July 11, 2006

Moderate Republicans this week have mounted an impressive campaign to counter efforts by immigration restrictionists seeking an enforcement-only immigration bill.  Yesterday, a group of thirty-three influential Republicans, including such names as Jack Kemp, George Schultz, Steve Forbes, Grover Norquist, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Ed Gilliespie, and J.C. Watts, published an open letter supporting a comprehensive approach immigration reform.  The letter was accompanied by an editorial in the Wall Street Journal reminding conservatives that the free-market philosophy supports rather than opposes immigration and that calls to regulate or protect wages sound like a liberal position coming from the Democratically-entrenched AFL-CIO.  Interestingly enough, immigration has exposed serious division and contradiction in the Republican party.  A growing philosophical rift between what I would call the “old” Republican focused on an economic/political philosophy and the “new” Republican focused on a social/cultural philosophy was voiced by the spokesman of the anti-immigrant movement, Tom Tancredo (R-CO), in response to the open letter described above:  “They don’t speak for conservatives. The future that these people see for America and the world is completely different than the one I see and hope for.”  What I hear Tancredo saying is that conservatives are now to be judged not on whether they support free market economies or limited governments, but whether they support immigration restrictions, gay marriage restrictions, flag-burning restrictions, and abortion restrictions–all measures taken up by the Republican congress during the last few months.  Tancredo’s narrow vision for America’s future would destroy the American dream, transforming our collective spirit from “I can” to “You can’t”–something that “old” conservatives finally seem to be recognizing and speaking out against.