June 29, 2007

Only Half The Battle Has Been Won

My friend Mark Tapscott reviews a week in which he feels that conservatives won battles on several important fronts. He hails the end of the McCain-Kennedy immigration plan, Supreme Court decisions on race and political speech, and the end to the Fairness Doctrine movement in last night's vote in the House. While Mark is correct to celebrate these events, with one exception they do not really represent victories for conservative governance as much as reprieves from the alternatives:

Winston Churchill once remarked that God takes care of drunks and the United States of America and so it seems to be as we approach the end of a remarkable week in which milestones of success for the conservative movement have come one after another.

I must confess I didn't expect a week such as this. Between Bush's various expansions of Big Government, the GOP congressional majority throwing away of its position and the desperately blind opposition of the Washington Establishment to earmark and other common sense reforms, I was mulling a post asking if the time had come to declare the conservative enterprise a failure.

Yet, we have just been blessed with three signal victories.

I've learned two lessons in life that help keep me sane. Events are rarely as bad as they seem, nor are they as good as they look. Had Mark written that column on the death of the conservative movement, I would have advised him with the former -- and now I'll have to invoke the latter instead.

While all of these events rightly please conservatives, we have to be congnizant that we haven't really won any battles for conservatism in them. All of them amount to little more than significant holding actions against statist policies. None of them represent a victory for conservative policies, because conservative policies haven't been applied in most of the cases.

This is most true for immigration. Before the bill's defeat, we had a bipartisan effort to ignore the border and visa system. The bill's failure acts to extend that. That's not a victory for conservatism. Conservatives will win when they force the federal government to secure the borders and fix the broken visa system. In other words, we haven't enacted any policy at all at this point; how can that be victory?

The two Supreme Court decisions also fall into this same status. The BCRA remains in force, along with at least some of the restrictions on political speech. Racial preferences may have suffered a body blow, but we still have not succeeded in pushing market-based solutions to resolve the vestiges of the government failures to enforce the 14th Amendment for 100 years. I agree that these represent opportunities for conservative action to implement positive policies and solutions, but that's all they represent -- opportunities, not victories in and of themselves.

The single exception was the Pence amendment barring implementation of a new Fairness Doctrine by the FCC. That represented a legislative success against statism and the curtailing of free speech It's a victory for conservative policy, not just a barricade to leftist overreach, although it was that, too. It used the representative process to show that conservatism is the best defense of personal liberty -- and when properly introduced, has a wide range of support. Over 110 Democrats voted for the Pence amendment.

We need to focus on real victory, which comes when conservative policies get adopted and succeed. If we want to celebrate the Supreme Court decision striking racial preferences, we should do so by introducing policies that positively counter the remaining effects of official government racism. If we celebrate the demise of the immigration bill, we need to ensure that we do something to secure the borders and fix the visa system.

We had a good week, but it's way too early to pop the champagne corks.

UPDATE: Another good friend in the blogosphere, Bruce Kesler, tries to bridge the gap:

Mark is correct to point at the Internet as an embodiment of that civic discussion, serving to remind otherwise imperious legislators. Ed is correct to bemoan the extent of intrusion into our daily affairs by such legislators and seek their reversal.

Mark and Ed are invaluable resources in those struggles. Both, however, miss that it is process that matters more than results. Rich Lowry, of National Review, reminds us that, “Now, there is really no such thing as an "inside game" anymore, since bloggers make sure it gets "outside." Both the right and the left will take advantage of this, for good and ill policy ends. But it's clearly an enhancement of democracy.”

I don't think process matters more than results; I think both are important, but in order to truly see conservatism ascendant, we have to produce positive results with the process. Otherwise, we have New Math, which as Tom Lehrer delightfully skewers in his song of the same name, getting the right answer matters less than understanding the process. Here's the Professor at his mathematical best, animated and lip-synched brilliantly by RonfarZ3 and Benjamin Z W at YouTube:

Here's another by Phasmidan which is pretty clever as well:


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Comments (20)

Posted by Nessus | June 29, 2007 8:41 AM

Let's all take a step back and reflect on what was happening....

So-called "comprehensive immigration reform" is nothing but Wash DC double-speak for amnesty, increased "guest worker" programs combined with a tiny increase in enforcement to pacify the American public.

Mainly two groups wanted it: 1) business who wanted to secure a never ending supply of cheap, compliant labor and 2) Latino ethnic lobby.

The Democrats wanted to because they know most immigrants when they become citizens, vote Democratic. Republicans wanted it in order to satisfy their business backers, who contribute lots of cash to republican candidates/office holders.

A clear and large majority of the American people opposed not only the Senate's bill but also the mass immigration they (we) are living under. The public knew in it's belly that there is a push to depress wages and also a sort of push towards the "Mexican-ization" of the USA. The public strongly disagreed with both efforts. The average American can see with his/her own eyes Spanish language being pushed everywhere, even though almost 90% of the public opposes bilingualism.

Even a small majority of Americans now favor reducing legal immigration, a kind of immigration "time-out" for a period of ten years or so, which is consistent with US immigration history. Only the ethnic hustlers and the slave-traders who want their brown-skinned underclass to work 18 hours a day oppose such a common sense "time-out". US immigration policy should not be set in Mexico City.

The elite (big media/pundits, business slave-traders, "trans-nationals") got a wake-up call. Today with the internet and talk radio, the public is much more aware of what goes on in DC. We don't need tens of millions of grade-school educated peasants who are not interested in assimilating; we need technological innovation - engineering and manufacturing, else our nation will weaken (already is).

We ask our young men and women to fight and die.......for what? To "welcome" the hoped for 30, 40, 50 million peasants to feed the restaurant, hotel, leaf-blowing industries? Most illegals ARE NOT picking crops, besides, more and more of our fruits and vegetables are being imported, which only proves that most illegals are not working in agriculture. They're brought into construction, restaurants, etc. to depress wages.

We are a nation; not just an economic "region".

Posted by Sue | June 29, 2007 8:55 AM

Amen Captain. This is only a beginning. There will be bloody fights every inch of the way against a group of tinfoil hatted leftist loons that want America the way they want regardless of anyone else's wants. America was and is an experiment on the planet Earth to see if sufficient "human beings" exist here and just what we can do with a piece of Earth. We are not perfect as a country nor probably ever will be, but we have been a beacon of hope and an example of the fruition of humans' dreams in large measure. This started to change when the socialists got into the bureaucracy of this government, academia and the main street media. Can we survive? Time and the determination of Americans from all walks of life, politics, race and religion will tell. I hope and pray for success because of my grandchildren.

Posted by The Yell | June 29, 2007 9:18 AM

I think you've been under the spell of the Clintonians too long. It's not about enacting the ripe fruit of focus groups and polls; government by trial balloon.

It's about uniting around a principle and rallying the citizens around a principle and refusing to surrender that principle for a "sure-fire" compromise, in the name of that principle, and ending with the opposition crying out for terms. Ted Kennedy's exasperated moan "what DO they want?" was like winter sunshine.

That's how it's done: at the end of the day, at the weekend, you've got another week or month or year of toil to hammer down policy. But that's supposed to be the point: a TERM of government, two years, four years, six years. There's not supposed to be a point where Congress or the President has nothing to do after noon.

Posted by LuckyBogey | June 29, 2007 9:23 AM

Capt Ed: Your commentary is excellent. Should be required reading for all Americans! Let's turn this ship around NOW and never stop fighting for what we believe in. Will we run into troubled waters? Yes, however we must continue straight into the wind until we are sailing downwind. We need Fred T. to assume command immediately and his crew will follow!

Please send a copy to McCain and Lindsay! Thank you Captain!

Posted by Labamigo | June 29, 2007 9:25 AM

Posted by: Nessus at June 29, 2007 8:41 AM


Extremely well said.

Posted by Roy E | June 29, 2007 9:46 AM

The article is spot on. Mounting a successful defense is a very good thing, but when all is said and done, it represents no net gain.

The activism that stopped this bad bill must be carried forward to effect meaningful reform.

Posted by Tom | June 29, 2007 10:02 AM

Well done. We're definitely far from finished, but what happened yesterday was significant. The Republican leadership in both houses received a very loud wake up call. This should lead to a changing of the guard. McConnell, Lott, Kyl, McCain, Graham, Specter, have to go. Demint, Sesssions, Inhofe, Coburn, Corker, should continue to make waves. Then we might effect real conservative change. And last but not least, the activist Americans who refused to be pushed to accept a loss of sovereignty, which would have resulted from the passage 0f S. 1639, must continue to pay attention to the Beltway hacks.

Posted by Lightwave | June 29, 2007 10:24 AM

The good news here is as Ed said, the door is now open for dealing with a host of issues. In fact, this entire term for the Supreme Court has seen doors opened for challenges to be made to a number of badly outdated and flat out wrongheaded laws.

The end of abortion, racial preferences as a tool to solve discrimination, economic policies from the 19th century, and limits on free political speech are within sight, but much more work needs to be done.

Much, much more work. By the way, it was the Roberts court that made this possible. When I say that it matters who controls Congress, this is exactly why it does matter.

Posted by Marty | June 29, 2007 10:27 AM

You are correct. We won a battle, not the war. The battle we won was a defensive action not an offensive action and it seems that this self organizing army of conservatives is effective on the defense.

Now, how do we switch over the the offensive?

Posted by philw | June 29, 2007 11:01 AM

On the offensive, faux Republicans like my Senator Gregg of NH need to be replaced. These type of Republicans waffled on immigration, failed to extend the capital gains cuts and failed to get federal judges nominated. I am actively campainging against Gregg as of yesterday morning.

Posted by Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) | June 29, 2007 11:35 AM

FWIW, I speak Spanish with near-native fluency, have worked extensively in Mexico, and live near a town with 20% Mexican population.

Stepping back to a somewhat bigger picture, I need to say that emigration from Mexico is a hugely important safety valve, and will remain so for another decade or so. The most mild alternative is a pro-Chavez PRD government, and the options get worse from there.

Another important function of Mexican immigrants to the US is that some tens of billions of dollars per year are remitted directly to the Mexican people, bypassing the incredibly corrupt political and economic infrastructure.

Finally, we cannot overlook the "rite of passage" aspect of illegal entry to the US. 'Mojarse' (to 'wetback oneself') greatly improves one's marriageability back in Mexico -- it proves daring, creativity, motivation, and smarts. I personally know 'chabos' who've snuck into the State on at least five occasions.

All that said, we must

a) STOP illegal immigration from Mexico
b) greatly facilitate the legal immigration process.

We absolutely MUST maintain the safety valve and the corruption-bypass on remittances to Mexico.

Defeat of the idiotic and elitist immigration bill in the Senate is a start. Securing our southern border, however, must find a means of providing a legal basis for the social functions of emigration from Mexico.

Posted by Ron | June 29, 2007 11:53 AM

"...we need to ensure that we do something to secure the borders..."

To use a phrase similar to that echoed by my hero, Ronald Reagan:


Posted by RKV | June 29, 2007 12:28 PM

We absolutely MUST NOT maintain the safety valve and the corruption-bypass on remittances to Mexico.

It is not at all in our national self interest to maintain the current state of affairs. The best for us is to seal the border and let what happens in Mexico happen. Mexico will never improve as long as we enable the Mexican government's corruption by being their "safety-valve."

I myself have traveled in Mexico and have fair fluency in Spanish. Mexico is a big rich country with lots of hard working people. It can and should stand on its own hind legs. If that takes another bloody revolution so be it. They can handle it and we will all be better for the result.

Posted by Trudger | June 29, 2007 12:55 PM

Why do I get the feeling that the elitists in Congress are not going to fund the construction of the wall they approved last year?

They'll show us!

Posted by Philip | June 29, 2007 1:19 PM

How much of the fence got built today?

You know America managed to build the National Highway System which is approximately 160,000 miles of roadway "important to the nation's economy, defense, and mobility." (I like that "defense" bit!) www.fhwa.dot.gov/hep10/nhs

How hard can a 2,000 mile fence be?

A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll indicated the American people favor a proposal to build a 2,000-mile security fence by a 51-to-37 percent margin. http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/systems/mexico-wall.htm

How long until they start?

Congress people are coming home from Washington for 4th of July - why don't we ask them?

Posted by NoDonkey | June 29, 2007 1:48 PM

How about a fence around Congress?

Keep them caged there until they get the border fence completed. Let them go to the mattresses.

We'd at least see some action, finally.

Posted by roc ingersol | June 29, 2007 2:44 PM

Expectng the Senate to comply 100% to the fickle will of the people was not the intention of our founders for good reason. Luckily the people were correct this time. I am happy that this bill was defeated but I rather that it had not been as a result of voter pressure. The House was created to represent the direct voice of their constituency , not the Senate.

Posted by Drew | June 29, 2007 2:51 PM

Capt. Ed:
It is worth repeating:

The price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance.

Also, it is not enough to respond to the offenses of the Left, we must always be on the offensive so that the expanse of Freedom ever increases.

Posted by Francis | June 29, 2007 3:12 PM

...We absolutely MUST maintain the safety valve and the corruption-bypass on remittances to Mexico. ...

quoted from Bart Hall above.

I'm sorry Bart, but I don't believe we MUST keep the social safety valve open for Mexico's sake. Why does America need to solve Mexico's problems?

Maybe if the daring, brave Mexicans worked harder on fixing their corrupt government instead of risking life and limb to blow my neighbors leaves around, Mexico could fix its' own problems? Seriously, I'm tired of America being responsible for everyone else's problems.

Maybe if the corrupt 40 families (or whatever 3% control 90% of the country) were strung up by the 15+ MILLION angry young men up here Mexico could join the 2nd world in a few years, and in a generation or two be a 1st world country? Seriously, I respect the work ethic of the Mexicans who come here (2nd generation is another discussion), but I'm not willing to fix Mexico.

I don't want guest workers or illegals as my neighbors; I want citizens who value this country, and have all the same rights and duties that I do. I don't care if they're black, Latino, Asian, or whatever. But they do need to want to be Americans first. And they should value the same things I do, have share a common language and set of values.

I think America can do better than turning a blind eye to the vast majority of exploited Mexicans, just because we want cheap labor. It hurts my fellow citizens, and it cheapens us and dilutes what it means to be an American.

We're better than exploiting others. We fought a bloody civil war to stop slavery. Now we have slaves bought for 7 dollars an hour. I'll bet the old plantation owners would have thought it a bargain to get labor so cheap...

Posted by Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) | June 29, 2007 9:29 PM

Unless you wish to deal retro-actively with a Hard Left revolution in Mexico, accompanied by a refugee problem dwarfing anything we've ever seen by way of immigration ... we had better find some way to maintain the social and financial safety valves.

Do you want a "people's" revolution whose very first steps will be to open the doors to Iran, Hezbollah, and China? Look at FARC in Colombia. Now imagine FARC running Mexico.

For various reasons immigration from Mexico is a good thing. ILLEGAL immigration is not, and should be stopped.

Don't confuse the two, or you'll quite likely be looking back wistfully towards the time when our biggest Mexico problem was the chabos making a run for it across the Sonoran desert.