Status Striving. The exchanges about the Senate’s new immigration bill have made it plainer than ever that a big chunk of our political elites, including our president, seek to win arguments by assertions of moral status. That is, their killer argument is not: “I am right because A, B, and C. You are wrong because X, Y, and Z.” It is more like: “I am right because I am noble and have high motives. You are wrong because you are base and have low motives.”
Thus Linda Chavez telling us restrictionists that we are wrong not because we have wrongly costed the fiscal impact of mass unskilled immigration, or because assimilation of Hispanics is proceeding much better and faster than we think, or because the numbers we have researched on the dire social-statistical profiles of immigrant Hispanics are wrong, but because we hate Mexicans. Thus the president asserting that opponents of amnesty are “trying to frighten our citizens.” Thus the editors of the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages telling each other that National Review’s objections to the bill are “cultural … but they can’t say that.” (Translation: National Review hates Mexicans.)
What frightens me is the speed with which the bill’s supporters — including some of the cleverest, most accomplished, and most prominent among our journalistic and political elites — have retreated to this emotive reptilian-brain-stem stuff. It would be nice to think (as in fact a lot of my friends do think) that they have no choice, the bill being so barf-inducingly execrable that there are no rational arguments to be advanced in its favor. I don’t agree. There are arguments the bill’s supporters can bring forward. Apparently the temptation to strike moral poses and accuse the bill’s opponents of harboring sinister dark thoughts, is just irresistible.
What a sorry comment on the state of our intellectual culture. What low, shoddy stuff. Something poisonous and malodorous seems to come over people when they get infatuated with mass low-skilled immigration. Clever, bright, witty, and personable people turn to snarling and scratching. And always, always the insinuation that you are a bad person and I am your moral superior.