It seems a lot of normal Republican primary voters, ranging from the hard core to the merely moderate, have lost faith in Rick Perry. He has blown it chiefly through his lack of preparation for the primary debates and his complete tone deafness on immigration. Specifically, his remark that it would be “heartless” to deprive illegal aliens living in Texas from the benefits of in-state tuition pissed nearly everyone off. Not only is his position wrong, but like George W. Bush, he has the annoying habit of implying bad faith and racism among his opponents. No one likes that.
I want every illegal alien in this country deported, and that’s not heartless, but rather an acknowledgment that our laws need to be enforced. No injustice is inflicted upon anyone here against the law by sending them back to their home countries. And the complaint that their native-born kids will be hurt is made highly selectively. Families are separated all the time for their parents’ lawbreaking. Immigration lawbreakers shouldn’t be given any special benefits in this regard. Worst case scenario, the whole family moves to Mexico . . . a place, recall, where Americans frequently go on vacation.
Was Perry asleep in 2005 when the amnesty battle was waged by President Bush? Apparently. Or, more accurately, he was stuck in the Texas bubble, the power of which cannot be underestimated. Texas’ elites are made up chiefly of native Texans or highly assimilated newcomers. Texans go to college in Texas, work in Texas, and can’t see too many reasons to leave Texas.
Texans also have, in recent years, white washed their own history–one of white Americans, uncomfortable with Mexican culture and government who decided to revolt–into a happy multicultural story of multiracial resistance to tyranny. I know this because I lived there for six years and found, while I am very conservative and like a lot about Texas, it’s odd combination of Southern country-club exclusiveness, self-satisfaction, and parochialism was a little much to bear.*
Texas is a genial, wealthy, successful, and mostly capitalist state. It also has a long history of white coexistence with highly assimilated Mexicans. Starting 15 years or so ago, the state became completely inundated with Mexican coolie laborers. But the leadership of Texas–mostly white and Republican–doesn’t mind this for a number of reasons. For starters, a great many rich Texans aspire not to work but to play. They have gotten rich by having land in the right part of the ugly-as-sin Permian Basin. And these folks, not much liking hard work, have a very patrician attitude about Mexicans. They can’t think of this demographic without thinking of their loyal and hardworking servants. They believe just a little magnanimity will make them all successful, assimilated, and inclined to vote Republican. The Mexicans’ native political traditions and liberal-leaning domestic politics are completely ignored.
Second, Texas’ mostly white middle class, like the white middle class nationwide, is also finding manual laborer increasingly distasteful, so they are happy to have armies of Mexicans to mow their lawns, clean their homes, etc. Since these workers are illegal, they don’t make too much of a fuss and don’t qualify for a great number of social welfare programs. It’s not uncommon to hear Mexicans compared favorably to blacks, who are considered more dysfunctional and less hardworking as a group. Of course, the false dilemma ignores that Mexicans in America have higher social problems across the board, as represented by their epicenters in the Rio Grande Valley or East LA.
Finally, because of the higher rates of assimilation of earlier generations of Texans of Mexican descent, particularly in El Paso and San Antonio, the leadership is sanguine about the prospects of assimilating the latest batch. Facts don’t count. While there are some signs of unease among the working class and even assimilated Hispanics, these people are not part of the power structure of the place. Plus, money coming out of the ground, as it does in Texas, tends to make everyone happy enough with their lot.
Perry has imbibed this cultural view. And he has not paid attention to the fact that Bush’s assimilation fight led to mass revolt by rank-and-file Republicans. Indeed, like Bush, Perry was probably surprised to see Hariett Miers opposed so vociferously after Bush nominated her to the Supreme Court. That’s how things are done in Texas; you wait your turn, and you’re rewarded. It’s old school WASP conformity and consensus building, coupled with cowboy boots. So you don’t make too much of a fuss about Mexicans or affirmative action or anything else “too controversial.” Being liberal on immigration is fairly common among Texas elites, partly because it allows them to feel inoculated against the charge of racism that has haunted the entire South. Further, a certain view of Mexicans is also a way for them to accentuate their distinctive Texan identity, which activity is extremely important to pretty much everyone you meet in Texas.
Perry does not distinguish illegals and other aliens from American citizens. If they live in Texas and are not completely anti-social, he views them with fatherly compassion. The displacement of blue collar native workers is not a terrible concern to him; in his eyes, like most upwardly mobile and urban Texans, it was an aspiration from early in life to work in an office (with air conditioning!) doing something respectable. Going out to the “ranch” on the weekends is enough to keep his manly street cred intact. So he presumes all people in Texas are happy to play farmer on the weekend, shooting guns and “removing brush,” while working in an office somewhere and living in the city. Illegals are there to do the real dirty work. Presumably, they’ll have the same aspirations, and thus a constant flood of new illegals must be brought in to do manual labor in what is a Ponzi Scheme of sorts.
Indeed, Perry’s Texas miracle is not such a miracle if you consider that many of its beneficiaries are illegal aliens and other non-Americans. The following statistics from the CIR report on the proportion of Texas jobs going to illegal aliens is not too surprising; the demographics have literally changed by an order of magnitude in the last ten years and have put serious strains on the jails, schools, hospitals, and other resources of the entire state:
* Of jobs created in Texas since 2007, 81 percent were taken by newly arrived immigrant workers (legal and illegal).
* In terms of numbers, between the second quarter of 2007, right before the recession began, and the second quarter of 2011, total employment in Texas increased by 279,000. Of this, 225,000 jobs went to immigrants (legal and illegal) who arrived in the United States in 2007 or later.
* Of newly arrived immigrants who took a job in Texas, 93 percent were not U.S. citizens. Thus government data show that more than three-fourths of net job growth in Texas were taken by newly arrived non-citizens (legal and illegal).
* The large share of job growth that went to immigrants is surprising because the native-born accounted for 69 percent of the growth in Texas working-age population (16 to 65). Thus, even though natives made up most of the growth in potential workers, most of the job growth went to immigrants.
One George W. Bush was enough. The last thing we need now with our culture and economy in shambles is a half-educated and inexperienced Texas governor, indifferent to the plight of the native working class, cocooned in a state somewhat uniquely blessed with natural resources, whose foreign policy instincts have been honed from a lifetime of following college football more closely than current events.