The Centrist Canard

Sunday, January 29, 2006
Roger Simon has a good post today yearning for a third party to pull us out of the partisan doldrums. There are some excellent comments, but I was especially struck by this comment by Kevin Peters, a long-time contributor on Roger Simon's blog.
...there is my sister Sue.... If she heard your call for a third party she would jump in the air and scream amen. She hates both parties, she hates the politics of personal destruction, she felt bad for the hounding of President Clinton over his zipper problems and the Roberts and Alito hearings turned her stomach too....

But hold on. She isn't for gay marriage. Civil unions are fine but nothing else. Not in a 'you can become a heterosexual' stance but she thinks the way we have it now is best. She was against the war in Iraq from day one. Not because of the WMD question but because she thought we should stay out of the area and that it would never work. She is a non-racist isolationist. And because of this her loathing of President Bush matches my other Mother Jones sister. She is disgusted with the Immigration stance of both parties and her solutions lean towards a strict crackdown on illegal aliens and the companies that hire them. She is generally for increased public spending but wants a complete reworking of the way the money is spent. she is not too keen on the union movement. And she is in love with Hillary. I mean non sexual lust. She doesn't agree with all of her political ideas but she has bought into HRC's whole spiel.
The center is hard to define sometimes.

It is frequently presumed that there is a "center" out there and that the speaker is in it and that anyone who disagrees with the speaker is an "extremist". We all want to believe that our own beliefs are reasonable and everyone else's are insane. They seem insane--how could any reasonable person disagree with my own well-thought-out beliefs?--but calling them "insane" or "Nazis" tends to lose us friends and alienate people, so we dub them "extremist" instead.

There are partisans--and plenty of them--who will always vehemently argue for their own party no matter how outrageous its positions. Yet when individual issues are considered the world looks rather different. My observation is that there are two distinct types of people who take an interest in politics, on the one hand those who completely buy into the party line and always parrot all of its talking points, and on the other hand those who, like Kevin's sister, hold a constellation of opinions, a different one for each issue, a situation which looks contradictory to the more partisan sorts. Those who want to buy a whole package, hook line and sinker, and those who want to consider each option separately. It is people like Kevin's sister who are usually meant by the word "centrist", i.e., people who will not necessarily vote for or against Hillary just because she's a Democrat. But Kevin's post makes vividly clear the fundamental contradiction inherent in trying to create a "centrist" political party, to wit, two "centrists" are liable to be in complete opposition. A "centrist" like Kevin's sister might be anti-Iraq War and in favor of a crackdown on illegal aliens; a "centrist" like Terrye might hold the exactly opposite opinions on these subjects.

I would feign look at the situation from a different angle entirely. We can obtain a 1-dimensional view of any single issue by asking whether we favor it or oppose it. But it is more informative to add a second dimension, let us call it the dimension of passion, by asking how much we care about the given issue. Take Wal-Mart, its palpable iniquity a given for many. Whether I consider it to be the Devil's spawn or not is one thing; whether I really care very much about Wal-Mart is another thing entirely.

One thing that occurred during the Sixties was a shift along this second dimension, the dimension of passion. Somehow the idea propagated that passionate adherence to one's political beliefs was ipso facto very important, was a Good Thing, was in fact the Very Meaning of Life Itself. The idea spread that The Angels Would Sing if one pursued politics--as opposed to, say, engineering, entertainment, or getting involved in one's church--because, so the story went, only through politics could this world of vast woe ever be fixed. Politics became the religion, in other words. And in the process it became filled with self-righteousness and the belief that anyone who disagrees cannot simply be wrong but must be evil.

I would call for a little moderation. Let's pull the throttle back a smidge. The people I would like to see winning the political game are those who are a little less involved, those who don't quite take the thing so seriously, those who realize that their own beliefs may be wrong after all and so they can show a little humor and a little disinterest and, most important of all, a little humanity toward the other side. And a little graciousness in losing.

Those are the best "centrists" of all.


Knucklehead said...

Immigration is an excellent topic to discuss with alleged centrists. KP's sister who wants a "crackdown" on illegal aliens and the companies who hire them...

What is involved in this "crackdown"? Plug the borders. Commit whatever resources necessary up to and including the US military. Close 'em so tight that not another person enters the country illegally. OK, let's just say that we're willing to take on the costs of doing that and now it is magically done.

Do we continue this "crackdown" againt the 6, or 8, or 10, or 14, or 20 million illegals already in the country? What would it cost us, not just in dollars but in all variations of "cost", to round up and get rid of somewhere between 6 and 20 million people? I wonder how long KP's sister would want the crackdown continued once we had night after night of TV news filled with the pictures of doors being kicked in and people dragged into vast holding pens and then stuffed onto transports and shipped wherever they came from or... what?

OK, so we're not gonna do the roundup, detain, and deport schtick on millions upon millions of people. Instead we're gonna "crackdown" on the "companies who hire them". A couple years of that and the "centrists" who wanted it will be screaming about inflation because every cost that has any drudgery labor component to it will be going through the roof.

A whole lot of "centrists" are people who can't figure out why somebody hasn't waved a magic wand yet.

I suspect there are two general categories of centrist. One is the simpleton centrist who has never really thought much about issues and just figures the reason there are problems is because Somebody Else didn't solve them. Then there are muddle through centrists who figure you can't really solve problems completely and you just need to push a little here, pull a little there, but never push or pull too far or hard.

The idea of a centrist party is, IMHO, preposterous. Most of us are somewhere near the center but often disagree strongly on particulars. We'd line up on different sides the same as we do now.

David Thomson said...

“...and on the other hand those who, like Kevin's sister, hold a constellation of opinions, a different one for each issue”

We must never forget that only three modern day presidents won their election by a roughly sixty percent margin. A sizable minority hoped for their defeat. I suspect that the Republicans have a lock on about forty percent of the voting public and likewise the Democrats. The other fifteen/twenty percent are up for grabs---and will decide the election. All of the pollsters and the advertising campaigns will especially focus on people like Kevin’s sister. My gut impression that she will ultimately vote for the Republican candidate. The Democrats will be perceived as too weird for her taste. Should the Republicans take her for granted? Nope, and they are unlikely to make that mistake. How has she voted in the past? That is often a very good indicator regarding her future choices.

chuck said...

I find the isolationist idea very appealing myself. If I were to list the attitudes that I absorbed by osmosis growing up, they would be:

1. Europe is morally degraded and given to fighting stupid wars.

2. The rest of the world doesn't really matter in a fundamental way, America is a world in itself.

3. However, we should donate to charitable causes and help the starving.

I can't say that my parents held all these views, so I don't quite know where they came from. And some of my relatives are missionaries and work overseas and receive visitors from New Guinea and such, but they are part of the international religious network, not the government.

Now as a practical matter I don't consider the views listed above as realistic, but they sit there below the surface anyway.

As to argument, that depends much on who I argue with. The easiest thing for me to do is simply let folks know where I stand but not argue at all. It isn't necessary to defend every view or to try convince others.

Agree on the lack of a true center. That is why it is tough to be a good politician and why politicians always look opportunistic. They have to be. When you come down to it, herding cats is like herding Americans.

Syl said...

There is a Center.

It's just bigger than most people think it is.

It contains everybody who has at least one position contrary to the platform of their favored party.

And in a two-party system, that means the center contains the majority of voters.

So, let's take that center and try to create a new party. What you end up with is two parties within Center1, then the center of the new party will contain everyone who disagrees with at least one position of either end of this new Center2.

See where I'm going? I agree with everyone who says a center party is a ridiculous notion. There's no coherence.

In the end the only thing that is important is the priorities of the individual voting at the time of the vote.

And, Knuck, I don't think there's any issue that the voter understands completely or even much at all. Even many (most?) of our politicians don't either. But we muddle through anyway.

Awareness and clarity takes time to evolve. The awareness of market forces and their importance in the general public has changed quite a bit since the sixties, say.

So I'm afraid it's true that perception is everything and framing rules.

I disagree with Roger on this. I've noted his reluctance to 'label' people as left and right because he thinks it's meaningless. I think that has more to do with his difficulty in self-identification since his change. He wants a group of people he can identify with that take the same positions on everything across the board that he has.

It's hard being socially liberal and identifying with conservatives...especially when the 'socially liberal' aspects of his former friends are THE most important issues for them and they thus consider Roger's 'conversion' to be horrifying.

And if you have any tendencies towards social liberalism the social conservatives give you no quarter whereas any other 'apostasy' is treated with at least a bit of respect.

So Roger is in a hard place and I understand his desire for a group to belong to. A center party, however, is not the solution.

BTW, I can't post at Roger's. Keeps telling me I have to register. I've sent two emails and still nothing.

JB said...

"I suspect there are two general categories of centrist. One is the simpleton centrist who has never really thought much about issues and just figures the reason there are problems is because Somebody Else didn't solve them."

They are the party of one. Perhaps having to choose between the two parties is excellent practice in reality attunement for these people (trade-offs, compromises, priorities, etc.) Why is politics the only arena of life where one doesn't have to grow up?

terrye said...

I think people should ease up a bit.

we all go overboard sometimes and i agree with MHA that what derives some people away from politics is what they see to be zealots. People who lack in pragmatism.

I like the idea of a third party, but I just don't think it will work. But those folks who straddle the parties are important when it comes to winning elections.

And immigration is a whole nother thing anyway.

markg8 said...

Most people aren't passionate about politics. Maybe it's a sublimation of Reagan's phrase, "Washington isn't the solution, it's the problem." That meme has been reinforced for decades by centrist thought leaders like Jay Leno, Rush Limbaugh on the right and off the top of my head on the left it ranges from Abbie Hoffman to Maureen Dowd. Leno ridicules both sides with humor, Limbaugh is vicious partisan
saying you need no other source than him to know what's "really" going on
and Hoffman and Dowd both sold and sell the theory they all suck.

Combine that with the pressure of election year polling that tells them what they think we want to hear and the political realities of what they can actually deliver once in office and you get an electorate who thinks very little of their politicians.

I haven't read Roger's column but I'd say syl's take on him is correct.

Knucklehead said...

The isolationism thing is a better example of the lack of true centrist sentiment than even the immigration issue. The immigration issue is, possibly or at least sometimes, a part of the idea of isolationism.

When it comes to isolationism there are many points along the spectrum of ideas.

The One Worlders who think there should be a single government for all 6+ billion of us and they would isolate, or not, piecemeal according to whatever they see as the best interests of mankind. There are the libertarian purists who believe all forms of capital, including human capital, should be 100% free to flow wherever their hearts desire. There are the Alleviate Human Suffering purists who believe the worlds huddled masses yearning for some welfare should be 100% free to seek refuge among the "wealthy" at the wealthy's expense.

These first three are, more or less, "open borders" proponents who would be, figuratively speaking, at one another's throats about many other issues. The libertarian purists would, for example, want the hands of the Alleviate Human Suffering crowd out of their freaking pockets. And both those would be constantly at figurative war with the One Worlders.

On the other side of the spectrum there are the true xenophobic seperatist reactionaries who have somehow convinced themselves that some form of ideological or racial or culture purity is not only a good thing but possible to achieve. Then there are the "medicinal" isolatationists. They don't have anything "against" the teeming hordes of others, they just don't want to be the next Native Americans whose "way of life" is ground into defacto extinction by the arrival of overwhelming numbers of the teeming hordes. And there are the "teach 'em a lesson/tough love" isolationists who believe a serious 8 or 10 years of isolationism would cause the rest of the world such misery that they'd come to their senses, recognize the overwhelming importance of the US and our methods, and start behaving sensibly.

Centrists tend to pick and chose bits and pieces of each of those and often some from each extreme while vaguely recognizing the danger of bits and pieces of some of the other parts of the extremes. So one centrist might pick two from column A and one from column B while another centrist might pick the others. So these two "centrists" fave entirely different affinities and emnities - they are in complete disagreement about what is desireable and what is dangerous yet both consider themselves centrists.

There's no solid foundation upon which to form a "centrist party" from all that. What we seem to try and do, instead, is to marginalize the extremists. This is, of course, not entirely possible. The extremists tend to be the most activist and involved. The party that exhibits the most pronounced failure to marginalize its extremists will become the minority party when the failure becomes obvious, as long as the failure lasts, and for as long as it takes to overcome the reputation even after the failure is repaired (as far as it can realistically be repaired).

This is the transition we are in now. The Republican party has gone a long way toward marginalizing its extremists but has not yet repaired its reputation to the maximum degree possible. The Democratic party is becoming increasingly recognized as being held hostage by its extremists. Republican "repairs" will max out at roughly the same time as the Democrat slide hits bottom and then pendulum will slowly start to sweep back in the other direction. The Republicans will become increasingly compromised by all the very real problems and difficulties of actually having to govern while the Democrats will regain sanity and learning how to function as a responsible minority that can build ideas and move toward their realization.

Either party may wind up changing its name or making major adjustments to its platform and grabbing hunks of the voting public but there will remain two parties that overwhelm the others. There will not be a viable third party. Our political system will not allow it and we will continue to muddle through with the slow movement of the political pendulum.

David Thomson said...

A viable third party is extremely unlikely to occur in 2008. The odds are probably no better than one in a thousand. Moreover, we had better hope and pray that this is the case. If a third party is viable within two and half years from now---it means that all hell has broken out. The country has either been attacked, or enduring a horrible economic depression.

Knucklehead said...


A very good observation.

Is there any evidence that the third parties which have periodically sprung up are really generated from some "center". I never thought of the Peroistas as "centrists". I know some of their supporters viewed themselves as such but I sure didn't see them that way.

One of the standard delusions of we extremists is that we are "moderate" or "centrist". And another delusion of we extremists is that those who really are "centrist" or "moderate" are extremists.

I know a few Sandbag the Borders! Buchananites and they seem to be legitimate in their belief that "most Americans" agree with them and the only reason they aren't in control is nefariousness on the part of their opponents who, of course, represent a tiny majority of overly powerful people.

They don't realize that there are MANY, MANY, small business people who oppose them because they cannot remain in business without affordable labor. There are two components to affordable labor. There's the labor part and the affordable part. Without people who actually work at whatever price they have no ability to stay in business.

It isn't the $3 or $4/hr that is the difference between staying in business or going under, its the hours of hard work that are paid for. This is a consistent refrain I hear from some of the small business people I know.

Knucklehead said...


Please correct a tiny majority of overly powerful people. to ...tiny minority.

flenser said...

Not to pull the thread off topic, but since Knucklehead brings up immigration, all the polls consistently indicate that better than 70% of Americans want to drastically reduce it. It's one of theose rare issues where Democrats and Republicans tend to agree.

So if that is not a "centerist" position, then we can honestly say that none exist.

Predictions of economic disaster if slavery was abolished proved to be false. I expect that if the current source of artifically cheap labor dissappears, the economy will make similar adjustments.

David Thomson said...

"...all the polls consistently indicate that better than 70% of Americans want to drastically reduce it."

Please be cautious. You can generally find a consensus regarding the overall picture. However, all hell breaks out when you get to the specifics. We Americans are mostly confused on this issue. I strongly warn Republicans to take a chill pill. Modest changes are all that is required. Opting for draconian measures will be severely punished at the ballot box.

terrye said...


Yes but 70% also feel that people should be allowed to immigrate if they work, pay taxes, and learn the language.

I don't think the problem is immigration, but the kind of immigration. There is the divide. And it divides within parties, not just right and left.

I heard that two states have come up with ID for illegals to drive. They are Tenn and Utah. I can not imagine two less likely states. In fact it seems so unlikely that I wonder if the folks at Fox had it wrong when they reported it.

Knucklehead said...


all the polls consistently indicate that better than 70% of Americans want to drastically reduce [immigration].

This almost certainly, if investigated deeply, would serve to illuminate the fallacy of "centrism".

Seventy percent of us would agree, in a very generalized sense, that immigration in general or illegal immigration in particular should be "drastically reduced".

But what does that mean? Most, I dare say, would agree that it means "stop the flow of people coming into the US illegally". As I mentioned earlier, even if this can be accomplished it is only one facet of the problem.

But immigration is more than simply closing the Mexican border. We could almost certainly accomplish that. What happens to Mexico downstream, 5 or 10 years out is anybody's guess. Maybe it forces them to upgrade their economy so that so many of their citizens don't have such a need to go elsewhere. Maybe they just go elsewhere and nothing in Mexico changes. Maybe we wind up with a Mexican version of Chavez and even more social problems on our southern border.

Start ratcheting down on what people are willing to accept to close the Mexican border and I have no doubt that the 70% will start to melt away. If and when reports of six here and twelve there and a few hundred a month dying trying to beat the blockade start coming in... If and when closing the border starts yielding violent skirmishes (we may be approaching that now) the costs start to escallate.

Are we also willing to reduce immigration by telling even legal immigrants that they cannot bring family members over behind them?

But even shutting the borders to immigration, illegal and/or legal, leaves us with a rather large problem on our hands that will dissolve concensus. That problem is the millions upon millions who are already here. Propose a "guest worker" program to convert the illegal into legal is apparently political suicide. That immediately gets labeled as an "amnesty" and a "slap in the face" to those who immigrated legally.

Do we just ignore their illegal status? How does that differ, in reality, from an "amnesty" or a guest worker program? It certainly doesn't give us any instant relief as far as costs go.

Do we just let the problem sorta drain away over 10 or 20 or 30 years waiting for some portion of them to "go home" while their children who are legal slowly assimilate? What about these growing millions of legal offspring who will eventually demand a political voice and resolution of the status of their illegal parents?

I'll bet the farm that there is nothing approaching a majority that would remain in support of a general roundup and deportation in the face of the realities that would entail. People may say they'd support it but I guarantee a few months of facing the reality of the implementation would evarporate support to the point that we'd see political division that would make today's look like a peace and posters march.

It is easy to gather concensus around a desire for a "crackdown", the "problem solved", "something done". But as Bush "run something up the flagpole and see if people salute" proposal of a while back amply demonstrated, there is little or no concensus for how to go about cracking down or solving the problem or even doing something.

The following almost always gets me hammered but I'm gonna say it anyway. Some portion of the illegals who are here a filling some legitimate economic void. That void, as far as I can see it, is "doing a day's work" at a rate of pay that WE seem to demand.

Re-open whatever that void is and we will, of course, adjust. But the adjustment will have costs and we will, I guarantee it sight unseen, carry pain that we will piss and moan about and expect the government to "solve the problem" and "do something" about.

There is zero doubt that illegal immigrants are "taking jobs" that might otherwise be held by Americans if only the jobs paid well enough. There is also zero doubt that there is a lot of work they are doing that will not be done by Americans. The issue isn't a simple one of pay Americans $14/hr and they'll do the work the Mexicans are doing for $10/hr. The issue, for a goodly portion of the work being done, is that if Americans can even be found to do the work, they need to be paid $14/hr. for 1.5 hours to do the same work as is being done for the $10. The increased cost isn't $4/hr, it is more like $7/hr.

Nobody wants to hear it but I'm saying it. There are many small businesses in this country that will go out of business if the "illegal immigrant problem" is "solved". It will be temporary and new small business will emerge according to the new realities but the meantime costs will be large. And solving the problem will also be costly just in and of itself.

Would we all be better off eventually in the long run? Maybe. But between here and there will be divisive partisan shrieking rather than non-partisan consensus.

Lest anyone believe I am an open borders supporter that is not the case. I am not a closed borders supporter. But no matter what we do anywhere between complete crackdown and nothing at all will yield painful problems and partisan divisiveness rather than happy, look at that we're all getting along, concensus.

Syl said...

Here's my post meant for Roger's where the Gods don't allow me to post anymore:

Well, I think some of us who belonged to one party where we thought we agreed with everything they stood for and everyone else in the party agreed with us have come to the realization that that was a self-delusional myth.

Switching parties forces one to deal with specifics because you suddenly find yourself in a totally alien milieu. Then you discover that it's awfully hard to live with some of the platform but you have to in order support other planks.

Then you look back and see that what you thought you agreed with didn't really exist. It wasn't one big happy family after all.

In other words, in America, the norm is acceptance for everyone, in every election, that you don't get all you want--even if you win.

It is never ever winner take all.

I think it's a great, even though frustrating, system!

flenser said...


Not if they "immigrate" illegally. If you want to claim that 70% of people support illegal immigration then I want to see the studies.


No need for Republicans to take a chill pill. Just allow the issue to come to a vote. If people actually want the current setup then they can vote for it. If not they can vote to end it.


Knucklehead said...


Doesn't surprise me at all. But I hear the arguments brought forward by at least some of those who make them and I find it hard to counter those arguments with anything other than "just say no!".

The arguments are basically a "cascading crimes" case. Take an illegal immigrant whose only "crime" was to cross the border and find a job. Deny them the standard necessities of living and working in the US and they will not say, "Oh well, guess I better go home." Instead they will start committing other crimes such as driving without a license, without insurance, etc. etc. etc. Push that far enough, the argument goes, and all forms of petty crime become "no problemo".

Its a variation on the "broken windows" stuff in an odd sort of way. Don't turn an illegal immigrant, but otherwise law-abiding worker, into a scofflaw because, if he spends enough time scoffing at "document" laws he'll eventually start scoffing at property laws and finally all forms of laws.

I don't see any way out of this mess without a "guest worker" program and some medium level of "crackdown" to push the illegals into accepting the guest worker status. Maybe there's another way out but I sure can't see it.

If you don't convert your status to legal guest worker we're going to arrest and deport you whenever you come to our attention on the highways and day laborer gathering points and such. If you do convert you will have some amount of time to build yourself a legal life and, upon expiration of whatever that time is, either go home or do this list of things to convert into some higher status such as permanent resident or citizen or whatever.

But that apparently cannot even be placed upon the table without getting hammered from left and right, up and down. I don't get it.

flenser said...

A "guest worker" program solves the problem of illegal immigration by legalising it.

I don't think that idea is going to fly.

terrye said...


Yes of course they do mean legal. I think folks just want people to obey the rules.

truepeers said...

In my view, man was not first created a political animal, but rather a religious or constitutional one, and politics is a fight about, or sometimes for control of, the original religious/constitutional center.

In other words, the center comes before politics and it is what makes politics possible. Therefore, politics cannot be strictly centrist and still be politics. For a party to be strictly centrist, it would have to be a purely constitutionalist party, trying to (re)establish a constitution in the wake of some great political crisis. And it could have no other issue until it achieved this goal, which would be impracticable even in circumstances of a great crisis.

In any case, once the sacred terms of the constitution are settled - though their future meaning remains up for grabs - what's a party to do but explore new territory whose compatibility with the original center has to be fought over, and sides drawn. A political identity can only exist in relation to another political identity in the fight over the center. To identify purely with the center is simply to put your faith in the God who both guarantees, and is presently absent from, the worldly centers.

A strong centrist can exist in many intellectual, cultural, and academic settings and is indeed to be encouraged there. What is more pathetic than, say, privileged conformist university professors playing at radical politics rather than helping their young charges intellectually by explaining and defending the basic constitution of the nation and the human?

But if politics is ultimately about the control of the (re)distributive functions of the center, i.e. the division of always limited material resources, then it is only those fully devoted to God, those who can devote themselves fully to signs, and not to things, who can be pure centrists. Strictly speaking, no one can be fully devoted to God and still survive, so we can only be somewhat more centrist than the next guy. At some point, everyone has to take some kind of political stand on the best method to redistribute resources.

The more intellectual/godly centrist might then conclude that a two-party system is best since it creates the dynamic that allows for two big tents debating and refining the terms of redistribution in a way that insures that politics can keep itself relatively close to the intent of the original religious/constitutional center. Others will argue that it is systems in which there are many parties and a need to govern through coalititions that keep politics closer to the center.

In any case, the goal should be to avoid one party taking over the system. In a one party state the party can claim to be centrist; but of course it cannot be because politics is always about defining yourself against another. And if you don't do this like true peers, i.e. admitting to each other the need for honest politics, if you instead become devoted to one-party totalitarianism you just end up defining yourself against all the scapegoated victims of the state; and the need to keep on doing this in order to renew your identity just makes you a party of violence.

The sacred center is, in the first place, the place of violence deferred. It must assert a constitutional/ritual order before it can become a site of violent sacrifice and attempts to renew the original deferral of violence through a homeopathic use of violence to limit further violence.

If we could live completely non-violently, we could be pure centrists, but we can't. We can only aspire to be the least violent possible. And we are the least violent by having the most open and free politics that, through honest trial and error, avoids extremism and finds the best compromises.

A determined centrist in politics is like a pacifist in war - he simply avoids the hard reality, even when his family is under attack. But a centrist in religion helps keep the peace until he must sadly acknowledge the inevitability of conflict and seek out, like a good Calvinist, the side that seems (pre)destined to prove its superior ability to re-establish the original peace. I.e., he chooses sides in a way that will prove he was all along predestined to be re-united with God. Is Roger Simon a Calvinist at heart?

flenser said...


"Yes but 70% also feel that people should be allowed to (legally)immigrate if they work, pay taxes, and learn the language."

I don't think thats true. Any cites?

Do you, for example, think that anyone in the world who wants to come to America should be allowed to, as long as they work and pay taxes and learn English?

If a billion people show up on the doorstep tomorrow you would be cool with it?

terrye said...


Yes I agree.

It is strange how this issue plays. My brother is a Michael Moore fan. The man hates Dick Cheney...but he also keeps count of the number of Catholic Churches being built in my hometown. Let's just say he is not that liberal when it comes to the Mexicans. But his best friend is from ElSalvador. Go figure.

I think a guest worker program could work if the borders were closed. As long as people can come and go as they like they will have no incentive to be in any kind of program.

This is one of those things that really started years ago. My grandparents used to go to Mexico on vacation like people go to Florida today. It was no big deal.

But those days are gone and now we are trying to close a very long border that has been open forever. I wonder how many people living in cities like El Paso have relatives across the border?

terrye said...


My sentiments exactly.

terrye said...


Perhaps the true function of the center is to keep every one from going too far.


flenser said...

Can anyone think of a country where guest worker programs have worked and been conducive to social harmony?

I think everyone understands quite well that a "guest worker" program in the US would be a fig leaf for an ammesty program. Once the "gueat workers" have lived here for a few years and have children (US citizens) then the pressure to naturalize them will be overwhelming.

Knucklehead said...


A "guest worker" program solves the problem of illegal immigration by legalising it.

Well, yeah. Or that portion of the illegal immigration problem that consists of people already here, now, today and for some amount of yesterdays.

One thing I've begun to realize about the "illegal immigration problem" is that it looks like different things to different people. For someone who lives right up close and personal to the Mexican border it looks like a very real problem of people trashing their property and, potentially, committing property and other crimes. It isn't some abstract economic or cultural issue it is a very real problem of people, often led by very real criminals, using their property to commit a crime.

To people who live in border states, but not necessarily directly impacted by the criminal activity of crossing the border, it is often an issue of tax cost. They are paying taxes out the whazoo because of their proximity to a national border the government seems to refuse to control and they aren't being reimbursed for the costs. Different problem but still painful.

In more interior areas the problems become more abstracted unless you lost your $14/hr job to someone who will do it for $10/hr.

I don't think that idea is going to fly..

Clearly it isn't going to fly. How keeping it parked safely on the ground is altering anything is beyond me. We either arrest, and presumably deport, them for the crime of being illegal, or we somehow devise an amnesty to convert them from illegal to legal under some list of conditions, or we continue to ignore the status and yell at one another.

The first of those options is not going to happen. I'll keep repeating it regardless of how tiresome it becomes. We are not going to run a multi-millions of people round up here in the good ol' USA. It ain't gonna happen. So that leaves the two other options. If we chose the second, which changes precisely nothing, then might consider toning down our rhetoric about it 'cause it sounds an awful lot like screaming at one another about the weather - we all complain but nobody does anything.

flenser said...


We either arrest, and presumably deport, them for the crime of being illegal, or we somehow devise an amnesty to convert them from illegal to legal under some list of conditions, or we continue to ignore the status and yell at one another.

Or, we crack down on employers and send some to jail for hiring illegals.

Once they stop hiring illegals, the illegals stop coming. Dry up the demand, and the supply will dry up also.

We are not going to run a multi-millions of people round up here in the good ol' USA. It ain't gonna happen.

I'm at a loss to know why not. I suspect that you would have a hard time constructing a solid argument to defend that point of view. But its not neccessary in any case.

truepeers said...

Perhaps the true function of the center is to keep every one from going too far.


-Terrye, are you perhaps suggesting I'm getting a little too theoretical?

Anyway, what you say must be true. But can we say what exactly is being balanced? To just say "left and right" is not really to explain why we have a center, why we need balance.

The center is something sacred that we have to reproduce, like in a religious or national ritual. But if we simply reproduced it in the same form every time, if we only had strict conformity, we'd have no history, no change, no freedom.

So I'd say, what we are balancing is on the one hand the need to maintain order according to inherited forms, and on the other hand the freedom that, if used wisely, might not mean going "too far" (i.e. nowhere good), but rather recognizing a space for leaders to rediscover the transcendent *effect* of the original sacred form.

We cannot just remember the original word of god, as if mindlessly saying it over and over would save us. We have to also rediscover, in our time, the effect of first discovering the word of god, the effect that brings together novelty, mystery, truth, and being in the moment. Great political leaders can help us do this because they create new conditions or scenes on which new transcendent truths can emerge. This is what Bush is hoping will happen in the Middle East.

So it is a question of the need to balance leadership and convention. If i have one great beef against today's left it is that they believe in neither leadership (in great individuals or nations taking the lead to discover new things and powers, and thus risking a new inequality or assymetry that the victim-obsessed left wish to avoid at any cost) nor in convention (conservative common sense). And so the left are in consequence nihilists. They love nothing.

So you see, I love the center but it doesn't stop me getting political.

Knucklehead said...


Or, we crack down on employers and send some to jail for hiring illegals.

First off, you are presuming that such a "crackdown" on employers of illegals would be even remotely possible.

There is no requirement that employers be documents experts. Large companies have the resources to run basic background checks of those they are about to employee but large companies are not the ones hiring legions of illegals. We might net the head of HR for a GE or IBM or GM or some Fortune 1000 company but that is pretty unlikely.

Small employers are the ones hiring illegals. And just like the clerk at the liqour store, their legal obligation begins and ends, pretty much, with a relatively cursory document check.

There is probably very little legal standing upon which to run such a crackdown. See a DL and SSN card and you're probably legally covered.

But presume large numbers of people whose small businesses and livelihoods are wrapped up in their businesses are not clever enough to take care of basic legal protections. What law enforcement agencies are going to run this crackdown?

The vast bulk of local law enforcement wants no part of consuming their resources doing the work of INS. How many people work for INS in some field investigative capacity? Are we going to send the FBI around to every little construction site and warehouse to arrest people for hiring somebody?

And how many employers will it take to put a dent in "illegal immigration"? 1,000, 2,000, 10,000? If they make 10,000 "employer arrests" and 5,000 of those are tossed out of court 'cause Joe's Hardwood Floor Refinishing can't legally be expected to know a fake ID from the front page of the NYT, how long you think it'll be before rousing cries of witchhunts and harrassment of ordinary citizens trying to make a living will echoing down the nation's Main Streets.

Do you really think this crackdown will maintain widespread public support as the numbers of ordinary Americans mounts asking questions like, "Whattaya mean the car wash is closed?", "Whattay mean my dishwasher can't be delivered for two weeks, you said 48 hours?", Whattaya mean you gutted my bathroom but now you're out of business?", "Whattaya mean I can't get...".

The immigration lobby, and defense lawyers, will fill the nation's airwaves with sob stories of bankrupted businesses and out of work Americans due to the crackdown on employers.

It'll be a ton o' fun watching Betty-Sue Girlnextdoor sobbing for the camera, three children crowded around, about how she's got no place to live and nothing to eat 'cause the gubmint done came and grabbed Bubba and tossed him in jail 'cause he was hiring illegals to work his fledgling little landscaping business. Oh yeah... "Well, me and Bubba, we worked so hard and it wasn't much but we just bought this little house - they foreclosed it last month - from Bubba's landscaping business. We just couldn't get anybody BUT Mexicans to work. It isn't like we didn't try but we just couldn't find anyone to work so hard and reliably for $8/hr. Any more than that and we'd a been back to just Bubba and his lawnmower."

Oh yeah, it'll be a great show. The American public wouldn't get behind busting bootleggers fercryinoutloud. Do you really think their gonna get behind, and stay behind, every Tom, Dick, and Harry who hires a carload of Mexicans? Nottachance.

Once they stop hiring illegals, the illegals stop coming. Dry up the demand, and the supply will dry up also.

They aren't freakin' commuting! There's millions of them here and they've been here. They rent houses and apartments and buy used cars. You gonna start busting people who rent them rooms and such? "Whattaya mean I ain't getting my rent 'cause your employer got arrested? I'll sue!" Uh-huh.

I'm at a loss to know why not. I suspect that you would have a hard time constructing a solid argument to defend that point of view. But its not neccessary in any case.

I do not need to construct an argument. We're talking about MILLIONS of people here. We can't just beam them out to wherever they came from. Rounding up one million people means you gotta send out 1,000 people to round up 1,000 people each. It means transport and holding pens and distrubution centers and busloads and trainloads and plane loads of people.

"Whattaya mean you need $60B to round up, process, shelter, feed, and transport illegals?" I can heart the NPR and CNN and CBS interviews with the inevitable mistakes grabbing some poor saps who were legal.

To borrow from Terrye, Puh-lease!

I don't need an argument. Read my lips; We - are - not - going - to - run - a - roundup - of - millions - of - people. It - ain't - gonna - happen.

markg8 said...

You make a very good case knucklehead. See you're a pretty good writer when you don't overthink it.

terrye said...


You know my Grandma hired a one armed Mexican named Raoul to do her yard work after my uncle died. This guy had a bunch of kids and he took care of all of them. He was so proud his oldest kid was going to go to college.

He lost his arm when he was a kid, working on some farm in the southwest somewhere.

I doubt very much if my Grandma had a clue as to whether that man was legal.

So to the list of folks we can arrest add old folks getting their yard work done.

Knucklehead said...


There will be no end of "You gotta be kidding me! That is NOT what we meant when we said we wanted the problem solved" stories. No end of them.

The pounding will be relentless. Three tear-jerker stories, two low-life capitalist pig used the Poh-leese to put his competitor out of business, one bumbling nazi bureaucrat abuse story, and last, but not least, one standoff with hostages story.

Can't you just see the little kiddies sobbing, "We don't know or care if he was illegal! He was the first soccer coach we ever had who knew how the game works!"

Front page on every daily and weekly publication for months on end. It would bail Kofi and the UN right outta their troubles. The international NGO human-rights mavens would be so thick and noisey it would look like a scene from Hitchock's The Birds. It would be astonishing.

I prefer we just wait for one of the EU countries to go bonkers on their immigrants and maybe give us a lil' aircover here before we attempt this one.

terrye said...


We might even have a new Civil Rights movement on our hands.

flenser said...

Geez, you people are gutless.

Boo hoo, the UN will say bad things about us!

flenser said...

Yes, thats what we need, civil rights for non-Americans.

Tell me you are not that stupid, please.

Knucklehead said...

Now Flenser...

Nobody is afraid of the UN. But running an 21st century Trail of Tears schtick on Mexican illegals will NOT sustain public support and when the UN and the rest of the world starts screaming they will have a point.

But it won't get that far because it cannot and will not happen.

But even suppose it did. Suppose for a moment we, as a nation, became and remained united about the idea of expelling 8 or 10 million illegal Mexican immigrants. Men, women, and children. Run the roundup, into the pens, onto the trains and planes and boats and buses.

Off to the border they go where they find, lo and behold, the Mexican Army closing THEIR border. "We don't want them, you can't prove they belong to us, and we can't afford them. Sorry about that, Uncle Sam, but they're in your yard, their your problem."

Now what?

Rick Ballard said...


Just on a practical basis, who fills the 20 mil jobs in a workforce of 128 mil with 7.5 mil unemployed the day after massive deportation is completed? What do you think the cost might be? What do you think the inflation rate might be two years afterwards?

Immigrants fill the demographic hole caused by the '73 decision fairly well. Without them we would be very close to a no growth situation wrt population. As far as I can tell the economic benefits derived illegal immigrants continue to exceed the costs that they cause to be incurred.

I would prefer some sort of regularization of status coupled with more stringent control on new entries.

markg8 said...

Yes imagine that inflation rate. $40 car washes. $100 to get your yard mowed. A doller per tomato in the winter time.
Most Americans would find out just how poor we really are if we have to go it alone.

Knucklehead said...


You might be on to something...

To get the nation onboard for el rastro de lágrimas we'll have to do some serious attitude adjustments and toughening up.

So when the work is done we can just turn to the nation's unemployed and say, "You said they were taking your jobs, well there are your jobs. Your last unemployment check will be dated the 15th."

It might just pay for itself that way.

markg8 said...

The people I would like to see winning the political game are those who are a little less involved, those who don't quite take the thing so seriously, those who realize that their own beliefs may be wrong after all and so they can show a little humor and a little disinterest and, most important of all, a little humanity toward the other side. And a little graciousness in losing.

I think you're describing the modern day Bob Hope, Al Franken.

truepeers said...

Has everyone stopped laughing now?

truepeers said...

Mark, the center has a sense of humour and irony but it is the kind of irony and humour that comes without a lust for power, without multimillion dollar salaries, and without an endless demonizing of the other side masking as the art of comedy. It comes from faith in the reality of the transcendent difference between words and things, and not from a cynical manipulation of culture for worldly ends. The rich and powerful, Rep. or Dem. are not funny unless they can forget their worldly lusts. If you want a good laugh, go find some Mexicans.