Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
George Will has left the GOP in a huff while claiming that his departure is on account of his conservatism. But Will’s conservatism has a history of being tethered to very liberal policies.
Especially when it comes to immigration.
Will claimed that only "faux conservatives" opposed amnesty for illegal aliens, not to mention unlimited immigration and guest worker programs. Now that the point of view he advocated has been thoroughly rejected by Republican voters in general and conservatives specifically, Will has departed the GOP while still claiming to be the only authentic conservative.
Will's error is not unique. It is only his fervor in advocating an otherwise discredited cause that has set him apart. Sometimes an idea is fundamentally wrong at its intellectual core. This is not necessarily the case with Will's immigration absolutism. Other times the context has changed so significantly that it is not the idea that is wrong, but its application.
That is the case with immigration.
While there might be some intellectual consistency in holding the same opposition to prohibitionism when it comes to alcohol and heroin, in the real world there is a world of difference between a glass of white wine and a shot of heroin. There is nothing conservative about putting consistency over context. That is the hallmark of Marxists who care more about theory than about reality. Conservatives ought to care more about reality than theory. And those who choose theory over reality will find that conservative voters, who have very little interest in theory, will have left them behind.
That is what happened to George Will.
Today’s immigration has as much in common with the immigration of the days that Will pines for as white wine does with heroin.
1. Immigration is a rigged game.
Our system of immigration, legal and illegal, is a rigged game meant to produce the outcome that is most favorable to the political ambitions of the Democrats and their left-wing political allies. From its country quotas to its refugee programs to its current underground amnesty, it was set up as a means of maximizing the number of potential Democrat voters, allies and clients in the United States.
That is a fact that every conservative in touch with reality already knows. And it can be admitted without casting aspersions on immigrants. They did not create the system. They are being exploited by it.
Instead of seriously addressing this issue, dogmatic immigration absolutists like Will dismissed it and rejected any calls for changing the system. Instead they insisted that we must accept the system as it is. Amnesty was rebranded as “immigration reform” and peddled with imaginary claims about illegal aliens having to “go to the back of the line”, learn the language and pay back taxes. They assumed that conservatives would be too stupid to see through the lies. They were wrong.
The fundamental problem is not just economic. It’s political. Even if the economy were booming and there really were a surplus of jobs that Americans wouldn’t do, there would be no possible reason for conservatives to support an immigration system rigged to improve the political fortunes of the left.
If the average illegal alien were statistically likely to vote Republican, Democrats would immediately brand illegal aliens as the biggest threat to the nation since lawn darts and politically incorrect humor. The experts would suddenly discover that deporting 11 million people is not only viable, but beneficial. And tomorrow there would be a wall across the border that could be seen from outer space.
Conservatives need not embrace this level of cynical expediency. But when they sign on to amnesty, they wind up implementing the left’s program for it. And conservatives are not wrong to wonder why.
2. America can no longer absorb immigrants.
George Will warned that a failure to implement amnesty would lead to “the emergence of a sullen, simmering subculture of the permanently marginalized, akin to the Arab ghettos in France”. But that sullen, simmering subculture exists even without illegal immigration. Much like the Islamic ghettos of France, that subculture is a choice. Will’s reference is the closest he comes to admitting it.
The left has excelled at incubating simmering subcultures. And amnesty would not fix that.
The immigration system is broken at the entry level, as we discussed earlier, but it’s also broken internally at the absorption level. Rather than integrating immigrants, the system encourages hostility to America. The existence of this destructive cycle is not necessarily the fault of immigrants. But that does not change the nature of the problem.
The left views immigration as a vehicle for transforming nations, suppressing patriotism and replacing it with universalism. In some ways, America is just not ready for immigrants. The society that absorbed millions of immigrants, the one fondly remembered by immigration absolutists, no longer exists. And to be able to cope with the mass levels of immigration that we have now, we would have to bring it back.
The left prefers simmering and sullen subcultures, mired in suspicion and insecurity, forced into political and economic niches that leave them in thrall to their political masters. Changing that would be a lot more complicated than tinkering with immigration law. It would require changing America.
3. Immigration no longer allows for social mobility.
The traditional immigrant story used to be one of social mobility. But America has less social mobility than ever and its current immigration system, internal and external, is set to minimize social mobility.
Some immigrants still become success stories, but the old rags-to-riches narrative is becoming nostalgia. The current system is set up to discourage social mobility with incentives for reducing income and productivity. Immigrants are encouraged to climb on board the welfare train instead of bettering themselves. This process produces fewer Carnegies and more clients for the left’s welfare state.
It is not the lack of amnesty that produces Will’s simmering and sullen subcultures, but the lack of social mobility in which subsidized poverty and community organizing are used to manufacture hostility.
Immigration absolutists and border advocates have no plan for fixing this problem. Amnesty certainly won’t do it. Are Detroit and Newark in need of amnesty? What about Baltimore? Their embrace of amnesty for illegal aliens and freedom for drug dealers devastates communities by adopting leftist policies. And that is the most fundamental mistake that a conservative can make.
George Will has made that mistake and he continues to compound it with every appearance.
Conservatives are tired of a political establishment that attempts to pass off liberal policies as conservative. They are tired of an establishment that no longer seems to know the difference between the two and that puts theory ahead of reality while refusing to listen to its own base.
George Will did not leave the GOP because he is a conservative, but because it is becoming too conservative for him.