Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Radio talk show host Mike Gallagher is the latest “conservative” media personality to endorse amnesty.  Since he revealed his Road to Damascus conversion on this topic a few days ago, Gallagher has been skewered by one-time fans.

Perhaps they should cease the skewering by ceasing to listen to Gallagher—or any other talk radio figure who favors amnesty.

More so than the substance of their position, it is the bad faith and condescension with which these “conservative” hosts argue for their position that justifies this move.

Those of us who affirm American sovereignty and the rule of law have long recognized that a government that wouldn’t lift a finger to prevent millions of immigrants from flooding into the country illegally certainly isn’t going to now round up and deport them all.  So those who insist that this is the only alternative to amnesty set up what logicians call a false dichotomy—one of the logical fallacies identified by Aristotle.

Gallagher and his ilk attribute to their opponents a position that the latter do not hold.  Worse, their enemies assign to respecters of the rule of law a position that is a species of wishful thinking, and one that the resisters of amnesty have always known, and known better than anyone, is wishful thinking.

Those who ache for America to remain a sovereign nation of laws have always maintained that it is primarily through self-deportation that the illegal immigration issue can be mitigated, though never solved.

This brings us to another point.

Pro-amnesty “conservative” personalities and politicians—along with such accomplices as Barack Obama, Janet Napolitano, and La Raza—talk about the need for a “solution” to this problem of our “broken” system.  But genuinely conservative (and, for that matter, Christian) thinkers have always known that in life, there are no solutions.  As Thomas Sowell has said, there are only “trade-offs.”

Amnesty, regardless of how it is packaged, is no more a solution to our problems than is the status quo.  It isn’t even a more effective response to our situation.  However, even if it was, this would not make it a solution, for it will give way to still more problems in the future—like an increase in illegal immigration, something that, according to border agents, is happening now as a result of all of the talk of amnesty!

For amnesty’s apologists to accuse their opponents of “doing nothing” is more dishonesty, more bad faith, on their part.

First, even if it was true that those who resist amnesty favored letting things be entirely as they are, this is still not a matter of doing nothing. It just could be the case—it undoubtedly is the case—that here, the problem is less of a problem than is the proposed “solution.”

Second, no one wants for things to remain as they are. Those who resist amnesty want for illegal immigrants to be denied all welfare entitlements, social services, employment opportunities, and voting and driving privileges.  This way, they will deport themselves.  Also, they want for the government to satisfy its job description and secure the country’s borders—an obligation that has never been subject to conditions.

Gallagher and his colleagues obviously believe that their listeners are stupid. Why else would they expect them to believe that although in the past the government has not managed to secure the borders and deprive illegal immigrants of all the benefits of citizenship—i.e. enforce its own laws–it will do so now?

And it is hard not to think that Gallagher and company aren’t themselves a bit dense.  They won’t endorse any bill, they insist, unless it promises to secure the border.  Even in the midst of all of these government scandals, and despite all of their “limited government” rhetoric, they are still going to accept the government’s “promise” to fulfill its constitutional duty—though it hasn’t done this in nearly half-a-century.

On second’s thought, maybe it is the substance of their position favoring amnesty that calls for turning off these “conservative” media personalities—at least until they wise up some.  

In the May 21st edition of Investor’s Business Daily self-avowed “conservative” talk radio host Michael Medved writes that “it’s a healthy development if people toiling in this country want to become full participants in our national life and express their willingness to go through considerable effort and expense to legalize their status as Americans” (emphasis mine).

Immediately, there are a couple of things to note here.

First, of all of the millions of illegal aliens for whom Medved wants amnesty, some indeed spend much of their time “toiling.”  Many others, however, do not.  In fact, many illegal immigrants receive all manner of welfare and social services courtesy of the American taxpayer.

Second, saying that illegal immigrants will have to do this or that in order to achieve legal status doesn’t make it so.  Resistance to amnesty stems precisely from the fact that there persists pervasive distrust of the government’s word on pretty much everything.  This is particularly the case among conservative-minded voters.  After all, this is why they are conservative.

More specifically, though, many opponents of amnesty have heard this tune before, some 27 years ago, when the country’s then 3 million “toiling” illegal immigrants were supplied with “a pathway to citizenship.”  The amnesty of 1986 only exacerbated the immigration issue.  The amnesty of 2013, opponents know, promises to do the same.

Next, through a disingenuous act of sheer sophistry, Medved contends that opposition to amnesty is one and the same as opposition to all legal immigration.  Obliterating the distinction between the lawful and the lawless, he states: “No one who truly supports legal immigration would stand in the way of millions who seek nothing more than to become legal immigrants” by paying penalties, “avoiding” welfare benefits, enduring background checks, and satisfying a number of other conditions contained in the Gang of Eight’s bill.

With all due respect to the author, this argument is silly to the point of being offensive. It is akin to the argument that no one who truly supports traditional marriage would stand in the way of millions of homosexuals who seek nothing more than to become married, or no one who truly supports medicine would stand in the way of millions who want the right to self-medicate with heroin and cocaine.

Furthermore, on Medved’s own terms, that illegal immigrants will supposedly have to satisfy a variety of conditions in order to become legal is logically irrelevant.  If one “who truly supports legal immigration” has no option but to endorse amnesty, then it shouldn’t matter whether this “pathway to citizenship” consists of a thousand qualifications or none at all.  According to Medved’s logic, all that matters is that there exists a “pathway to citizenship.”

Medved admits that “the biggest challenge to implementing” amnesty is “sorting through” the millions and millions of “human beings to distinguish those who deserve to stay from those who ought to go home.”

Reread this slowly and then reread it again.  For decades the federal government has been either unwilling or unable to adhere to its complex of immigration laws.  This amnesty bill takes a relatively complex set of laws and renders it vastly more complex.  So, the government either won’t or can’t do its job when its yoke is lighter.  When, however, it is more burdensome, then—then!—it will act efficiently and dutifully.

This is preposterous.

No less preposterous is Medved’s claim that “stubborn opposition to a path to legal status ruins the best argument that conservatives could otherwise employ in efforts to win support from Latino, Asian, and African-American voters.”

Pace Medved, amnesty is not a priority for voters of any racial background.  And it is most certainly not a priority for black voters! If anything, poll after poll shows that the majority of the country, irrespective of race or ethnicity, rejects Medved’s and Rubio’s “pathway to citizenship.”

But even if the members of these non-white groups did want amnesty, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to think that by granting it Republicans would win them over.  And there is every reason—namely, voting patterns from the years immediately preceding the amnesty of ’86 to the present—for judging the amnesty of 2013 to be the death knell of GOP dominance.

 

In recent weeks, scandal after scandal has rocked Barack Obama’s administration.  His presidency might be imperiled.

Or it might not be.

Obama steadfastly remains an activist, a “community organizer.”  Nor has he forgotten that which he learned from the godfather of all community organizers, Saul Alinsky. 

In his Rules for Radicals, Alinsky writes that the goal “of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a ‘dangerous enemy.’”

Now, given that he is the President of the United States, Obama’s should be recognized by the world as the face of “the establishment.”  Obama, though, does not want this, for to be associated with “the establishment” is to be identified with the status quo, politics as usual.  But Obama promised hope, change, and even “the fundamental transformation” of America.  To make good on this promise, he needs the support of the electorate.  Yet to elicit this support, he must convince Americans not just that he is not a member of the establishment.  He must convince them that he is its enemy.   

More specifically, he must have us believe that it is those in the establishment that view him as a “dangerous enemy.”

Alinsky explains that the term “‘enemy’ is sufficient to put the organizer on the side of the people,” and that “the brand ‘dangerous’” proves that “the establishment” has “fear of the organizer,” “fear that he represents a threat to its omnipotence.”  Once this fear is established for all to see, the organizer can get to work.

Doubtless, Obama did not want for any of these scandals to come to light. Now that they’ve arisen, though, they can be exploited to depict himself as a Washington outsider and his Republican nemeses as “the establishment” that has vowed to destroy him.  Potentially, this strategy trades off short-term loss for long-term gain.

Again, Alinsky is instructive here: “If by losing in a certain action” the organizer “can get more members than by winning, then victory lies in losing and he will lose.”

There is another respect in which Obama will exploit “the crises” of government that the Republicans are trying to expose in his administration.  Rahm Emmanuel warned us against letting “a good crisis go to waste.”  Crises disorganize our ordinary categories and assumptions.  At the same time, according to Alinsky, they both reflect and “stir up” the “dissatisfaction and discontent” of the people.  This is great news for the organizer, for he can then “provide a channel into which” people “can angrily pour their frustrations [.]”

Your average person—the average voter—wants crises resolved. He longs for normalcy, some semblance of calm.   Now, Obama remains more popular than his Republican opponents, and he long ago succeeded in convincing many Americans that the GOP is the establishment while he is their “dangerous enemy.”  As long as they are perceived as “crisis mongers,” Obama counts upon the public growing weary—and frustrated—with them.  At the same time, he can style himself the hero, the organizer par excellence, who will relieve Americans’ of their exasperation by conceding that there are crises and then swooping in to solve them.  Of course, such “solutions” will come at the cost of an ever larger government, one that is even more amenable to his agenda.

But this is exactly what Obama wants, of course.

So, Obama, in spite of being among the most politically powerful people in the world, has many Americans believing that he is an enemy of the establishment. And though all of the crises of government over which his opponents are sounding the alarm are scandals for which his administration is responsible, it is Obama who will be able to take credit for resolving them.  The country has never had a president, and not even many politicians of any sort, really, who were better suited to pull off these two seemingly insurmountable tasks than is Obama.  Why?

That the media continually run cover for him obviously explains quite a bit.  Yet the President’s rivals err gravely if they attribute his success solely to the media’s partisan loyalties.

In the popular imagination—reinforced daily by Hollywood, the media, and academia—the American political establishment remains under the control of whites generally and white men specifically (i.e. “the good old boy network”). And blacks remain victims of racial oppression.  President or not, Obama’s blackness is seen as automatically rendering him an enemy of the establishment. His Arabic name, however, signifies an even wider gap between Obama and the latter.

Republicans must hold Obama accountable for his actions.  At the same time, they must reckon with our current racial politics—and the ease with which Obama, the Alinskyite, will use these perceptions to his advantage.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few weeks ago, Thomas Sowell wrote an article in which he implied that thinking—serious thinking—is an activity whose time has come and gone.

If ever we needed proof of this, the Reverend Elizabeth Mollard supplies us with it in spades.

On May 12th, The Lancaster New Era edition of The Intelligencer Journal published a letter by Mollard that expressed her displeasure with the paper’s columnist, Paul Gottfried.  Interestingly enough, it is Gottfried’s critique of none other than Sowell himself—“Thomas Sowell’s Genetic Fallacies”—that has Mollard and a number of Christian clerics who co-signed her rebuttal up in arms.

According to Mollard, Gottfried defends the position that interracial disparities “in education and income….must be due to…genetic makeup.”

This is simply wrong.

Gottfried is clear that his objection to Sowell is that the latter “seems to be denying entirely the effects of genetic inheritance.” That is, he is not interested in offering an account of inter-group disparities, but in challenging Sowell’s insinuation that genetics play no role in explaining human accomplishment.  Gottfried is modest, for he only asks that Sowell supply some support for the radically counterintuitive proposition all that we are stems solely from our choices.

Indeed, not only is this a reasonable request in its own right, but it is particularly reasonable given that Sowell, a black man who has a history of studying race and IQ going back some 40 years, has himself insisted in the past that genetics do in fact figure to some extent in accounting for group performance.

Next, Mollard likens Gottfried’s views to those of Hitler.

This would be offensive to any person with an IQ above four if it wasn’t so patently absurd.

A person born without legs, regardless of how diligently he tries, will never be as good of a basketball player as is Michael Jordan. An individual with mental retardation will never become an astrophysicist. Obviously, in conceding this we in no way purport to pronounce upon “the worth” or dignity, the “superiority” or “inferiority,” of the individuals involved—irrespective of whether the individuals in question are members of different racial groups.

If it is unfair for us to liken ourselves to segregationists and Hitler for taking stock of the genetic determinism in cases of this sort, it is that much more unfair to draw these comparisons with Gottfried who, after all, only expressed incredulity over the notion that genetics are of zero consequence in accounting for human performance.

Gottfried is a Jew whose family fled Nazi persecution in its native Austria—but not before Hitler murdered some of his relatives.  This makes Mollard’s charge of “Holocaust denial” against him that much more egregious.

While she never explicitly accuses him of such, this is exactly what she is driving at when she writes that Gottfried’s position on Hitler’s motivation is “in clear contradiction to the research of reputable historians who have documented many examples of Hitler’s medical experiments and murder of those, particularly Jews, that he believed were physically inferior.”

In reality, Gottfried never denied—and, given his family history, never could deny—that Hitler did just the sorts of things that Mollard and “reputable historians” claim he did.  What he denies is that Hitler’s slaughter of Jews was motivated by a belief in their intellectual inferiority.  He writes that “the Nazis never advocated the expulsion or destruction of the Jews as ‘racially inferior.’”  Rather, “Hitler and others in his group thought Jews were quite clever but working maliciously against the Aryan race.”

From assault to genocide to war, just a second’s reflection on any number of acts of violence immediately reveals that, not infrequently, a belief in the innate superiority of oneself or one’s group is a non-factor.  Did the Allied Powers believe that they were innately superior to the Axis Powers?  Must the elderly woman believe in the genetic inferiority of the burglar who she shoots and kills?  Must rival gangsters subscribe to some doctrine or other of innate or genetic inferiority before they can shoot each other down?

Finally, Mollard says that her and her colleagues “reject this type of belief”—the belief that genetics might have something to do with accomplishment—because they think that it lends “credence” to “hatred.”

As a Christian, it is hatred that I reject, not some belief that might be used to justify or fuel it.  Presumably, Mollard and company reject hatred also.  It is on hatred, then, that they should focus, for hatred can and does take flight from any number of ideas—including ideas that have achieved the status of facts.

For instance, some members of just those minority groups on whose behalf Mollard advocates hate whites on the basis of the belief that they have suffered historical indignities because of the majority’s belief that they are inferior.  Are Mollard and her colleagues willing to renounce this belief?

Mollard and the co-signers of her letter have argued here in bad faith.  In the spirit of their Master, they should do the Christian thing and ask Paul Gottfried for forgiveness.