a joke, an empty suit- it means whatever you want it to mean, and right now it means double Gitmo, permanent war, hating on liberals, and tax cuts forever.
Which brought to mind a conversation I have been having with myself over conservative opposition to John McCain for, among other things, his position on immigration. The nature of the immigration bill that McCain supported has been widely distorted, but set that aside. Let's ask the fundamental question: What principle of conservatism is embodied in opposition to the sort of immigration reforms that McCain has backed?
As best I can figure, the conservative bloc that has dominated American politics for a couple of decades consists, with considerable overlap and disagreement, of four groups: libertarians, who want less and cheaper government; evangelicals, who want government to use its power to enforce certain moral strictures; big business Republicans, who think the business of America is business and anything that helps business is OK; and traditionalists, who are skeptical about and sometimes actively hostile to change of any sort. So how do these groups stack up on immigration?
1. Libertarians think that individuals, not governments, should decide how the world is. Mexicans cross the border not because they are criminals or cantankerous but because this is where the jobs are. It makes no more sense to try to control immigration by blocking the border than it does to try to control pornography by shutting down the internet. People gotta be free.
2. Evangelicals have to believe -- because God tells them to -- that they must love their neighbors as much as they love themselves. If we can improve the lot of a few million of our Mexican neighbors by absorbing them into the American economy, then God will reward us some day.
3. Traditionalists don't want anything messing with what they regard as authentic American culture. That includes a centuries-old tradition of having the longest unguarded borders in the world. When Ronald Reagan signed off on amnesty 20 years ago, he was just acknowledging a reality that already existed. What's different now? Besides, traditionalists already are taking a beating from the current Republican administration, which announced today that it has reversed a 230-year American tradition and has publicly embraced war crimes. Take that, George Washington.
4. Big-business Republicans -- hey, aren't they part of the problem? That's the gripe I hear: We can't get meaningful immigration reform because Democrats are afraid to lose Hispanic votes and Republicans are afraid to lose cheap Hispanic workers. Why would they want to change that?
So what's the conservative argument against immigration? For that matter, what's the liberal argument? Can't we all just get along?