A rambling post about immigration and the Republican mind

"What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult." -- Sigmund Freud

I pulled that quotation from a web page of Freud quotes, so I don't really know whether Freud actually said it or what else he had to say on the subject. It seems to me, though, that one reason kids seem so smart is that their motivations are easy to see. The working of the unconscious may not make you stupid, but it can sure make you seem stupid.

Which brings me to our country's fantastical debate about the, ahem, problem of immigration. Over at TAPPED, Ezra Klein made an interesting observation earlier today:
In that way, Mexicans, along with terrorists, are to this decade what blacks were to the last -- a blank canvas on which to paint our fears of The Other. Terrorists, lawless immigrants -- it's all the same. When Rep. Patrick McHenry says "the simple truth is that is that if you break the law to come to this country, you will not respect it once you're here," he's not concerned about visa issues, but violent crime. They’re evil bad men who would do us harm, and who've proven it by subverting our desire for order and control at our own state lines. That the linkage doesn't make sense doesn't much matter, just as sucking up massive quantities of data won't make us safer. It's about feeling safer, believing we're in control. |Ezra Klein|

There's nothing there that I disagree with, but I would add that the psychic utility of the immigrant as other isn't limited to service as a dumping ground for our fears of violence and chaos.

Consider that one of the great contradictions afflicting the typical Republican psyche is the fact that the individual has thrown in his lot with a political party committed to policies which undermine his economic self-interest. This is a situation which cries out for scapegoats and, Tom Frank notwithstanding, that's a role that need not be limited to godless gays and their Democratic fellow travelers. Mexicans, it seems, will do as well.

For example:
Dear Jorge plans to address the nation tonight, a speech wherein he will almost surely attempt to deceive citizens into believing that he does not wish the mass migration from Mexico to continue unabated. He will likely offer some negligible resources for law enforcement and border security – resources which will never materialize – in return for an amnesty program that will grant American citizenship to the Mexican nationals who have helped lower America's wage rates by 16 percent over the last 32 years. |Vox Day|

Playing the culture war card invites the prospective Republican voter to weigh his economic self-interest against his cultural preferences. The GOP has been winning that gamble, but it's a dangerous game for a party that's ideologically committed to the free market. Better by far to find one's scapegoats in the economic realm.

A final point. Whenever lefties start talking about the unconscious motivations driving the Republican masses there's a tendency to move from the premise that there are such motivations to the conclusion that the masses are being pulled back and forth by some nefarious GOP puppet master. One of the striking things about the current situation, though, is that the nativist paroxysms of the Republican base are pretty clearly out of the control of the party's brain trust.

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