Something strange has insidiously happened to the old notion of hypocrisy. Does it even exist any longer?

Or do we shrug and just accept it as rebranded medieval penance? Obama gets to golf with zillionaires because in soaring cadences he attacks them — and all for us?

Jack Lew takes his $1 million bonus from a federally bailed-out Citigroup and invests his stash in his offshore tax haven in the Caymans because he will be a progressive, raise-your-taxes secretary of Treasury — and because Barack Obama has castigated those who took bonuses from a federally bailed-out money-losing company and derided offshore tax havens in the Caymans?

Chris Hughes is a cutting-edge, gay progressive who buys the New Republic because his Facebook portfolio does pretty well without owing taxes? Is that how it works now?

Have we come to the point where we expect John Kerry’s populist rhetoric to explain why he can feel no pain over dodging taxes on his yacht or marrying into the big money that he used to warn against? John Edwards can lounge around in his ugly mansion precisely because of his “two Americas” choruses?

When did we expect the elite to enjoy their wealth and to rail against its acquisition, to lumber around on four legs in the barn with the animals and strut on two in the kitchen with the overseers? Do Levis and t-shirts mean it’s okay for Google to offshore its profits? Does “Earth in the Balance” mean you can walk away as a guilt-free liberal with $100 million in petro-profits from a sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic sheikdom?

The End of the Law

When did the idea of citizenship largely disappear? There is now little argument over the nomenclature of “illegal alien,” “undocumented worker,” or “unregistered resident.” About three or four years ago, all those rubrics simply became irrelevant.

Most police forces won’t turn over any foreign national stopped for DUI to immigration authorities (e.g., do you really think Obama’s illegal-alien uncle will be deported for drunk driving?). The student body president of the local university not only bragged that he was an illegal alien, but dared anyone to do anything about it — to the loud applause of the university president. If an illegal alien can walk into Congress without fear of deportation, then there is no longer any sense of legal/illegal, or even amnesty/deportation.

“Comprehensive immigration reform” is likewise a silly construct. It does not exist any more. The truth is that we will allow “a pathway to citizenship” for those who broke the immigration law but who have been here a few years, who are working, and who have not been arrested. And, likewise, for those who broke immigration law but are not working, have just arrived, are on public assistance, and have been arrested, we will mandate neither citizenship nor deportation — but just allow a perpetual limbo of residence. When proponents of amnesty declare pathways of citizenship predicated on a fine, or on learning English, or on returning to the back of the line, we know both that they will never audit such requirements and that it would not matter much whether they did. There is now just a sort of nothingness.

So what does it matter whether one is legal, illegal, holds a green card, holds no green card, is in line for citizenship, or is in line for deportation? There is no deportation; there is no real border anymore; there is no federal immigration law. All these are but states of mind, talking points of politicians without meaning.

In or around 2010, these rubrics finally disappeared, buried under the rhetoric of “nativist,” “racist,” “the borders crossed us,” and the reality of the new demography and emerging Democratic constituencies. Try to deport an illegal alien with a felony conviction and instead six hours later on television we will see helpless dependent children cast adrift by the nativists. Eleven to fifteen million foreign nationals, and ten or fifteen million of their American citizen offspring, represent voters that have made the immigration-debate rhetoric and policy superfluous, a revolutionary fact that most have napped through.