James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, June 04, 2007

Neocons v. Populists

The Republican rank-and-file are not giving to the Republican National Committee like they used to. What's different? Bush isn't any more incompetent in 2007 than he was in 2006 or 2005. The War in Iraq hasn't gotten so much worse. The difference is that immigration has become the central issue in American politics.

George Bush and the neoconservative philosophy as espoused in places like the Wall Street Journal editorial page are ideologues, and a border-free America is one of their principles. But the Republican grassroots is more populist, and more inclined to believe that securing the borders, enforcing immigration laws, and denying amnesty to illegal immigrants is in the best interest of the American people and for the United States as a country.

The neocons could get the the populist grassroots to support the war in Iraq by framing it as a front in the War on Terror, and by creating the perception that there is a civilizational struggle between Judeo-Christianity and Islam. That (plus a few social-moral issues necons couldn't care less about) kept enough people in the Republican camp for Bush to get elected in 2004.

But the neocons have trouble fusioning their vision with populist interests on the issue of immigration. First, if Bush is so great at "protecting America," why doesn't he secure the border? Can't terrorists just walk right through? Second, populists aren't concerned about "the market," and growing the economy by a couple of decimal points. To neoconservatives, the United States is a "propositional nation," a body of "ideas" that involve allegiance to corporate capitalism, globalization, and perpetual overseas military interventions. To populists, however, the United States is a real place, i.e., their home. They believe unchecked illegal immigration is going to transform their country and their own communities for the worse, and in many places they are convinced this is happening already.

But as the Democratic Party's leadership also promotes the open-borders agenda (and globalization, and overseas interventions), there aren't many places for populists to go.

Makes one wonder whether a Ross Perot or Pat Buchanan-type will enter the Presidential race.

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