It’s refreshing to see John Derbyshire’s comment on his experience at National Review with conservatives dealing with immigration policy.
Words have power—magic—and sometimes they have so much of it that we can no longer discuss rationally the things they refer to.
That has been the case with National Question issues for as long as I have been engaged with them. It has especially been the case with immigration. The whole topic has had an aura about it, a glow of magic, which acted as a kind of force field repelling all rational discussion. …
You could never get [conservatives] to engage with immigration. It seemed that in their minds there was something sacrilegious about doing so, something … unclean.
This was especially the case with Jewish conservatives (for them, I suppose, the correct term would be treyf). John Podhoretz, with whom for a while I shared blogging privileges at National Review Online, was particularly splenetic towards anyone who dared suggest that immigration on any scale is other than an unqualified good. (“John Derbyshire Detects the De-Sacralization (At Last) of Immigration Policy”)
I think that a major part of the problem is that Jews, whether in academic departments or at intellectual magazines like National Review, or pretty much everywhere else, have managed to pose as the ultimate moral paragons. There is a long history of this, from the ancient world up to the present, recounted in Chapter 7 of Separation and Its Discontents, continuing into the present with the pervasive culture of the holocaust. And this feeling that Jews are morally superior extends to policies that Jews favor, including immigration policy and policy in the Middle East.
Attitudes of Jewish moral superiority play out in the face-to-face world where people rub shoulders with Jews. For Jews, the pose of their moral superiority and the moral imperative of importing tens of millions of non-Whites into the United States dovetails with a strong Jewish identity and aggressive interpersonal styles. Podhoretz is a good case in point. His views on immigration are framed by his Jewish identity:
I said merely what I feel deeply — which is that, as a Jew, I have great difficulty supporting a blanket policy of immigration restriction because of what happened to the Jewish people after 1924 and the unwillingness of the United States to take Jews in.” Podhoretz has been generally supportive of President Bush’s proposals for a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants in the U.S.
It really doesn’t matter if immigration policy is good for the other 97% of the country. The only thing that matters is whether it’s good for Jews—an excellent example of Jewish moral particularism. Such attitudes span the Jewish political spectrum, from the far left to the neoconservative right. And of course, one might make the same argument about Podhoretz’s strong pro-Israel, pro-Iraq war stance — that these attitudes have nothing at all to do with what is good for the United States but everything to do with what is good for Israel and the Jews. And of course he would never apply his ideas on immigration to the U.S. to Israel, understanding that to do so would be to jettison the idea of Israel as a Jewish state.
But what I want to focus on is the aggressive interpersonal style with which these views are advanced. Aggressiveness is an important component of the success of Jewish political activism (see “Background traits for Jewish activism,” pp. 26-30). Derbyshire’s link to “was particularly splenetic” takes us to several articles where Podhoretz’s venom is on display (see the entries for early July, 2005).
over the past few days John Podhoretz has been swinging wildly, desperately, crazily at anyone who brings up serious discussion about immigration and the National Question. What a bore: dismissive, aspersive, crude, can barely restrain ad-hominem attack.
The article quotes one particularly splenetic attack,
Boy, some people just can’t stand the idea that some other people might become citizens in this country, eh? If the problem of birthright citizenship is not the citizenship itself, as Derb’s e-mailer suggests, but the fact that the citizen can petition to get his family members made into citizens, then there`s a simple expedient to fix that: You can change the law. Or you can try remembering that without immigration, there would be about 75 million people in the United States, a nation that now comfortably houses 300 million and could easily accommodate many more. Oh, and if any e-mailer e-mails me angrily AND USES CAPITAL LETTERS TO MAKE HIS POINT, that e-mail goes in the garbage can. As will slurs — both open and subtle — against Spanish-speakers, claims that “this wasn’t the country my father fought for in WWII/Korea/DominicanRepublic/Grenada,” and the always popular “why should my tax dollars go and pay for.” There’s plenty of things my tax dollars go and pay for that I don`t like. Welcome to democracy. You don`t like it? Try to change it. Period.
Well, it’s not the country that your father fought for, and it’s not the country that anyone over the age of 50 grew up in. And it’s certainly becoming a country that is less and less in the interests of its White majority. But for Podhoretz, people are interchangeable, so it doesn’t matter who comes here. The only question is how many people can be accommodated on a particular piece of land. These are certainly not attitudes that he would apply to Israel.
Podhoretz’s comments remind me of a quote from Louis Marshall, the point man for Jewish efforts to thwart the movement for immigration restriction during the 1920s. At a time when the population of the United States was over 100 million, Marshall stated,
We have room in this country for ten times the population we have”; he advocated admission of all of the peoples of the world without quota limit, excluding only those who “were mentally, morally and physically unfit, who are enemies of organized government, and who are apt to become public charges.” (see here, p. 263)
The quote underlines the point that Jewish attitudes on immigration, whether it’s the organized Jewish community or Jews like Podhoretz with access to the elite media, have been remarkably consistent over the past century. I rather doubt that Podhoretz would dissent from Marshall’s idea of an America with a billion people, the vast majority non-White, although these days it’s certainly not the case that U.S. immigration policy is much concerned about immigrants becoming public charges.
Of course, the problem with changing immigration policy is that it is the result of elite consensus, and in the U.S., it is elite consensus that matters, not popular opinion (see Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, “Testing theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens“). The fact that strong majorities favor a far more restrictive immigration policy and do not favor amnesty for illegals is irrelevant.
Far too many Whites cower in fear of being subject to the verbal aggression of people like Podhoretz. And they fear the stigma of being a moral pariah. The feeling that opposing immigration is sacrilegious and unclean keeps Americans from engaging in mass protests. The best the great majority of conservatives can muster is to oppose illegal immigration because there is some moral legitimacy in opposing illegal actions. I’ve seen educated White people get horribly nervous and embarrassed at any mention of Jewish involvement in immigration or any other public policy issue, even (amazingly) policy toward Israel. Just not what respectable people talk about. It’s not just immigration. All Jewish interests have been sacralized.
As noted several times here, the tendencies toward individualism and creating ingroups based on moral legitimacy and reputation rather than kinship are unique features of the West. In the current context where the intellectual and media worlds are dominated by elites hostile to the traditional people and culture of the West, these tendencies become a potentially fatal weakness.
I suspect too that the Jewish aura of moral superiority is wearing thin because of the behavior of Israel. The ethnic cleansing, the apartheid, the recurrent slaughters in Gaza, and the daily humiliation of life under occupation result in huge cognitive dissonance when trying to picture Jews as impotent, morally pure victims rather than keen ethnic competitors.