Sunday, January 27, 2008

John McCain, the Irrational Right, and the Politics of Immigration Control

The irrational right is up in arms over the McCain campaign's hiring of Juan Hernandez as a Latino outreach coordinator (see, for example, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

The prompt for the latest round of McCain derangement is the news from a McCain townhall meeting today in Florida. Michelle Malkin reports that she was contacted by a Florida voter who challenged Senator McCain on Hernandez's open-borders advocacy:

Dear Michelle,

I attended the townhall meeting earlier today in Polk City and asked John McCain:

Your Hispanic Outreach Campaign Advisor, Juan Hernandez, has written a book referring to illegal immigrants as “New American Pioneers.” Hernandez has also stated that illegal immigrants who use social security numbers of American citizens really don’t steal, they have no choice but to make up a number. Are you aware of his statements? Do you agree with him? If not would you consider removing him from your staff?

John McCain answered that he supported Juan Hernandez because he holds the same views as he (McCain) on other issues. He says that he determines his positions and Hernandez agrees with him, not the other way around. He appeared to be unaware of the specific positions of Hernandez that I related.

I would say I got a non-answer. I did not get a video but all the media were present.

On national security, energy independence, veterans tratment and curtailing spending, McCain’s position and answers are strong. Why he does not consider millions of lawbreakers a security threat I do not understand…

McCain's response was audio-taped and transcripted, and made available by Bryan at Hot Air:

QUESTION: Senator McCain, I thank you so much for your service … as an Irish … my parents and grandparents both came here … I so much want to vote for you, I have one concern … straight talk … it is you have an outreach - Hispanic outreach person - on your staff, Juan Hernandez, and he has said that he understands why Social Security … because we don’t allow the immigrants to get their own, so it’s ok for him that we steal other Americans Social Security. He also has written a book called “The New American Pioneers” about comparing illegal immigrants not legal immigrants … I wonder if you agree with his policy? If so, explain it to me and if not why is he on your staff?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: He’s on my staff because he supports my policies and my proposals and my legislative proposal to secure the borders first. No one will receive social security benefits who is in this country illegally. I don’t know what his previous positions are or other positions are, he supports mine. I have nothing to do with his. He has volunteered to help me with outreach to our Hispanic citizenry as I outreach to every citizen in America. I’ve been very clear on my position on immigration; I’ve been very clear on my position on Social Security. Of course I am grateful that so many people came from Ireland to the United States of American and anybody else who come here legally and that’s the only system I will ever support. I have no idea but I will check in to the information you’ve given me. I promise you, I will secure our borders, I will not allow anyone to come here illegally, I will not allow anyone to receive Social Security or any other benefits because they have come here illegally and broken our laws.
I'm going to make a stab at a response to these developments. This is especially important, because while I'm obviously a huge McCain supporter, I don't support the Arizona Senator on every isssue, and this Hernandez controversy is a good chance to clarify my views.

I've cited
a link to Hernandez above. From what I've seen from both the right-wing attacks on him and informational pages, Hernandez is indeed an anti-sovereignty, open-borders advocate who would work to further weaken of U.S. immigration law.

Why the McCain campaign is willing - even eager - to recruit an anti-American, multiculturalist Mexican nationalist is beyond me (I've yet to see a non-partisan analysis to that effect, but see
this story for more information).

Whatever the reasoning, McCain's made a big mistake, at least in terms of courting the secure-borders conservative base.

Yet, maybe the candidate and his advisors think a Hernandez appointment will be valuable not only in broader Hispanic outreach efforts nationally, but as a signaling scheme to the large Latino voting bloc in Tuesday's Florida primary. If that's the calculation, the Hernandez gig - along with
the endorsements of Mel Martinez and Charlie Crist - could be the most shrewdly calculating - even Machiavellian - political move this election season. Florida's demographic breakdown includes a one-in-five Latino constituency. Many of these voters will be drawn from the powerful Cuban-American GOP community. They're anti-Communist foreign policy hawks. They'll love McCain's outreach, and welcome his firm national security credentials.

If that's the reasoning, it's completely logical. Primary campaigns require candidates to appeal to narrow voting consituencies. Normally, that would mean candidates for the nomination would have to appeal to the hardcore, red meat party ideologues who get out to vote in record numbers in primary elections. After a candidate wins the nomination, he'll move back to the center to appeal to middle-of-the-road fence-sitters and moderate party backers. This is tried-and-true pre-convention politicking.

In McCain's case, perhaps he's seen how impotent
the Michelle Malkin/Rush Limbaugh axis has been in slowing down his campaign juggernaut. Who really matters to the McCain election strategy? The hot-and sweaty echo chamber (authentic?) conservative border-bashers who can't reason through the logics of a legislative earned legalization program? Or the legal Hispanic-American rank-and-file voters who could put McCain over the top next Tuesday in the still wide-open Florida GOP primary?

Who knows?

Whatever the case, McCain's taken a gamble. He's betting he can win the nomination and then later appeal to law-and-order conservatives with his claims of authenticity on security-first immigration reform.

We can, of course, take his word for it. Look again at what he says about Dr. Hernandez above, in
response to today's townhall query:

He’s on my staff because he supports my policies and my proposals and my legislative proposal to secure the borders first....

I’ve been very clear on my position on immigration....

I promise you, I will secure our borders, I will not allow anyone to come here illegally, I will not allow anyone to receive Social Security or any other benefits because they have come here illegally and broken our laws.
That's McCain's word. If there's anyone in Washington who voters can trust on credibility and honesty, it's John McCain.

Did he make the right decision?

If I were an advisor to the campaign I would have vetoed the Hernandez appointment. As readers are familiar, I'm a neoconservative who sees hegemonic power in the primacy of the nation-state in international affairs. I support international trade and global integration as facilitating a benign international realm conducive to the attainment of American grand strategic objectives. America has the world's most important history of openness in trade and legal migration. This history is a key element of the American political culture and our rightful claim to be a diverse nation, strong and undivided, e pluribus unum.

That said, it's time to slow the flow of new migrants to this country.

There's plenty of research to show
the downward economic consequences from the unfettered flow of low-wage labor to the U.S. In the realm of language and culture, the U.S. today is facing the increased Latinization of the country, indeed we may be headed toward "Hispanic Nation" status. The "immigrant gang plague" is one of the most intractable and deadly law-and-order crises facing the country today. Not only that, more and more of our inner-city schools have been taken over by unreconstructed multiculturalists, who encourage students to renounce the Pledge of Alliegance to the flag and who renounce the nation's founding holidays and traditions.

Senator McCain knows - or he says he knows - that these developments constitute a national crisis. The collapse of comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 showed that.

What's the way forward?

Well, there won't be for immigration border hawks who not only despise McCain, but fear him like the bubonic plague.

The resolution will come when one side defeats the other.

If the high-pitched Malkinites and Rush-bots have their way, McCain's campaign will collapse faster than a sinking peso over the next two weeks. Even if the McCain team dumped Hernandez, it wouldn't be enough. The anti-McCain activists would find a new, dramatic casus belli with which to hoist McCain to his political death.

On the other hand, McCain's political calculations may prove brilliantly successful. He could claim victory in Tuesday's diverse Florida vote, with the help from the Hispanic bloc, and then move on to a Super Tuesday sweep of a majority of the states, perhaps winning enough convention delegates to secure the GOP nomination.

At that point, he might reach out - with outstretched hand, and olive branch - appealing to the conservative disaffecteds to return to the partisan fold.

"I need your help, he might intone, "there is work to be done." Michelle or Rush may never forgive him.

But millions of rank-and-file Republicans may hold their nose in distaste for McCain's alleged soft-borders apostasies, in exchange for this year's ultimate candidate pledge to fight an even more existential threat stalking American interests and power across the Middle East and beyond.