In comments to my previous post on immigration Pharisees, "Anonymous" keeps pushing me to admit that maybe, just maybe, Democrats really are emotionally anguished about immigration while Republicans are all cold-hearted bastards. A sample quote:
these are the bleeding-heart liberals. does the term have no meaning?
Yes, it has a meaning, but the meaning is pejorative.
This really doesn't matter, tho, because my original point still stands: Krugman's argument against a more open immigration policy is that it might erode the welfare state enjoyed by Americans. That is a nativist argument, full stop. The worst Republicans on their worst day can't top it, and how Krugman or anyone else feels about it is wholly immaterial.
Look, I'm not defending the GOP on this, as "Anonymous" seems to think. Nor am I claiming that those on the right and left are biased in the same way on this issue. All I'm claiming is that the median view in both parties is equally disgusting, but for different reasons, and Krugman is being disingenuous at best by not acknowledging that fact. In other words, I am arguing that the "bleeding heart" excuse is no excuse at all.
How does the right and left differ? In a conversation earlier this evening, some colleagues said that Democrats they knew based their view of ethics in politics on a vision of community based on proximity: those in our family, locality, region, and state deserve consideration before all else. Therefore, it's okay to discriminate against immigrants, in order to privilege those closest to us. I agree that this is a strong human impulse, but I'd contend that it's the exact impulse that motivates anti-immigration Republicans; it's just that most Republicans view "community" more narrowly than most Democrats do.
But when it boils down it is a distinction without a difference, and the proximity argument becomes nonsensical very quickly. At their root the conservative and liberal arguments against more open borders are exactly the same, which was my point all along. What do I mean? Take an example: I live in North Carolina. By what ethical standard should I regard the needs of a person born in El Paso more highly than a person born in Juarez? The two cities are equidistant from me, and divided only by a made-up national boundary. What ethical principle dictates that the citizen of El Paso is deserving of my consideration while the citizen of Juarez is not? There is none, except for nativism, which is just as ugly as any other form of bigotry.
At least many of those who oppose immigration from the right have no problem admitting they are nativist; indeed, many are proud of it. As infuriating as that is, at least it's honest and straightforward. The same cannot be said for the Pharisees on the left who seem to think that their illiberal sins are absolved simply by feeling bad about them, and that those feelings make actions unnecessary. No, all they have done is added arrogance to their nativism. They shouldn't be so proud.