February 22, 2005

The Language of Politics: Immigration and the Blogswarm

One of those little things about political speech: the terms people use to frame an issue serves as a signal to the like-minded about where they stand. This phenomenon has its uses, but if you're writing about current events it never helps to persuade anyone to your point of view. Know the difference between cheerleading and persuasion; make it your friend.

For example, I have plenty to argue about with other SP Repubs in terms of immigration. Matter of fact, it's sort of an exciting time, because no real concensus has emerged among libertarian-leaning righty warmongers on this particular issue. Naturally, Malkin has persuaded a lot of people that the conservative approach—sealing the border, making sure everyone has to stand in line—is the way to go, but it's not really a done deal yet: we haven't tended to swarm one way or the other with respect to immigration policy, and people like Larry Elder and Desert Cat are still advocating a more flexible immigration policy that's libertarian in principle, yet common-sensical in its specifics. The President appears to be working toward this middle ground in his approach.

My sympathies here are with the President, but I listen to everyone. I have to say, though (getting back to my thesis) that whenever I hear the word "illegals," my mind tends to shut down: I figure whoever is throwing that word around is preaching to the converted, and I oughtn't to listen in on their private conversation.

Take-home questions for bloggers and political junkies:

1) When you talk, write, blog, or debate others on political issues, do you use terms that will be meaningful to them, or do you try to strong-arm them into thinking your way with your language?

2) Where are we going here regarding immigration policy? Is this something that the right side of the blogosphere (Malkin aside) hasn't focused on sufficiently? Discuss.

3) Who is doing the best job in covering this issue, other than the illustrious Ms. Malkin? Where are the best arguments for/against liberalization of these policies, a tightening of border controls, or some variation on guest-worker programs? How about amnesty—it that dead, or is there a good way to handle it?

4) When you think about immigration, are you driven by a) security; b) issues of fairness; c) culture and language; or d) economic concerns? How sensitive are you about cultural issues, and is this "fair game," or merely a reflection of prejudices? (That is, where do you draw the line between bigotry versus believing English should be the common language in the U.S. and/or wanting a certain "cultural imprint" on immigrants?)

5) How do immigration concerns in the States differ from those in other Western nations?

UPDATE: Steve at Secure Liberty has some practical, hard-headed suggestions for getting our arms around this problem. However, one element in his plan contains a small measure of "amnesty," a dicey concept (and also a good scare word for the anti-"illegal" hysterics).

And that's the problem at the heart of this: one side insists that we militarize our borders, and throw anyone out who didn't originally come here legally—no matter how long they've been here, how hard they've worked, or how clean a life they've led. The other side wants to ignore the problem entirely.

And, yes, at the fringes there are people who are simply turned off by Latin American culture and want it out of their cities. And at the fringes of my position there probably are corporate interests who want cheap labor, no matter what.

It's another "third rail" issue, for sure.

One more thing: for those of you who insist that this has to do with the "rule of law," and people following the rules no matter what it means to their families' lives, I'm just wondering if your grandparents were adults during Prohibition.

Are you sure they never took a drink? Positive?

How about you? Ever try pot? Not once?

Rule of law, Baby: it's a bitch.

Posted by Attila at February 22, 2005 08:57 PM

Political Speech

If I worry about how I'm going to say something I wind up fumble typing. So I just say it.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at February 23, 2005 06:46 AM

Good take home questions but I'll have them here, thank you. I think that the approach we should take to immigration is to decide what kind of country we want to live in and tailor our policies to that end. How does that end up? Beats me—I haven't figured it out yet.

There is absolutely, positively no such thing as a natural right to immigration. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not recognize it. It's neither stated nor implied in our Constitution. It's not part of our tradition. Believing that there is anything other than a legal right to immigration is romanticization and fantasy.

So it's up to us. I don't much care if we have a lot of immigration, a little, or none. I don't care who the immigrants are (if any). There's only one principle I'll insist on: we have a higher responsibility to those legally inside our borders than we do to those illegally here or those outside.

Want a lot of incoming minimum wage workers to keep wages low? Fine—be prepared to give an extra helping hand to our citizens stuck on the bottom rung. Want to keep everybody out? Fine, too. Be prepared to pay for it and to deal with the consequences of a dwindling labor pool.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at February 23, 2005 09:12 AM

Preaching to the choir is something I wrestle with. I don't want to be the Daily Kos, because what's the point? Ideally a post is written in a way thay makes you see something new even if you don't agree with it.

I try to stay away from religion & abortion, because people have their minds made up. There was a terrible post awhile back on some site that purported to be 'fisking' a pro-choice piece. It was badly written, made no point, & would only have been read by someone who already agreed with the author. So why post it?

Pauline Kael was a great film critic who could make you think about a movie in a new way even if you disagreed with her. This is something to aim for. Anyone who's a talented writer has to realize they can manipulate words with or without integrity.

Posted by: jeff at February 23, 2005 05:42 PM

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