I thought this was one of our best discussions in memory. We had 14 people expressing a range of articulate opinions, including two newbies and two drop-bys One of them, Amo (sorry to him if I mangled the spelling) had some great insights seasoned by his experience as a foreign service officer in Tijuana.
A few links and additional thoughts.
First, I think some of the rising anxiety over immigration is related to some of the Right’s other cultural concerns in a way that’s really important to understand. Of course, as last night demonstrated, concern over illegal immigrants — and other conservative concerns– is not necessarily irrational or even wrong on the merits. Still, immigration, fear of Muslim “encroachment,” suspicion of the birthright status and patriotism of our new President, etc., may amount to more than the sum of their parts. As this fellow explains, conservatives may be redefining the “culture war.”
For a generation or two, the culture war was fairly specific, at least to the extent that everyone knew what we were fighting about. The “God, gays, and guns” label was largely effective for a reason.
What did culture warriors want? School prayer, a prohibition on flag burning, access to firearms, Ten Commandments displays all over the place, distrust of the United Nations, and extensive legal restrictions on abortion rights, gays, and drug use. Broadly speaking, the larger effort has been anti-feminist, anti-secular, anti-diversity, and pro-nationalism. The culture war was a right-wing initiative, but it was always far more authoritarian than “small government.”
By 2008, this culture war seemed largely over — the American mainstream, facing real problems, just didn’t want to hear it anymore. Dems gave up on gun control; fights over school prayer seemed antiquated; no one was running around burning flags; fears of black helicopters became more amusing; the nation still didn’t want to see Roe v. Wade overturned; and gay Americans were part of the American mainstream. Conservatives wanted to change the culture, and they failed.
But in the Obama era, we’re seeing less of an armistice and more of an evolution. Right-wing tribalism and jingoism haven’t faded at all — they remain the foundation for conservative activism — but the focus, at least for now, is on a different slate of issues and a more radical legislative wish-list.
So, instead of the right demanding a bunch of new constitutional amendments, conservatives now want to start repealing old ones — protecting the 2nd Amendment suddenly seems far less interesting than gutting the 14th. Complaints about “welfare queens” are out, while whining about “anchor babies” is in. Instead of getting worked up about erecting Ten Commandments displays, the right gets hysterical in the other direction about the construction of mosques. We hear less about secular humanists trying to destroy America, and more about immigrants.
In the words of another political blogger:
To the extent that this new culture war resembles the old one, it is in the reversal of roles — it is the right that is now largely defined by an identity politics which perceives persecution, and possible extinction, for a culturally constructed usually white, conservative, “real American.” This isn’t just about Obama or his agenda, which borrows heavily from earlier conservative ideas, it’s also a response to anxiety over economic insecurity and fear of ideological annihilation through demographic change. Hence the burgeoning Islamophobia and calls to repeal birthright citizenship. […]
[I]f Obama’s election was a referendum on what it means to be an American, then the right’s response can be seen as a large scale attempt to challenge the legitimacy of the results…. Sadly, Obama didn’t end the culture war, his election just ushered in a new one. To the right, Obama’s election wasn’t a call for truce, it was a deliberate escalation.
Second, we talked about whether crime is up or down along the border. Most of the public thinks so. Not so, apparently. The Arizona Republic did an extensive review of FBI crime data and found recently that crime is down in the state over the last decade. Violent crime is essentially flat all along the U.S.-Mexico border,. Violence is tearing Mexico apart, but it has NOT crossed the border yet. I think I read that San Diego and the other major cities that straddle the border are among the safest cities in America. That could change, but for now it hasn’t.
Lastly, remember the discussion on cutting off remittances (immigrants sendng money back to their loved-ones) to Mexico? In 2007, the Atlantic Monthly said (whole article not on-line) that on average they send $300 per month home, and that:
Remittances to Mexico exceed $20 billion a year. By 2003, they had become the nation’s second-largest source of external finance, ahead of tourism and foreign investment and just behind oil exports. That same year, then-President Vicente Fox noted that the roughly 20 million Mexican-origin workers in America create a larger gross product than Mexico itself.
Wow. no wonder, as Sharon said, Fox begged the U.S. not to try to impede the flow.