Kansas-born Ramesh Ponuru pointed out that conservatives have become hard-liners on immigration. By hard-liners he means people who expect immigrants to obey the law on entering the nation.
It didn’t used to be. Ronald Reagan was and is a conservative hero, even though he supported mass immigration and an amnesty. In 1988, Jack Kemp could run for president from the right of the party -- with everyone considering him a “movement conservative” rather than an establishment candidate -- while supporting open borders.
In 1996 and 2000, Steve Forbes also tried to consolidate conservative support in the primaries while favoring high immigration levels and opposing efforts to take government benefits away from illegal immigrants and their children. Neither Kemp nor Forbes succeeded in winning the nomination, but immigration was a secondary concern in Forbes’s defeat and not really an issue at all in Kemp’s.Reagan signed the 1986 immigration reform into law, which was supposed to give another pathway to citizenship, this time for the 3 million illegal aliens in the country -- you know, the ones who ignored the legal pathway.
Now we have 11 million illegal aliens. That was some reform.
Once burned, twice shy, as Jack Russell used to sing.
Very few Republican voters have ever told pollsters that abortion is their top priority. But voters who knew that a candidate opposed it could also be reasonably sure that he would oppose gun control and tax increases -- or, at least, that he was more likely to oppose it than someone who favored legal abortion. Candidates who favored legal abortion started to have real trouble getting support from a lot of conservative voters. Eventually, such candidates came to be seen as not being conservatives at all.
Today, favoring tighter control of immigration is becoming a stand-in for conservatism in the same way. What that means exactly is a little hard to say. But the same was true in the case of abortion. Could a politician be considered “pro-life,” and thus have that conservative credential, if he favored keeping abortion legal in cases of rape and incest? Over time it became clear that yes, he could. A politician could also meet the test even if he showed no burning passion to fight abortion. If, on the other hand, a politician said it should generally be legal but not taxpayer-funded, he wouldn't meet the test.Political parties have always had litmus tests. The original Republican one was slavery, then whether you served in the Civil War. Issues are dealt with, and then we move on. But the principle of standing up for the civil liberties of an individual are the hallmark of the Republican Party. Democrats stand for the civil rights of groups at the expense of the individual. Republicans won't make you bake a cake for a gay wedding; Democrats will. The individual right in abortion is the right to life. The group right is allowing women alone to determine who lives and who dies. Gun control is a loser issue for Democrats now, as abortion once was for Republicans. Interesting that calls for abortion control have risen as calls for gun control quiet down. That should encourage Republicans to stand by their principles. That is why standing tall against illegal immigration is important.
According to Mickey Kaus, Ponnuru underestimates the importance of immigration:
If immigration only ranks as the third or fourth most important issue in polls — behind “the economy” and terrrorism — how could it be a “litmus test? Maybe because the differences between the candidates on those other issues — the economy and terrorism — aren’t that great. On immigration they’re stark. Or maybe because voters have no easy way of assessing rival economic plans, but they can suss out an amnesty backer (e.g., if he or she uses the phrase “fix our broken immigration system” or “virtual fence”). Anyway, voters are allowed to have three or four litmus tests.Like many Washington Republicans, Ponnuru tries to define conservatism in a manner that pleases liberals. I am glad Kaus won't let him.
By the way, America is at a historic high in immigration. If we wish to protect liberty, we must double down on our efforts to screen applicants and assure that they wish to assimilate.