June 26, 2017

VIRGINIA POSTREL IS PRO-IMMIGRATION, but she still has some sharp words for Bret Stephens’ stupid deport-native-born-Americans piece:

Now, I should be a sympathetic audience. I support substantially higher legal immigration levels, appreciate the contributions of those here illegally, and back efforts to regularize the status of undocumented workers and the children they brought with them. I detest Donald Trump. I liked Bret Stephens when we met.

But here’s the problem. The Swiftian part of the column was the idea of mass deportation. (I get it — you don’t really want to eat Irish babies or deport their great-grandchildren.) The rest of the comparison, however, was serious: People like Stephens and his family are good for America, it argued. People like me and mine are a drain.

Like most southerners, black and white, I don’t take kindly to disrespect. Although I’m hardly a hillbilly, that argument got my dander up.

Who is this prep-school-educated child of a high-level corporate executive to condemn as “complacent” and “entitled” the children of postal workers and engineers, schoolteachers and stock clerks? How can he be so ignorant and unappreciative of the innumerable small contributions that built the country that he now calls home? Who is he to tell the descendants of slaves and indentured servants that they don’t belong here because they don’t win enough science prizes? Where was he when I was sweltering through mediocre South Carolina public schools?

If that was my reaction, imagine how people who already have their doubts about large-scale immigration would respond — especially those with deep American roots. A child of privilege lecturing his fellow Americans on how they don’t deserve to live here is a prescription for Trumpian uprisings. And Stephens is hardly alone. Protected by the canopy of satire, he’s just more blatant about his disastrous message.

As I wrote long ago, “Americans care, of course, about their economic interests. But they care first about their identities. … If voters feel personally attacked — because they are Latinos, or working women, or housewives, or evangelical Christians, or gays — they will bolt the party that serves their economic interests.” Or, given the opportunity, back a presidential candidate who promises to blow it up.

It’s hard to escape the feeling that a lot of pro-immigration people really just don’t want America to be its traditionally exceptional self, and would like to import more tractable, and less distinctly American and ornery, voters. But they keep letting the mask slip.