Elite Opinion

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. Continue reading

Xenophobia, Patriphobia and the Ground Zero Mosque

The Ground Zero Mosque Debate has been interesting.  The vast majority of Americans oppose it, while about a third of Americans support the building of the mosque.  This issue has been debated quite a bit on this blog, and my opposition to the mosque is set forth in my post Cynical Brilliance which may be read here.  The debate has raged around the internet, much of it merely repeating the same points ad nauseum.  One of the more original contributions is that of Professor Carson Holloway at Public Discourse:

Liberal patriphobia also arises in part from liberals’ sensitivity to the historical traumas that have been inflicted on the human race through a disordered love of one’s own. In the European experience, Nazism and Fascism stand as sobering reminders of the enormous criminality that has been done in the name of a perverted patriotism. In America, the historical crime of slavery was initiated and defended on the basis of whites’ definition of Africans as alien and other, and hence as not possessed of any rights that demanded respect. Liberals are correct to be mindful of such injustices, sensitive to their causes, and alert to avoiding their recurrence. They err, however, in laying the blame for such crimes entirely at the feet of the love of one’s own as such. The real culprit is the excess of the love of one’s own, not to say an insanely inflated version of it. As St. Augustine remarked, the abuse of a thing does not take away its use; and it would be no less foolish to abandon the love of one’s own because of the excesses of nationalism than it would be to abandon erotic love because of crimes of jealousy.

Although well-intentioned in its origins, liberal patriphobia should be rejected as incoherent and morally dangerous. It is incoherent because it is what C.S. Lewis called, in The Abolition of Man, a mere moral innovation—that is, a novel teaching that rejects important portions of the moral tradition of the human race on which it is nevertheless silently parasitic. This was, in fact, Lewis’s criticism of Nazism. It wrenched from traditional morality the universally accepted principle that a man must love and serve his country, while at the same time it abandoned the equally venerable claim that justice requires that we respect the rights of all men, even those of foreign nationality. Modern liberalism simply reverses this error, denying that a man may especially cherish his countrymen while groundlessly insisting that he love the whole human race. In fact, modern liberalism learned its love for humanity from a traditional morality that also taught a heightened love for one’s own. If one principle is to be rejected, then both are groundless. If one is to be retained, then both have authority. Continue reading

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