Tuesday, August 16, 2005David Brooks is pretty sneaky. In his latest op-ed, Brooks attempts to resolve one of the biggest quandries in the Republican party: how to maintain the loyalty of white southern nationalists while also cultivating the Latino vote and making big business happy. Immigration drives the populist base of the Republican party nuts, but the party leadership can't restrict it because a) Latinos might get mad if you engaged in race-baiting, and b) big business loves immigration, particularly the illegal variety, because it enables them to break up unions, hold down wages, and maintain the upper hand over their sweatshop employees.
Not that Brooks comes out and says any of this, of course. What he does say is that 1) people who are mad about all this immigration are right, and 2) there's nothing that can be done, because you can't stop immigration without crippling the economy. So what we should be doing is creating a guest worker program. That way the immigration will be legal rather than illegal. Okay?
This policy attempts to thread the needle by maintaining high levels of immigration (presumably making Latinos happy), keeping them in a subordinate economic position (making business happy), and keeping them on a lower social rung (supposedly making white nationalists happy). Ta-da! Peace in conservative-land.
This is a pretty incoherent position, of course. In reality it will satisfy neither of the voting blocs concerned. Latinos will see their bretheren continue to be oppressed (and compete with them for jobs) while white nationalists will still have to deal with the fact that "his neighborhood now has homes with five cars rotting in the front yard and 12 single men living in one house" and that "there are loud parties until 2 a.m. and gang graffiti on the walls." Unless they're going to be keeping the guest workers in special camps, I don't see how this alleviates their angst. You can't really validate someone's concerns and then expect to marginalize them in this way.
So since the guest-worker plan won't make either Latinos or white nationalists happy, why does Brooks push it? Partly because it's an attempt at a compromise between the two, but also because of the third group it would please: big business. They don't care what the law is, as long as they can keep bringing in more cheap labor that they can control. And big corporations being the only group that the Republicans are really interested in helping, that's good enough for David.