Monday, May 21, 2007
Angry, Useless Politics
Well, the immigration bill seems to have set off the political season for real. Now the frothing begins. Bloomberg contemplates the tacking into the political winds by the presidential aspirants, and ends by citing polls that show considerable support in the general population for some sort of deal that regularizes the status of illegal immigrants:
The public, by a margin of 59 percent to 37 percent, supports the idea of granting illegal immigrants legal working status and a path to citizenship, according to a March poll by the Pew Center, a Washington-based research organization.But does this compromise satisfy that desire? Regardless, it is usually the case that the general population is in fact more moderate than the political spinners. I wonder if most voting Americans don't really belong to the "pragmatic party", and end up swinging to the party that seems to be best attempting to improve matters pragmatically at any one time.
A Bloomberg News poll conducted April 5-9 found that voters may be receptive to a compromise. A majority of Republicans and Democrats favored combining strict enforcement and a guest- worker program.
As far as I can tell, the immigration "compromise" fails the pragmatism test pretty badly. Illegal workers can be exploited, and are exploited, and are used to drive down wages of non-illegal workers. Flooding the market with low-skilled workers also drives down wages. Cheap nannies, yardworkers and dishwashers may be an economic benefit to highly-educated professionals, but they hurt another segment of the population pretty badly (including legal Hispanic immigrants). So legalizing them is a priority; this gives them much more freedom to change jobs and negotiate. It gives them an incentive to sink down roots. I doubt very much that most lower middle-class and under families can afford to have the head of household go back to their native countries, so I don't think this "compromise" is going to accomplish that.
The "send them all back" crowd are wildly unrealistic; we do need more people with our aging population. Furthermore, a lot of illegals are relatively well-integrated and stable; some have even bought houses and many run businesses. It sure would be nice if we could get them all legalized, filing taxes and voting.
Obviously it is a matter of setting rational limits. I wrote before about what I thought of "guest workers" who never have a chance to settle here. I still believe that it is destroying our nation and that it is a form of class warfare. If I have to read any more about "doing the jobs Americans won't do" I might get a little rabid myself.
I have the uneasy feeling that angry political maneuvering and spittle-flecked rhetoric is going to drown out the interests of the American population on this issue once again. We've got the rabid right and the looney left and they're both screamers. (Dr. M has an interesting theory on this question which might explain why so often our rabid right and the looney left seem to be ending up in bed together. She thinks anger and insecurity is what draws people to a certain type of politics, rather than that they get angry because of politics.) I'd hate to see either the rabid right or the looney left conquer the massive middle, but I have an ugly feeling that the large slate of presidential would-bes will mean that everyone will be fighting for small factions in order to stay in.
Carl says that the compromise has destroyed the Republican party for this cycle. I think he's right. I also think that unless we can get candidates who are attached to more than just rhetoric in the Democratic party that the same is true for the Democrats. Obama and Clinton are neck and neck, and so far Obama does not impress me on issues, but I don't trust Hillary's ethics or her ability to concoct or promulgate pragmatic solutions. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have had great moments in our history. The common denominator of those great moments has been when one or another confronted a transitional period, junked the BS, and crafted changes that benefited the great majority of the citizens in the country.
What we need are candidates with much broader experience than our current frontrunners. We want governors. We want people with some expertise in making things work. We don't need to hit home runs, we just need to keep getting runners on base. Right now the whole country seems stalled. If it takes an Independent candidate to accomplish that, I'm all for it and I am not alone in my frustration. The Anchoress:
I hold a relentless belief that undertaking positive actions will always come to better, more fruitful and constructive ends than negative actions.She's right - people who are succumbing to frustration and anger are just letting themselves be suckered. We've got to remain anchored in reality and debating how we could make things better rather than worse.
I can understand dissatisfaction with a bill but I have never loved this notion of scalp-hunting on the left or the right, and for heaven’s sake, at this point some on the right are sounding exactly like the hard-left they abhor. Funny how a tactic one disdains becomes a tactic one endorses when one feels the ends justify the means.
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