On almost every contemporary issue there is a populist, middle-class argument to be made against elite liberalism. Yet the Republican class in charge seems ossified in its inability to make a counter-argument for the middle class. Never has the liberal agenda been so vulnerable, a logical development when bad ideas have had five years to prove themselves as very bad ideas. When Obama is all done he will have taken high presidential popularity ratings, a supermajority in the Senate, and a large margin in the House and lost them all — if only the Republicans can make an adequate case that they represent the middle class, the Democrats only the very wealthy and the very dependent.
We know the entry of 11 million illegal aliens depresses the wages of the poor and entry-level working class. Illegal immigration overwhelms state services, and that too hurts citizens most in need of help. The lower-middle classes do not have low-paid nannies, gardeners, and house-keepers. We know the illegal influx pleases La Raza activists, most of them second- and third-generation elites in government, politics, journalism and education, who without illegal immigration would not have much of a moral or legal justification for the continuance of affirmative action and identity politics, given that statistically Latinos would soon follow the pattern of other assimilated groups. (For example, is there affirmative action for Armenian immigrants? An Italian Razza movement? Punjabi Studies?)
We also know that cheap labor in the shadows benefits corporate business, eager for low-wage laborers. So how hard is it for a Republican simply to say, “I oppose illegal immigration because (1) it is illegal. It undermines the sanctity of the law and discriminates against the law-abiding waiting in line to enter the U.S. legally. (2) It benefits corporate grandees at the expense of working people. (3) It is driven by self-serving elites of the ethnic-grievance industry to enhance their own advantage, rather than to help poor folks struggling to find decent wages and schools. Illegal immigration, in short, is the most illiberal issue of our time.
Fracking and horizontal drilling help the middle class. Stopping them on federal lands or banning Keystone makes the lower classes pay for the pipe dreams of the upper class. The Berkeley Sierra Club professor doesn’t worry whether he can find a job welding on a pipeline. He does not drive along the Westside 50 miles to work and so cares little about the price of gas for his third-hand pick-up. It is about 70 degrees year round in Menlo Park, so it is easy to jack power bills up to subsidize wind and solar, when you don’t need to survive 105 degree temperatures in Bakersfield. Discouraging energy development is a pastime of the rich, who have the money to shield themselves from the consequences of their advocacy, and do not associate with the less well-off, who always seem to suffer from elite pipe dreams. Why not headquarter the Sierra Club in Bakersfield, where the cost of electricity is real for real people? Cannot a Republican rebuttal to the State of the Union simply say, “Mr. President, you are shamelessly taking credit for gas and oil production that you did all in your power to thwart. The middle class is enjoying a temporary cut in gas prices, despite, not because of, you.”