses a broad public on a great national issue and generalizes from his own gut, regarding his instincts as a sufficient gauge of popular opinion. Indeed, his gut is not merely a sufficient gauge of popular opinion, it is also its equivalent. One suspects this sense of self-importance, of being part of a far-seeing coterie whose ideology grants it greater understanding than that possessed by the popular majority, leads him to dismiss the political will of the majority. By a trick of feeling, a form of intellectual sleight of hand, this attitude subtly leads those that hold it to replace the will of the majority with their own. Thus to describe a policy as "broadly popular" likely means no more than saying it corresponds to my own faction. Though the analogy is admittedly strained, it brings to mind the game the Bolsheviks played with the term "the people". It had a double meaning. For the great unwashed it was used with its common denotation: it signified the masses of ordinary folk. But to the leadership coterie, the "people" had a very different meaning: it meant those properly educated in Marxist-Leninist principles. The parallel is the unspoken elitism and ultimate contempt for the popular will shared by ideological coteries that see themselves in unique possession of the truth.