Change, Immigration and the “Bold Colors” of Conservatism - Ed Hubbard on Immigration Rhetoric

I have found, as I wander through this world of political commentary, that our political message is often lost when the reader or listener perceives harsh or disrespectful language in an article or debate. Recently I saw an article on BigJolly.com by Ed Hubbard where he discussed the harsh rhetoric of conservatives in last year's Houston mayor's race and the long lasting impact it might have on future elections. I thought the same message needed to be addressed about how we comminicate on the issue of illegal immigration so I asked Ed if he would make some comments on that topic.  Ed Hubbard is the President of Clear Lake Area Republicans and a long time Republican activist in Harris County. Here are his remarks...


Change, Immigration and the “Bold Colors” of Conservatism

By Ed Hubbard

After I posted on another blog about some intemperate remarks made by local Republican activists during last fall’s race for Houston’s Mayor, I was asked to address a similar rhetorical problem we conservatives seem to continually confront when discussing illegal immigration. It has taken several months for me to put my thoughts together about this dilemma, but I think I am ready to share my thoughts.

Let’s face it, the more we talk about this issue, the more we seem to alienate an important segment of voters, many of whom share our principles about government and society—and yet, we know that this issue must be discussed and addressed in order to preserve for all of our children the very exceptionalism that has inspired so many people to come here, both legally and illegally, over the generations.

Why are we in this rhetorical predicament, and how should we get out of it? Unfortunately, the circumstances, which have created the current debate over illegal immigration across our border with Mexico, tear at many of the fault lines within the conservative temperament. So, the answers to these questions are not easy to describe or implement.

First, conservatives in any society distrust change, even though change is one of the few constants in human life. We tend to be torn between, on the one hand, the impulse to reflexively say “no,” because we know that some changes are unwarranted and destructive; and, on the other hand, the need to engage in the process of necessary and inevitable change in order to guide it in a way that preserves and strengthens society. This tension that tears at conservatives tends to be aggravated in America, because we are trying to preserve a society that has been built upon the radical ideal of individual liberty (and the personal responsibilities that, together with freedom, comprise liberty); and we know that the practice of liberty involves the constant, undirected activity of millions of free people, which breeds change at almost the speed of light.

Second, we see illegal immigration over the last 40 years as being one of many activities or initiatives that have changed our society in countless ways, and which sometimes have created unintended consequences that have damaged the uniqueness of our society as much as they have improved the opportunities of many to live out their dreams as free individuals. The frustrating, cumulative effect of the damage we’ve seen leads us to simply say “no” to a continuation of these activities or initiatives, including the present immigration policies that have led to so much illegal immigration. We say “no,” not because, as many on the left characterize, we fear a racial or ethnic change in our country’s demography, because we know that every wave of immigration has changed our demography while enriching our society. Instead, we say “no,” because we simply can not figure out how to guide the current wave of illegal immigration toward a path that strengthens and preserves our society without a process of assimilation—a process that the modern left abhors because it fails to honor their view of “diversity,” and that we see as amnesty that rewards behavior that violates the rule of law.

Third, and finally, we have learned over the last generation to speak about our positions in what we believe are the “bold colors” that Reagan challenged us to use a generation ago. Although the first two fault lines create significant hurdles for conservatives when addressing illegal immigration effectively, it is this last fault line, when applied to the immigration debate, that drives so many of our neighbors away from working with, and voting for us. Further, this wound is “self-inflicted,” because we have misinterpreted what Reagan meant all those years ago.

In March, 1975, just after the Democrats thumped Republicans in the mid-term, post-Watergate elections, Reagan spoke to that year’s CPAC conference about the challenge facing conservatives and the GOP. In many ways the speech was Reagan’s first major attempt to articulate the ideas that, two years later, would form his platform for a “New Republican Party”. As background he noted that, even in the wake of the Democratic landslide, polls showed that a vast majority of Americans viewed themselves as conservative, and agreed on ideas and policies that would halt the centralization of economic and regulatory power in Washington. Within this context, Reagan said the following:

"Our task is to make them [the American people] see that what we represent is identical to their own hopes and dreams of what America can and should be. …

Shorn of all side issues and extraneous matter, the problem underlying all others is the worldwide contest for the hearts and minds of mankind. Do we find the answers to human misery in freedom as it is known, or do we sink into the deadly dullness of the Socialist ant heap? …

Americans are hungry to feel once again a sense of mission and greatness. …

Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people? …

Reagan followed these statements by outlining the economic, regulatory, security issues that conservatives would have to address boldly over the next few years. And then he ended the speech with these words:

"A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.

I do not believe I have proposed anything that is contrary to what has been considered Republican principle. It is at the same time the very basis of conservatism. It is time to reassert that principle and raise it to full view. And if there are those who cannot subscribe to these principles, then let them go their way."

Unfortunately, it is the ending of this speech which too many of our fellow conservatives have chosen to remember when they refer to Reagan’s admonition to speak in “bold colors”—and to remember it uncoupled from the rest of the text (and from a lifetime of his speeches and writings). In the world of many conservatives today, “bold colors” doesn’t equate with clarity, but with colorful language that is meant to provoke controversy and conflict rather than inspiration and unity. This propensity to create controversy and conflict has led conservatives to promote ever-narrowing political agendas over the last two-decades as our memory of Reagan has faded into legend.

What Reagan actually was trying to discuss was how to create a movement that would inspire the vast majority of Americans to unite and fight for the principles—those conservative principles—upon which they agreed, and then to implement those shared principles into public policy. His goal was not to drive away and divide friends and allies with our rhetoric, but only to allow those who disagreed with us to know what we stood for and to find another way and party to promote views that supported a centralized state. Otherwise, he saw our principles as a magnet that attracted the majority of Americans, and that would inspire us to meet our challenges head-on and based on our principles.

Remember, five years later, in accepting the Republican nomination in Detroit, he ended his speech with these bold words:

"Can we doubt that only a Divine Providence placed this land, this island of freedom, here as a refuge for all those people in the world who yearn to breathe freely: Jews and Christians enduring persecution behind the Iron Curtain, the boat people of Southeast Asia, of Cuba and Haiti, the victims of drought and famine in Africa, the freedom fighters of Afghanistan and our own countrymen held in savage captivity."

To truly follow Reagan’s admonition to speak with the clarity of “bold colors” when we discuss illegal immigration, the best of our conservative temperament should be called upon. We must remember that the vast majority of those who have crossed the Rio Grande over the last generation came here because they “yearn to breathe freely.” We must remember that a country that held out the promise of the Statue of Liberty toward those immigrants who would cross the vast Atlantic Ocean to “breathe freely,” should not talk as if we want to deny that same promise to those who cross the Rio Grande to similarly breathe free.

Rather than scold, we must seize the challenge to talk clearly about solutions

• that treats Mexico as an equal sovereign and valued neighbor, and that resolves our mutual border-security issues based on mutual respect;

• that will guide us into a demographically diverse future by preserving the principles of the Declaration and the processes of the Constitution for that diverse posterity; and

• that will find a way to re-establish and enforce the rule of law while assimilating new neighbors into this “island of freedom,” which we’ve been blessed to inherit from the past and to bequeath to the future.

To do all of this we need to talk with a clarity of vision that inspires and unites our neighbors who value our shared principles, rather than in language that, though colorful, divides and destroys our ability to build the relationships upon which a society of free people must depend if they are not to become wards of an anointed elite and their government bureaucracies.

And, finally, we need to remember that our neighbors are listening to us, even when we think we are talking amongst ourselves.

As I was sitting at a recent luncheon debate over immigration policy, I could not help but notice the hard-working men and women who waited on our tables and served the meals we were eating, and I could not help but wonder what they thought of this debate. Just as in days when other waves of immigrants lived in communities of neighbors from the “old country” as they assimilated, so too are many recent legal immigrants from South of the Rio Grande living, working and worshiping with recent illegal immigrants, who may be their relatives as well as their neighbors. Whether we agree with their choices or their actions as to how they got here, or whether they should stay, these people are their neighbors—and ours, too. We need to start talking and acting based on that knowledge if we are ever to gain the trust from the voters to solve this problem according to the best of our principles. 

Comments

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Here's a discussion of that and four other mistakes that some conservatives are making in what they say about immigration policy:

http://www.ceousa.org/immigration-assimiliation/immigration-assimiliation/assimilation/549-five-mistakes-some-conservatives-are-making-on-immigration-policy 

 It has long been recognized that to simple allow free unfettered immigration is tantamount to national and cultural suicide. We know that this has happened to many previous societies (e.g. the Aztecs being supplanted by the Spanish, the Romans by invading Visigoths, and the Zoroastrian culture of Persia by Muslims). We thus need to keep our immigration rates at a level where the newcomers can be peacefully assimilated in terms of religion and language and in matters such a sexual mores and family structure and so forth. I think that it is plain enough that despite our "tolerant" self image, our current society would not accept the presence of large numbers of people who practiced slavery or polygamy or homosexual pederasty or genital mutilation. We also have enough trouble maintaining our national unity without adding divisions based on language (just look at the troubles Canada has in this regard). We also need to be sure that new immigrants will find employment in our economy and that they will not create a labor glut which will cause suffering and unemployment to existing long term citizens. Finally our immigration laws are needed to protect our much prized social safety net. For example our society generally provides free medical care to our very poorest citizens. There is thus a large incentive for immigration of poor persons needing organ transplants or who have other dire pre-existing maladies. Clearly this is a disaster since we already cannot even afford the current costs, let alone that of whoever shows up on our doorstep. For all these reasons uncontrolled immigration is intolerable even if, as individuals, most illegal immigrates are hard working and virtuous. We simply mush stop this phenomenon and this means being very hard headed, punishing employers who exploit illegals and also deporting the illegals themselves. At the same time we must be as generous as possible with providing avenues for legal immigration. In particular I think we should stop the practice of providing equal preference to all nations in terms of immigration. Mexico and Canada are our neighbors and we have a free trade agreements with them, and there is thus good reason why persons from these two countries should get the lions share of the green cards.

so, let me get this straight, according to the US chamber of commerce cheap labor types ( establishment republicans ) - if the economy is up, "we need to import more people," and, if the economy is down, "we need to import more people. " i guess there never is a reason to stop and look at out of control population growth vs. minimal or non-existent job growth.  either way, the whining to over-populate our country continues...the following is from an article on cnnfn.com from today....can't wait to here some of you types on this website twist this data into...wait for it.....wait for it.....wait for it.....and the answer to a 20% unemployment rate coupled with the following data is......."we need to import more people!" (that we certainly do NOT need fyi)

"Entry level wages for male college graduates fell to an average of $21.68 an hour last year, down 11% from 2001, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning group.

Women, meanwhile, saw their average hourly wage drop to $18.80, down 7.6%.

"Young college graduates who finished their education in the last five years or so are earning significantly less than their older brothers and sisters who graduated in the late 1990s," the report found.

These drops contrast with a surge in entry-level wages between 1995 and 2000, when men's earnings soared by 20% and women's by 11%.

Looking at those with just a high school diploma, men saw their earnings drop 10% to $11.68. But women with only a high school degree saw their earnings drop 9% to $9.92.

The Great Recession has hit younger workers particularly hard. The unemployment rate for those ages 16 to 24 stands at 16%, while it's just 7.4% for those age 25 to 54.

And the pain can last beyond the economic downturn, as the institute's numbers show. It can take YEARS FOR YOUNGER WORKERS to get their careers and earnings on track after graduation, leading some experts to dub young adults "the lost generation."

it's no wonder the American middle class hates establishment cheap labor republicans as well as the 'import immigrants for votes' types of both parties

either way, we know the cure-all answer we can expect don't we?.....'import more people' - that's the mantra......and, by the way, the article is taken from cnnfn.com today, but the data they use comes from a leftist think tank, a think tank incidentally, with the same culturally destructive immigration philosophies as many on this website seem to have

 

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