A Nation of Widgets: The Wall Street Journal and Open Borders

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  • 03/02/2023

It’s seldom a good idea to elevate a single editorial to the status of representing an entire side’s thinking in a major debate, such as the current debate over illegal immigration.  This is especially true when the editorial is really quite bad.  

But, just occasionally, a piece appears that is so poorly argued, so broad, and so internally flawed that it does seem to encapsulate every possible weakness in an opponent’s logic.  The Wall Street Journal published such an editorial last Friday, trumpeting the Editorial Page’s long-held belief in the economic wisdom of America entirely abandoning her borders.

More than anything else, in my opinion, it shows that the central failing of the right-wing of the open borders lobby is viewing human beings as interchangeable parts - to be self-traded like commodities across any frontier according to the simple dictate of supply and demand.  But men and women are not some sort of sentient pork belly.  Men and women are what nations are made of.  They carry in their hearts and minds the culture and beliefs and common experiences that make one nation rich and free and another poor and corrupt.

When you discuss the idea of unrestricted human migration across national borders, you have to recall this.  Immigration has economic consequences, but it is not exclusively an economic issue.  It is not even primarily an economic issue.  It is primarily a social or political issue.  And when the immigration in question is illegal, then it becomes an issue of the rule of law as well.  

That is the second great failing of the WSJ editorial.  It seamlessly confuses the disparate issues of legal and illegal immigration, complaining about enforcement of law as if such were merely a costly inconvenience, not one of the foundations of America’s success.  The editorial ended up as nothing less than a snotty, aristocratic assault on the rule of law.  Current immigration law harms the business class for which the WSJ speaks, they claim, so it should be ignored until it can be done away with entirely.

The editorial began by trumpeting the outcome of last week’s special election to replace former Rep. Chris Cox (R.-Calif.) as a major victory for the proponents of unrestricted immigration.  Or, as the editorial propagandized, it was a defeat for the “anti-immigration lobby,” and their backers, “anti-immigrant conservatives.”  Together, these two groups compose what the editorial refers to ominously as “the restrictionists.”

Apparently, anyone who supports any restriction on immigration is a dangerous “restrictionist.”  From this, we can gather that the WSJ supports a world in which there are no restrictions upon immigration into the United States whatsoever.  Keep in mind that 95% of the world’s population does not currently live in the United States and that, if just 5% of this pool decided to walk across a truly “unrestricted” border, Americans would become a minority in their own nation.  So you decide who the ungrounded ideologues in this argument are and who deserves to have a silly-sounding political term applied to their beliefs.  

Perhaps the editors at the Journal should henceforth be known as “Anti-nationalists,” for what they are really proposing is the end of nations, or at least the end of the one nation in which they have influence, the United States.  As I have said, a nation is nothing more than its people and their beliefs.  When you propose immigration in excess of the ability of a nation to assimilate immigrants (and the only alternative would be to “restrict” immigration) you are proposing to end the current nation and its culture.

So what was the outcome of the special election that so buoyed the anti-nationalists?  It was simply that the Republican candidate won - in a district gerrymandered to ensure that only a Republican candidate could win.  But the outcome was actually in doubt for a time, because a third party candidate, Jim Gilchrist, had entered the contest on a platform of punishing illegal immigration.  

The election laws and customs of the United States are set up to explicitly discourage the success of any third party.  By traditional standards, “successful” third party candidates are those who can garner more than 4 or 5% of the vote.  Ross Perot, the most successful third party candidate of modern times, garnered 19% of the vote for President in 1992.  Jim Gilchrist won 25% of the votes in last Tuesday’s special election.  

Without an established party, without corporate funding, without any real skills as a candidate, and with the system stacked squarely against him, Mr. Gilchrist equaled the performance of the entire Democratic Party in this district (28%) - all while having only one issue in his platform: enforcement of immigration laws.

According to the Journal, this meant that the Republican candidate won the election “in a walk with 45%” of the vote.  But as the Journal points out just a few sentences away from this semantic gobsmacker, the district is “one of the most conservative GOP districts” in the country.  Representative Cox won the district just a year ago with 65% of the vote.  45% is thus hardly “a walk.”  It is a warning.  Being on the wrong side (the anti-nationalist side) of one issue kept a major party from getting even a simple majority of the votes in a district specifically engineered to give it a predictable and overwhelming victory.  Everything one needs to argue against the editorial is contained within it.  

This is a pattern that continues, as the Journal argues that supporting open borders (i.e. anti-nationalism) is politically wise for the Republican Party.  According to this foray into fantasy, Republicans must not restrict immigration because the large number of immigrants and their kin already here will then vote for the Democrats.  You know, unlike today.  Or as the Journal puts it:

“The real political danger for Republicans comes from the vocal restrictionist minority who want to drive GOP candidates back into the demographic box canyon they've walked into so often in the past. If they become the overtly anti-immigration party, Republicans run the risk of permanently alienating another fast-growing ethnic constituency, in this case Hispanic Americans.”

“The GOP did this with the Irish and Italians in the 1920s, with Asians in Hawaii after World War II, and with Hispanics in California with Proposition 187 in the 1990s. A Republican in California will soon be able to win 70% of the white vote and still lose statewide if he can't pick up more Hispanic votes.”

So you see, 20 years of unrestricted illegal immigration has led to a situation in which Republicans will soon be able to win 70% of the white vote and still lose the election, and that’s why Republicans should support more unrestricted immigration.  The logic is astounding.  Consider also the historical examples provided by the editorial itself.  

The Irish and Italians and Asians were overwhelmingly Democrat immediately after arriving.  They naturally gravitated to the party claiming to represent the poor and strange, when they were, in fact, poor and strange.  As they became assimilated and middle class (i.e. Americans), however, they became increasingly Republican.  

The message should be clear: new immigrants tend Liberal/Democrat; their assimilated descendents then tend increasingly Conservative/Republican with each generation.  Restricting immigration thus favors Republicans.  Unrestricted immigration clearly favors Democrats.  The Republicans did not “permanently alienate” these constituencies at all.  They simply had to wait for them to become less alien.  The dependent “Irish and Italians” of the 1920’s went on to produce conservative icons like Ronald Reagan and Antonin Scalia just one or two generations later.  Consider also, that Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo, the leading “restrictionist” in Congress, is himself the grandson of Italian immigrants.

But a Reagan could never become a conservative icon today, because no conservative Republican could today be elected Governor of California - due to the same sort of unrestricted immigration that the Journal says Republicans should now support.

The Journal editors then go on to complain that the “restrictionists” have somehow successfully labeled them as part of an out-of-touch “elite” - a conceited thing to do.  The same non-conceited, non-elite editors state later in the piece: “We get the same message from nearly every business executive who comes through our offices…”  The conceit of the restrictionists is painful, isn’t it?  I mean, we all have the world’s most powerful business executives wandering in and out of our offices on a daily basis and yet no one calls us an out-of-touch “elite.”  

If wages become depressed, then let them eat options.  Who you calling “elite”?

Finally, the editorial finished with the most corrupt message I have ever seen in a major newspaper:

"Republicans seem intent not merely on increasing border patrols but also on further harassing law-abiding businesses that happen to hire illegals, as if anyone can tell the difference between real and fake immigration documents. Only Republicans would think it's smart politics to punish their supporters for hiring willing workers."

And only those who see the world through the soda straw of economic self-interest could editorialize against law enforcement and in favor of the right of a self-denied elite to be able to openly disobey whatever laws they find too “restrictive”.

It’s as if a local paper were to have the gall to complain that an overzealous vice squad were making it hard for friends to profit from prostitution.  I mean, every pimp that comes through our offices says the same thing.

And that sort of elitist conceit on the part of the anti-nationalists is why the immigration issue is creating enough frustration among American voters that they are even willing to experiment with unknown and handicapped third parties to try to make their voice heard by the same politicians and executives to which the editors of the Wall Street Journal have such easy access.  

Men are not widgets, and immigration affects more than just numbers in an abstract spreadsheet.  America is not merely an economic opportunity zone for all comers to profit from.  America is a homeland.  America is a home to a distinct culture and the people that created it or have been assimilated into it.  It is possible that the philosophical bookends of rightist globalism and leftist multiculturalism have squashed the instinct of that people to protect their culture and to claim the right to restrict entry into their home.  But I doubt it.  

Unrestricted illegal immigration is a problem for both major political parties and it may well destroy one of them –- but not because, as the Wall Street Journal claims, anyone is listening too much to the “restrictionists.”



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