Elites v. The Rest

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The older I get, the more I comprehend that one of the ways of understanding how contemporary American politics works is  the vast gulf that often exists between elite opinion and motivations in this country and the opinions of most Americans.  Case in point, illegal immigration.  At a time when the American economy is on the rocks and we have a federal debt that can never be repaid short of debt repudiation or ruinous inflation, which is another name for debt repudiation, the political class is focused on a Senate bill to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, amnesty.  Leaving aside the merits of the bill, which I suspect is one with Nineveh and Tyre  as far as the House is concerned, it is an odd priority until one looks at it as elite opinion does in this country.  My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, does so in a recent column:

Take illegal immigration. On the facts, it is elitist to the core. Big business, flush with cash, nevertheless wants continued access to cheap labor, and so favors amnesties for millions who arrived without English, education, or legality. On the other end of the scale, Jorge Hernandez, making $9 an hour mowing lawns, is not enthusiastic about an open border, which undercuts his meager bargaining power with his employer.

The state, not the employer, picks up the cost of subsidies to ensure that impoverished illegal-immigrant workers from Oaxaca have some semblance of parity with American citizens in health care, education, legal representation, and housing. The employers’ own privilege exempts them from worrying whether they would ever need to enroll their kids in the Arvin school system, or whether an illegal-alien driver will hit their daughter’s car on a rural road and leave the scene of the accident. In other words, no one in Atherton is in a trailer house cooking meth; the plastic harnesses of missing copper wire from streetlights are not strewn over the sidewalks in Palo Alto; and the Menlo schools do not have a Bulldog-gang problem.

Meanwhile, ethnic elites privately understand that the melting pot ensures eventual parity with the majority and thereby destroys the benefits of hyphenation. So it becomes essential that there remain always hundreds of thousands of poor, uneducated, and less-privileged immigrants entering the U.S. from Latin America. Only that way is the third-generation Latino professor, journalist, or politician seen as a leader of group rather than as an individual. Take away illegal immigration, and the Latino caucus and Chicano graduation ceremony disappear, and the beneficiaries become just ordinary politicians and academics, distinguished or ignored on the basis of their own individual performance.

Mexico? Beneath the thin veneer of Mexican elites suing Americans in U.S. courts is one of the most repressive political systems in the world. Mexican elites make the following cynical assumptions: Indigenous peoples are better off leaving Mexico and then scrimping to send billions of dollars home in remittances; that way, they do not agitate for missing social services back home; and once across the border, they act as an expatriate community to leverage concessions from the United States.

Nannies, gardeners, cooks, and personal attendants are increasingly recent arrivals from Latin America — even as the unemployment rates of Latino, African-American, and working-class white citizens remain high, with compensation relatively low. No wonder that loud protestations about “xenophobes, racists, and nativists” oil the entire machinery of elite privilege. Does the liberal congressman or the Washington public advocate mow his own lawn, clean his toilet, or help feed his 90-year-old mother? At what cost would he cease to pay others to do these things — $20, $25 an hour? And whom would he hire if there were no illegal immigrants? The unemployed African-American teenager in D.C.? The unemployed Appalachian in nearby West Virginia? I think not.

Go here to read other examples of the divergence of elite opinion from popular opinion.  One of the advantages of democracy has traditionally been a responsiveness to public opinion.  On the whole that is a good thing as it gives out warning signals that some government policy is rousing opposition in the land or some sort of problem must be addressed.  Unfortunately we live in a time when the organs of media, academia and the entertainment industry almost entirely embrace the values of the overwhelming majority of elites, from whose ranks they tend to be drawn.  What most Americans think matters little to them so long as elections can be manipulated so as to place in power those who share their goals.  This is a dangerous situation for a polity that prizes itself on being a democracy and the elites in our society ignore it to their eventual peril.  The line from the Kipling poem Tommy comes to mind:

An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool, you bet that Tommy sees!



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  1. In general, I think he is right, but the notion that Mexico has one of the most repressive political systems in the world is bizarre. I do not think you could find any authority which systematically tracks the elements of civic and political life (and Freedom House is the most trustworthy) who would offer that judgment.

  2. I wouldn’t call Mexico one of the world’s most repressive political systems either Art, although I think it would score high on any measure of governmental corruption. That they have fostered illegal immigration both as a steam valve and for the money the emigrants send home is on target. Crashing demographics in Mexico and the lousy Obama economy have greatly lessened the number of illegals heading north.

  3. The Mexican government provides written literature in cartoon format to those citizens wanting to make the trip across the border. They have a guy named Carlos Slim who is either the richest guy in the world or one of the richest, yet, they can’t provide for their less fortunate. It is easier to prompt them to come here and have us take care of them. We need to close the borders, once and for all time. When we choose to have people come across, it should be our decision. That is what real countries do. No gang of eight immigration reform until the border is secured.

  4. Yes as to the Marco Rubio who will introduce the no abortion after 20 weeks bill in the Senate passed by the House. No as to the Marco Rubio who is pushing the Gang of Eight immigration bill.

  5. Do you really have to ask that question? Which has Rubio been willing to invest more political capital into?

  6. Rubio has been anti-abortion throughout his political career, and you can bet that making this a front and center issue for him will destroy the good press that he has been receiving in the liberal media for immigration. It appears to me that will destroy any political capital he has gained through his immigration stance.

  7. The republicans have been putting the life issue front and center since Reagan. It is pure pandering to us for our votes. Eventually, we may wake up and realize we are being duped. Reagan, Bush the Elder and young Bush all had control either one or both the Senate or the House during their terms . Pandering is too nice a term, BSing or hypocritical better describes them. Rubio lost all his creds when he threw in with the gang of eight. At one time I had high hope for him.

  8. Well Ray what magic wand did any of those Republican Presidents have to reverse Roe? A constitutional amendment requires two-thirds of both the House and the Senate, something the Republicans have never had since the days of Calvin Coolidge. Your cynicism ignores that fact, the Hyde Amendment, the partial birth abortion ban, a torrent of anti-abortion state legislation where the Republicans are in control and the fact that the Democrats are lock step in support of abortion. Being angry at the Republicans over abortion when they are confronted with not only a party that is pro-abortion, but also the media, academia and the entertainment industry that are wildly in favor of abortion strikes me as absurd. Especially since the alternative are third parties that measure their votes on the national scene at under 200k.

  9. There have been a litany of bills passed in the states, especially in the last few years, that have slowed down the abortion industry. The Hyde amendment has been made obsolete by the current administration ruling by executive orders and mandates that bypass the Congress. I will never vote again for a republican, as I did in 2012, because he was less evil than the other major party candidate. I not only wasted my vote by doing this but I compromised my moral underpinnings and values. Served eight years in the military and don’t need anyone including you telling me I’m wasting my vote if I don’t agree with your reasoning. Usually, I’m in full accord with your writings Mr. McClarey but not on this issue. I for one and only speaking for myself am a Conservative and have no allegiance to either party. Henceforth, my votes will mirror my convictions.

  10. Jorge Hernandez, making $9 an hour mowing lawns, is not enthusiastic about an open border, which undercuts his meager bargaining power with his employer.

    This seems doubtful.

  11. And the AmChurch bishops back this because they will get more Catholics (new evangelization?) without telling the non-Catholics outside of the Church, there is no salvation…you know, Catholic dogma…

  12. “What evidence is there that low-income Hispanics oppose immigration reform? VDH certainly doesn’t offer any.”

  13. “I not only wasted my vote by doing this but I compromised my moral underpinnings and values.”

    People can vote however they please but I have never understood this line of reasoning. The only candidate I ever voted for who I whole-heartedly supported was Ronald Reagan. Every other candidate I ever voted for I did so because I found him or her less objectionable than their adversary. On the national scene there are only two parties that will have any say on abortion laws in the foreseeable future: The Republican party and the Democrat party. That alone is enough to keep me voting Republican, although additionally my views are normally much more congruent with the Republican candidate on most other issues than the Democrat candidate.

    I didn’t think much of either McCain or Romney, and I said so frequently on this blog. However, compared to Obama, either of them was the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan. If there was a viable third party with views more like mine than the Republican party I would consider such a third party. No such viable party exists today or is likely to exist in the future as far as I can tell.

  14. I have very seldom given to political candidates, but future primary challengers to M. Rubio and K. Ayotte will be receiving a cheque from my household. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have long been indifferent to law enforcement (for reasons I have never been able to fathom) and Susan Collins is a temporizer as a matter of routine, but Rubio and Ayotte quite self-consciously defrauded their own electorates; Kelly Ayotte, juris doctor, endorsed a bill with whose provisions she was unfamiliar and Marco Rubio went on a sales tour that would have made the fictional Prof. Harold Hill blush. There is always a certain amount of artifice in social interactions, there is often a great deal of embarrassment and its progeny, but there should be zero tolerance for that sort of sociopathy in public life.

  15. I’m with Art. If nothing else, McCain and Graham have been consistent. Rubio out and out lied to his constituency, and to add insult to injury, has been played by a snake-oil salesman from New York. His sycophants can play all the ads they want on conservative talk radio, but he sunk his career before it even started.

  16. Sometimes a single act is sufficiently terrible that I cannot reasonably support the individual in other endeavors.

    No one who voted for this bill should be retained in office due to anything they have done or promise to do. The bill is that awful.

    If you wish citations, I will give you a list of pages and lines. In general though: the bill says that DHS “shall” and then modifies it with the equivalent of “if the Secretary wants to” in so many areas that it is a fair assessment to say that there are no enforcement mechanisms with teeth in the bill. It forgives all fraud – whether proven in court or not – prior to enactment. It waives virtually all criminal grounds too. It duplicates authority across a spectrum of agencies – bloating the civil service farther and guarenteeing chaotic enforcement. It laughablyproclaims that providing aliens with counsel at government expense is a “cost savings ” measure. It forbids DHS from holding fraud – even in filing for amnesty – against an alien in any proceeding and makes critical biographic data unavailable for adjudication or enforcement. It creates a safe haven of healthcare, religious, cultural, and educational facilities – free from all manner of intelligence gathering and enforcement without a warrant – virtually guaranteeing terrorist attacks.

    Now it is my experience that every time I think I’ve noticed the novel or articulated things in a particularly clever way, others noticed it and said it better. I assume that US Senators have folks on staff smarter and more clever than me. I assume, therefore, that Rubio knows all of these things and that he decided to go ahead anyway, that he decided to destroy immigration enforcement and render a decade of intelligence gathering and soft enforcement waste. The question is, “why?”

    The most immediate answer is that he has higher regard for short-term political gains than national sovereignty, the rule of law, or national security. No man with such screwed up priorities should be in public office or entitled to the public trust in any way.

    Similarly, Sen. Casey knowingly betrayedhis oath by supporting this bill. (I say “knowingly” because I sent a page and line analysis to his office, just to be sure he had put it together. It would be unjust to hold a Democrat Senator accountable for his actions. He may, in fact, be incapable of reason.). He should be drummed out of office with every other person who supported this bill.

    The bill really is this bad.

  17. John “Complete the Dang Fence” has been far from consistent as this campaign video from 2010 demonstrates:

    My view is that legalization is a fairly minor problem compared to the economic issues facing the country. The Gang of Eight Bill is a bad bill because it does not seal the border from illegal immigration. (Short of another Mexican Revolution I doubt we will see again the mass immigration from Mexico that we saw from 1990-2005, but that is another issue.) Some form of legalization process for illegals makes sense only if we can be certain that this is the ending of a problem and not exacerbating an old one.

  18. Forgive me for saying so but “securing the border” is a red herring. It was a catchy phrase, tossed at the Right to get us to ignore immigration enforcement, to set aside instincts properly leaning on the rule of law in favor of a bold and obvious lie. The bill is so flawed that the failure to secure the order ranks as low as the bill’s title in importance.

    Oh, make no mistake that Rubio’s supporters will talk in flowing terms about political necessity, and greater good, and compromise, and demographics, but his support for this bill amounts to nothing greater than political prostitution. He has lain down on a dirty matress and no amount of cologn can alter the stench of that perverse act.

  19. In regard to the ending of mass immigration from Mexico, Victor Davis Hanson commented on that in 2010:

    “HANSON: Well, in Mexico what we’ve really had is a perfect storm creating pressures for pushing labor out the door and towards the United States. The first part of – the first ingredient in that storm was the tanking of Mexico’s economy in the early 1980s, associated with debt problems, poor macroeconomic management and an international environment which was pretty hard on the country. But as important, if not more important were demographic changes going on in the country that were the opposite of what had been going on in the United States. So as we all know, after World War II, the U.S. had a huge baby boom, increasing birth rates up until about 1960, and then those birth rates really dropped off. What that meant was fewer workers entering the labor force in the 1970s and early 1980s. In Mexico, what happened was a baby boom that kept roaring right through the 1960s and into the 1970s. And that meant large numbers of young people looking for work in the early 1980s right as the economy fell apart.

    CAVANAUGH: And, Professor Myers, you categorize the idea of a baby boom in Mexico, and more mothers and more children surviving causing that baby boom, as part of a demographic transition. Explain what that is for us.

    MYERS: Well, historically in the world there’s been a transition where, really, it was high mortality, lots of deaths, and high fertility and they balanced out. But over time, starting first in Europe and the U.S. the death rates really fell and after a lag of a couple generations, then birth rates fall. And in the in-between period you have an explosion in population because there’s too many babies relative to deaths. But in the – in Europe and the U.S. death rates came way down, then the fertility rates fell. Now, developing nations are falling behind that trend and they are slower to drop the death rates but they are dropping. And Mexico is now engaged in this dramatic transition where they have lower deaths and now finally are lowering the birth rate. The extraordinary thing, in 1970, there’s 6.8 babies for every Mexican woman. 6.8 babies. Now, 2.1 is kind of break even, balancing the population. Today, Mexico is moving down close to that break even point for the first time. But that transition from 6.8 to 2.1 has not penetrated the American consciousness. We still think Mexicans have 6.8 babies.

    CAVANAUGH: Exactly. So we haven’t kept up with what’s been changing in Mexico, is what you’re saying.

    MYERS: Yeah, and that surplus number of babies was coming across the border to meet the labor demand that Professor Hanson just outlined. And now, today, as those kids grow up, there won’t be that surplus and we’re not going to have this number of people clamoring to come into America.

    CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with Dowell Myers. He’s professor in the School of Policy, Planning and Development at USC. And Gordon Hanson, professor of Economics at UC San Diego. We’re talking about changing demographics in Mexico that may have a profound affect on the future of immigration to the United States. Our number, if you’d like to comment or if you have a question, is 1-888-895-5727. So, Professor Hanson, in a nutshell, what you both seem to be saying is that for about 20 or 25 years, a little longer than a generation, we’ve had what I believe was characterized either by you or someone else in the article I’m referring to, as a perfect storm of population and economic factors that have been driving immigration from Mexico to the U.S. Would you agree with that, Professor Hanson?

    HANSON: Absolutely. And what we’re going to see over the course of the next decade or two is that one of the elements of that storm, those population pressures, are really going to start to ease. The impact of the changes in fertility patterns in Mexico that Professor Myers just outlined, those don’t show up in terms of how they impact immigration until 15 to 20 years after these declines in birth rates occur. That’s because that’s how long it takes for those babies born to grow up and enter the labor force. So the declining Mexican fertility is just starting to hit in terms of lowering numbers of young people entering the labor force and looking for work. So from here on out, we’re going to see a dramatic – a reduction in those labor supply pressures for immigration from the country.

    CAVANAUGH: Well, why is it that we haven’t heard that much about birth rates plummeting in Mexico, Professor Myers? I mean, I think that you have been lecturing on the subject for a while but it really hasn’t, as you say, sort of entered the consciousness of the American debate about immigration.

    MYERS: Well, there’s a great paradox here, Maureen. We, like everybody else, we’re very self-centered and focused on our own view of the world and yet we can’t even see ourselves. So we’re looking at these others, these others being the Mexicans and viewing them the way we looked at them 30 years ago and not seeing any differences. But we’re not looking at ourselves at the same time and we, ourselves, in the last 30 years have become 30 years older. All of us who were born then are now 30 years older, including the large baby boom generation. And so what’s happening right now is the Mexicans are changing and we can’t see it. We, ourselves, are changing and we can’t see it. And they’re going in opposite directions. So the Mexicans are now going to be subsiding in the growth pressures to come across the border and we, ourselves, are going to be retiring from the labor force creating a shortage of workers in the U.S. which we’ve never seen before. And we – And so these two trends are in opposite directions and yet we can’t see it because we’re so self-centered. It’s very odd.

    CAVANAUGH: Now, Professor Hanson, the idea that the last, as I say, the last 25 years or so has been this big wave of Mexican immigration driven by demographics and economics, is the decline that we’re seeing now in birth rates in Mexico also maybe just another fluke? Another wave, or is there a solid change that’s going on?

    HANSON: No, it really looks like a permanent shift. And to echo something that Professor Myers just said, what we’ve seen in Mexico is this, what social scientists call, a demographic transition. It’s similar to what we’ve seen in many other countries. As countries get richer, as they urbanize, as girls go to school and get educated, what you see is that families have fewer children and invest more in them. And in Mexico, that process of declining fertility was just more dramatic than we’ve seen in other places but it’s very consistent with broader international patterns.”


  20. I have no objection to regularizing status for many of the unlawfully present. I’ve been an immigration officer for a long time. I am not surprised to find unlawfully present persons I’d happily marry to my children and citizens born here that I’d ship to Mars for their day-to-day behavior.

    Regularize status. Do it because we think it will make Hispanics join the GOP, or because we think there are too many people here without status, or because we think immigrants are willing to do jobs people born here won’t, or because the USCCB thinks the only reason Hispanics are becoming Evangelicals in droves is because the Church hasn’t helped them. Do it for whatever reason but THIS bill is a travesty and so obviously so that no supporter of it should be other than sent packing!

    I don’t object to regularizing status, I object to being lied to and manipulated. I object to stripping Intelligence and law enforcement of the powers they need to preserve the State, the rule of law, and our lives.

  21. Which of course works both ways. I would expect my Mexican Catholic neighbors to love me. I would not expect that would give me a license to ignore the fairly draconian immigration laws of their country.

  22. Milton Friedman said, “You can have your welfare state or you can have open borders, but not both.” In other words, I think, Margaret Thatcher, “You run out of other people’s money.”

    One does good works/Corporal Works of Mercy with one’s time and treasure, not with OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY.

  23. The bottom line needs to be that we love our neighbors even if they don’t have papers.

    We may want the best for our neighbors though the adolescents in their households commit crimes. You still have to enforce the law.

  24. Interesting article, but he momentarily lost me with the dig at “violent video games.” Is there a particular need gun supporters feel the need to throw something under the bus to deflect blame from guns?

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