I would like to talk about this article, with which I have many agreements, and to see if I can "tweak" Shapiro's views, particularly on the issue of nationalism. The result, I would say, will be very similar to what Shapiro says, but a little bit different.
To begin with, Shapiro is importantly right (and I'll probably say this more than once in this post) that conservatives need to recognize and reject the despicable, self-styled "right," whether it goes under the name of the alt-right, the racialist right, or any other title. These groups have been growing on the Internet and the Dump candidacy has brought them out of the woodwork. We should, quite simply, have no truck with them whatsoever and condemn them repeatedly. Why? Well, certainly not to ingratiate ourselves with the left, which will never work anyway. No, for the sake of our own clarity of mind and that of any with whom we have influence.
To my mind this is all the more important for someone who has ever written anything politically incorrect on an issue such as race or immigration. I was calling for a ban on Muslim immigration years before anyone ever thought that D.T. would be a candidate for the presidency, of all things. It's an idea that deserves a much better, more careful advocate. I argued for it in a series of posts co-written with my then-co-blogger, Jeff Culbreath. Mine are here and here. I am also generally an immigration hawk. In general, I think there's just too much immigration going on from all locations and that this is causing all kinds of problems. In Europe, the mass influx of Syrian "refugees" has been an unmitigated disaster. The reports of crime, cities taken over, medical systems overloaded, unspeakably bad behavior by immigrant gangs, and the like, all utterly predictable, should make all the bleeding heart Christians who chided the so-called "xenophobes" repent in dust and ashes and apologize personally to the German women who can't walk in safety on their own streets.
So given that some of my ideas resemble some of theirs, I have all the more reason to make it excessively clear that I loathe the self-consciously racist, often anti-semitic, ideology of the following that has erupted around D.T. And I've suffered from it right here at Extra Thoughts, having to change my comment policy to block vile comments.
Interestingly, I think that Shapiro's comments could actually sustain a fairly hawkish immigration policy. For example, Shapiro seems to endorse the propositions
that Muslim refugees to the United States must be treated with more care than non-Muslim refugees thanks to the influence of radical Islam, for example, or that illegal immigration brings with it elevated levels of criminality.
I would quibble that "radical Islam" isn't really so radical but is basically just Islam and also that legal immigration sometimes also brings with it elevated levels of criminality. But the point is that Shapiro and I could no doubt work out together a set of principles that would place a lot more limitations on immigration, including Muslim immigration, than the moderates would ever be comfortable with, and vastly more than we have right now.
Shapiro also says, "It’s one thing to object to an influx of people who disagree with basic constitutional values."
Right, well, look at the ways in which Muslim enclaves behave and their treatment of, say, Christian missionaries, and you will find out quickly that those who want to set up such enclaves disagree with basic constitutional values.
I think, too, that it would be possible to get Shapiro to recognize the importance of negative cultural values--forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child marriage, honor killings, and the like. Other cultural communities may take bribery and cheating for granted--"values" they have brought to the U.S. from their own countries.
Once we start taking such cultural values into account, there is no doubt that immigration policy would become "discriminatory" and would have "disparate impact" upon groups of various national origins. That is not racial per se--indeed, a careful immigration policy might rationally prefer an African Christian from Mombasa over a light-skinned Bosnian (think of the Tsarnaev brothers). But there is no doubt that taking cultural background into account would end up having ethnic implications in the broad sense of "ethnic."
Again, I would like to think that Shapiro's interest in the "content of our character" would lead him to recognize that possibility without flinching.
But there is one place where I think what he says does need to be tweaked.
According to Trump, we ought to operate off of the assumption that Americans deserve better lives not because they live out better principles or represent a better system, but because they’re here.Setting aside the question of whether that candidate actually has any worked-out opinion or principle on any subject whatever, including that one, I would submit the following proposition for Shapiro's consideration:
It is legitimate for the American government and American employers to have special concern and loyalty toward American citizens over the citizens of other countries.
This seems like a very mild version of the principle. Suppose that you are an American employer and can hire an American worker who can do the job that you need done, and do it well, for a wage you can easily afford. Is it legitimate for you to have some preference, any at all, for that arrangement as opposed to hiring a non-American from abroad, bringing him here, and giving him the job? To put the matter no higher, it is a good deal more efficient for everyone involved to hire the person who is already here. It can also increase community cohesion by keeping people who already live here employed rather than leaving them to become a burden on the surrounding community. And, if your business is located in America, you have a stake in having stable, law-abiding, employed communities surrounding your businesses.
Or consider governments. It doesn't seem like a terribly radical form of nationalism to say something like this:
The government of the State of Michigan has more of a duty to consider the well-being of an unemployed former auto worker in Detroit than of a Syrian in a refugee camp in Greece.Having a strong libertarian streak in me, I'm inclined to think that the attention of government is more often a curse than a blessing, but it is possible to think of some concrete circumstances to which this principle might apply. For example, it would seem to follow from this principle that the State of Michigan should be quicker to spend its scarce tax dollars to retrain the former auto worker than to relocate the Syrian refugee to the United States!
When it comes to employment policy, all of this gets very murky. What if the American would-be employee is entitlement-minded and demanding while the would-be (but legal) foreign employee is well-mannered and willing to take a lower (but still legal) wage? All else is rarely equal, and I am not advocating the mindless idea that any employer who prefers to hire a hard-working, mannerly Mexican over a mouthy, difficult American citizen is automatically a greedy, exploitative capitalist. I also tend to think (which makes the Buchananites foam at the mouth) that American unions are to blame for a lot of American unemployment and that carrots are better than sticks at bringing jobs back to America. What if government rewarded employers for certifiably employing American workers rather than punishing (with tariffs, etc.,) those who flee over-regulation for off-shore manufacturing? What about bringing American jobs back by weakening the power of unions and the NRLB?
So I'm by no means a rah-rah America Firster. But at the same time, I'm concerned that one could extrapolate Shapiro's remarks to the conclusion that it is inherently wrong for American government to give any special consideration to American citizens' problems or for American employers to give any preference whatsoever to American workers "just because they are here." This seems extreme and incorrect. Not to mention impractical. In the very nature of the case, American government exists for the purpose of governing Americans and worrying about American problems, not for the purpose of making more and more people into Americans by way of immigration. And some degree of preference for American workers by American employers seems to be a laudable form of loyalty to one's own community, not a blameworthy xenophobia. Again, if one brings in large numbers of foreign workers and leaves unemployed the workers that live right around one's own factory, who would otherwise be suitable for employment there, isn't this a recipe for civil unrest and dependency within the community?
It's worth noting that both the nasty right and the racially hypersensitive left often confuse any sort of "just because they are here" nationalism (if "nationalism" is the word) with racism. The former embrace it and the latter deplore it, but both are wrong. Black, low-skilled American workers have been disproportionately harmed by high levels of Mexican immigration, both legal and illegal. The almost intractable problems of the black community are, for good or ill, our American problems in a way that the problems of Syrians fleeing from ISIS or Mexicans wanting a better life are not. The hypothetical unemployed auto worker in the example above about the government of Michigan could easily be much darker-skinned than the immigrant in the same hypothetical example. In an already multiracial society like America's, the idea of loyalty to Americans qua Americans is hardly inherently racial.
It would be fun to have the opportunity to talk with Ben Shapiro about these proposed tweaks. He seems like a reasonable guy. I think we could have a profitable conversation. Though honestly, if I had the great privilege to meet Ben Shapiro, there are probably a lot of other things I'd rather talk about instead, like the various ways in which America is going to hell, the transgender agenda, and my great admiration for his courage in confronting all of this.
Meanwhile, the imperative remains in place to reject completely what the "alt-right" stands for, the darkness that was already in existence but that has been brought to national attention by the D.T. candidacy. I will not say that we on the right need to "own" the nasties who identify as "right." We don't own them. Many of us didn't even know they existed until five minutes ago! But I do say that now that we know they do exist, we must take them into account. We can't go back to saying, "Nobody thinks that. Nobody is saying that," as perhaps we would have ten years ago. Or saying, "Only the loony fringe, whom nobody listens to, is actually racist." The loony fringe is growing all the time, and too many people are listening. No longer can we leave the loony fringe out of our own calculations or accuse the left of manufacturing them as a bogeyman when, in fact, the left is pointing to a phenomenon that is sadly all too real. And if we do say something (as I myself sometimes do) that happens to agree with some of the ideas that the loony fringe also promotes (e.g., that Muslim immigration is a bad idea or that there are serious cultural pathologies in the black community), we must be especially careful to stiff-arm them as fellow travelers.
Some fellow travelers I'm happy to do without.