Dare to think big! While President Obama couldn’t find much in the way of shovel-ready Depression-style projects to embark on when he took office, America does have a project going on that Victor Davis Hanson sums up with a World War II-era phrase that Paul Krugman would likely sympathize with:
The United States — ad hoc, often nonchalantly, without much debate or discussion — is currently engaged in one of the largest, most ambitious attempts at foreign aid and nation building in its history, one far more costly and daring that what is going on in either Afghanistan or Iraq. That such a project is not legal, much less approved by our lawmakers, and is funded largely by local and state governments, does not mean that it is not a project nonetheless.Quite simply, America in almost instantaneous fashion has chosen to take in millions of the poorest citizens of one of the poorer nations in the world in an attempt to transmogrify them into middle-class suburbanites within a generation. That may not be the explicit description of our undertaking, but it surely is one arrived at empirically. And it is a multifaceted political, economic, cultural, and social effort that involves tens of millions of Americans at all levels of society and is proving to be the near salvation of Mexico.
Under the old protocols of legal immigration, we assumed that the world’s poor arrived here, struggled, learned English, assimilated, instructed their children in the exceptionalism of America, and achieved parity — but often not until the third generation. All that — both the methodology and the results — is obsolete today. In short, those who lived in near-18th-century poverty in Oaxaca can become statistical proof of America’s supposed racism and oppression in a nanosecond by simply crossing the border illegally. That they were poor and ignored in Mexico is considered almost natural; that they are still poorer than others after coming a foot north of the border and spending a second on U.S. soil becomes proof of the failure of America itself.
Take away illegal immigration, and in terms of assimilation, intermarriage, integration, income, and general well-being, the so-called Latino population is not all that much out of sync with the rest of America. Factor in millions of Mexican nationals, and we apparently have a massive problem that calls for Manhattan Project–like remedies, with all of the interested parties predictably participating.
Almost all university race-based research — and it is considerable — seeks to discover disparities in longevity, health, housing, and general quality of life, and it finds them, those responsible for them, and the government programs needed to address them. Such studies make no distinction in legal status. A recently arrived Mexican national from Jalisco who delivers a baby without much prenatal care is just as much proof of America’s “broken” health-care system as if she were an American citizen without health insurance. The failure to reach utopian results is as widely lamented as the near impossibility of the task of such massive assimilation is neglected.
Building on a phrase popularized in his brilliant Vision of the Anointed book 15 years ago, Thomas Sowell picks up the ball from there, with an essay on “Mascot Politics,” that namechecks VDH along the way, before Sowell writes:
Sadly — and, in the long run, tragically — this is not unique to California, or to illegal immigrants from Mexico, or even to the United States. It is a pattern to which the Western world has been slowly but steadily succumbing.
In France, for example, there are enclaves of Third World Muslims, living by their own rules and festering with resentments against the society that is content to let them vegetate on handouts from the welfare state.
The black ghettos of America, and especially their housing projects, are other enclaves of people largely abandoned to their own lawless and violent lives, their children warehoused in schools where they are allowed to run wild, with education being more or less optional.
What is going on? These and other groups, here and abroad, are treated as mascots of the self-congratulatory elites.
These elites are able to indulge themselves in non-judgmental permissiveness toward those selected as mascots, while cracking down with heavy-handed, nanny-state control on others.
The effect of all this on the mascots themselves is not a big concern for the elites. Mascots symbolize something for others. The actual fate of the mascots themselves seldom matters much to their supposed benefactors.
So long as the elites have control of the public purse, they can subsidize self-destructive behavior on the part of the mascots. And so long as the elites can send their own children to private schools, they needn’t worry about what happens to the children of the mascots in the public schools.
Other people who cannot afford to send their children to private schools can simply be called “racists” for objecting to what the indulgence of the mascots is doing to the public schools or what the violence of the mascots is doing to other children trapped in the same schools with them.
A hundred years ago, groups that are now indulged as mascots were scapegoated by Progressive-era elites, treated like dirt, and targeted for eradication in the name of “eugenics.”
There are no permanent mascots. As fashions change, the mascots of today can become the scapegoats and targets of tomorrow. But who thinks ahead any more?
Well, Mark Steyn does. The conclusion to his “Dependence Day” essay, an earlier section of which we just linked to, sums up the potential for a bleak Spenglerian future remarkably well:
Permanence is the illusion of every age. But you cannot wage a sustained ideological assault on your own civilization without profound consequence. Without serious course correction, we will see the end of the Anglo-American era, and the eclipse of the powers that built the modern world. Even as America’s spendaholic government outspends not only America’s ability to pay for itself but, by some measures, the world’s; even as it follows Britain into the dank pit of transgenerational dependency, a failed education system, and unsustainable entitlements; even as it makes less and less and mortgages its future to its rivals for cheap Chinese trinkets, most Americans assume that simply because they’re American they will be insulated from the consequences. There, too, are lessons from the old country. Cecil Rhodes distilled the assumptions of generations when he said that to be born a British subject was to win first prize in the lottery of life. On the eve of the Great War, in his play Heartbreak House, Bernard Shaw turned the thought around to taunt a British ruling class too smug and self-absorbed to see what was coming. “Do you think,” he wrote, “the laws of God will be suspended in favor of England because you were born in it?”In our time, to be born a citizen of the United States is to win first prize in the lottery of life, and, as Britons did, too many Americans assume it will always be so. Do you think the laws of God will be suspended in favor of America because you were born in it? Great convulsions lie ahead, and at the end of it we may be in a post-Anglosphere world.
But does the current administration view that as a bug or a feature — or simply the byproduct of this 21st century Manhattan Project?