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October 20, 2003

Immigration Reform 2004?

Derb over at NRO posits a thought experiment, an immigration reform candidate throws a monkey wrench into the 2004 election. Pat Buchanan ran in 2000 on a platform that was more generally nationalistic and socially conservative than pure immigration reform and won .42% of the votes. Most Americans are ambivalent about free trade (leaning to mildly negative in my reading)-but we'll continue to have free trade, no matter lukewarm public opinion. You can see the same pattern with immigration.

My point is that I don't expect a populist revolt to spark reform on this issue. The majority might oppose open borders, but a motivated minority dictates policy, change must come from above. Is the United States just a legal framework for capitalist transactions between consenting adults? Or does it represent something more? I come not to offer answers but to pose questions....

Posted by razib at 06:21 AM

"The majority might oppose open borders, but a motivated minority dictates policy, change must come from above."

"Everything depends on the economy. If the economy picks up, this message will not be heard. If it stays down, then you will indeed see a third party revolt, as we did in 1992."

Barring a 1930s style depression, by the time the economy gets so bad that the majority will be motivated to 'revolt', the situation will already be a lost cause IMO. There will be too many unskilled Hispanics for this to matter.

Another thing, I've previously suggested that I agree with Sailer that a wall is the only way to stem the tide. But, let's be realistic. There will be no wall in the forseeable future. Latino/ civil rights politicians would make campaigning against this a crusade- and they'd receive a lot of help from the media and Hollywood. Don't underestimate how sympathetic (White) Americans are to the perceived 'righteous underdog', which the average Hispanic poor illegal immigrant can be made out to be. This attitude IMO has prompted everything from the creation of OSHA, medical malpractice laws, social security, affirmative action, antitrust laws to worker's comp and so on...

If anyone thinks I'm being a little to defeatist, I'd just accuse them of having too much of another American trait- unbridled optimism. But, I also concede, who really knows? GE could make all of this completely irrelevant. Secondly, whenever we discuss America in the future, we should consider where we will stand relative to the rest of the world- especially the Anglosphere and the Pac Rim. Arguably, except for China, we come off looking fairly good. Our standard of living may not decline (that much).

Posted by: R at October 20, 2003 08:09 AM

Razib: my vote is YES, the idealized US is just such a legal framework.
All: Out of curiousity, about how far forward do you think that it is useful to look? 20 years? 50? Think about how useful or useless past long-term social predictions have been. I'd like to see numbers. Personally, my crystal ball gets real fuzzy with the baby boom retirement in 10-15 years and goes black with molecular nanotechnology between 25 and 50 years from now.

Posted by: michael vassar at October 20, 2003 08:34 AM


Buchanan would get more votes but doesnt for a simple reason: a good chunk of hard right conservatives would vote for Buchanan but dont because they fear a victory for the Democrats.

Ross Perot, for example, cost Bush Sr. the election in 1992. The simple truth of the matter is that the US is too big a country to throw up viable third party alternatives. It just takes far too much clout, media hype and money to win an election for a Buchanan type politician to win. If Buchanan was running in Italy or Germany, hed already be in Government.

Posted by: Peter Phillips at October 20, 2003 12:33 PM

Similarly, if you put them in a USA in which Sony/Toyota/Mercedes/etc. were absent from the shelves, in which computers were three times the price, and so on, they'd realize how good free trade was in a hurry.

the subtext is of course that the same happens with immigration-in which case people want fewer immigrants for the social good-but would miss them in their personal life....

Posted by: razib at October 20, 2003 02:19 PM

Razib, there is one really big way a populist revolt could play out: the use of the state level ballot initative process to build a wall on the border between Mexico and California and Arizona.

Also, other states could move to empower their police to round up illegals. I expect this to happen in the Old South via legislative enactment and possibly in Western states by ballot initiatives.

Michael Vassar, The real America is not the idealized America of your imagination. Suggest you read me Immigration and Border Control archives for information about how immigration plays out in reality.

Posted by: Randall Parker at October 20, 2003 08:30 PM

randall-one word: courts

Posted by: razib at October 20, 2003 09:18 PM

"which gives voices to the extremes"

Sometimes I think America might benefit by having a colorful character like Silvio Berlusconi in office.........


"randall-one word: courts"

Oh yeah. It would take a super majority to covince those Dinosaurs.

Posted by: Peter Phillips at October 20, 2003 11:31 PM

RE southern fence.

There might never be a big "Federal" fence but isn't it the case that bits of fence are being erected here and there at a more local level? It doesn't take a huge leap of imagination to see these bits and pieces being stitched together in the future.

Posted by: Matt at October 21, 2003 05:47 PM