Beinart points out that all the Dems need do to be full Dobbsians is to embrace Dobbs’s very strong stand (”Dobbs is downright obsessive about the issue,” says Beinart) against illegal immigration.  He then produces some signs that the Dems are, in fact, doing this:

“Democratic challengers are staking out immigration positions to Bush’s right.  And Democratic incumbents are doing the same thing.  …In the Senate, a large majority of Democrats just voted to build a fence along the Mexican border. …  Many liberals would like to pick and choose their anti-globalization politics — arguing for more regulation of international trade and investment, but resisting punitive measures to regulate the flow of international labor.  Morally, that’s perfectly defensible.  But politically, it is likely to fail…..”

[Derb] Immigration enforcement is the golden amulet for the Dems.  If they pick that up and run with it, Republicans could be out of power for a generation.  You think Democrats don’t know this?  Plenty know it, and the rest will catch on.

[Amongst other things, this disposes of Stanley Kurtz’s argument for voting Republican in the midterms—that only by doing so can we be sure of good immigration-law enforcement.  A better strategy for those of us who care about the National Question would be to (a) send a copy of Peter Beinart’s article to evey Democrat we know, and (b) stay home Election Day.] ~John Derbyshire

The main worry that many conservatives have had about the GOP loss of the House has been the prospect of amnesty passing in Congress once the major obstacle to that amnesty was gone.  This is a real worry, because such an amnesty would be such a huge and potentially irreversible disaster should it actually pass and be signed into law.  In the midst of my singing, “Ding dong the witch is dead,” with respect to the impending GOP defeat (let us hope), some readers and fellow bloggers have written or spoken to me about this rather glaring problem that I have avoided for the most part, though I have not exactly papered over it.  I have tended to minimise the likelihood of this potentially disastrous turn of events, but still hadn’t really gotten into the meat of the argument.  The fear of amnesty passing a Dem-controlled House is based on the assumption that a new Democratic House majority would be heavily pro-amnesty and would have a working pro-amnesty majority.  Certainly a large majority of House Democrats is generally pro-immigration (it is the source of so many of their new and future voters that this is inevitable) and most are pro-amnesty or in favour of one of the guest-worker programs that is just as good as amnesty (which Mr. Bush still pretends is a radically different position!), but many in the House or those running for House seats for the first time (and Senate candidates such as Ford in Tennessee) are running strongly against illegal immigration and/or amnesty and sometimes sound as conservative or occasionally even more conservative on the question than the Red Republicans themselves.  If enough Democrats adopt a Dobbsian view of the question, it could at least forestall amnesty for the time being and might (and this is far less likely, but remotely possible) lead to the Democrats adopting this issue as proof of some revived sense of visceral nationalism and patriotism, the lack of which has doomed them to minority status nationally for the past six electoral cycles.  If a Sherrod Brown economic populism is a political winner on one front of reaction to globalisation, a whole raft of related populist policies, including immigration restriction and even (to be completely unrealistic) an immigration moratorium, might become legitimate topics to be debated seriously as real policy alternatives.    

It could be that these Democratic candidates are all having us on (it would hardly be the first time!), and we have to assume that they are not to be trusted, but it could be that they see public discontent with GOP dithering on a vital question and have moved–for either cynical or genuine reasons–to exploit it by taking that question seriously and adopting popular hostility to illegal immigration and amnesty as their own. 

The important thing to remember is that immigration is a fairly burning issue across the spectrum at the popular level, and it actually energises key Democratic constituencies who are absorbing most of the costs of unchecked immigration firsthand.  It is also becoming more and more of a national issue as immigrants from Latin America and elsewhere have been reaching cities and towns far away from any border or port.  If the Democrats want to return to being a national party, they will have to do it by tackling what the Derb calls the National Question and assuming a more nationalist pose.  There are entrenched and powerful interests in the party that will have none of this (the major labour unions sold out years ago on this question and will not be changing anytime soon), and it could end up creating divisions as serious in their coalition as the division immigration has created among Republicans. 

Neither major party is likely to be transformed from within sufficiently to satisfy fully the kinds of voters for whom immigration restriction is just one ”national question” among many.  What might happen next?  In my mad mind, I see the following.  One party would end up being hollowed out and replaced almost entirely by another, new party organised along populist nationalist lines.  At some point in the next twenty or thirty years, the “populist nationalists” that David Brooks identified could force a realignment of sorts as Democrats and conservatives, sick of the preening coastal elites of both parties, their “progressive globalism” and their disdain for the real America, form an opposition based on some mix of economic populism at home, economic nationalism on trade, immigration restriction, and realistic foreign policy less inclined to intervention (though open to ”Jacksonian” moments of power projection).  It would probably be conventionally socially conservative, but would be more likely to make cultural issues a priority only to the extent that they would touch on national identity.  There is no necessary reason why this populist nationalism would absolutely have to be centralist and unduly statist in character, though there is a real danger of that.  However, traditional conservatives and rightist populists could push decentralist and localist solutions to national questions. 

A decentralist politics coupled with a healthy opposition to the concentration of corporate power could possibly have quite broad appeal, bringing in greens, Perot-type “centrists” and many traditional conservatives.  Such a party would be more of a labour party than either of the two major parties are now, but might also aspire to some kind of distributist policies to ensure the broad ownership of real property (this now verges on the delusional, I realise, but stay with me) in an attempt to reestablish small firms and small farms as the bedrock of a more economically (and thus politically) independent citizenry.  (Who knows what else we might pull off!  Before the end of this fantastical journey, we might overthrow bank-rule!)  Throwing back many questions of economic regulation to the states (allow me to enjoy this fantasy while I can) would disquiet some of the progressives who would be drawn to the anti-corporate side of this populism, but this returning of power to the states would, I think, satisfy many of the constitutional and philosophical qualms of conservatives about such regulation (true libertarians would, of course, be horrified and have nothing to do with the project, which is yet another argument in its favour).  This party would emphasise state sovereignty and a diversity of policies to suit local conditions, and political decentralism within states would be the rule in order to minimise intrusive regulation that might drive people to other states, thus recreating the nightmare of mobility that has been wrecking the formation of stable communities for half a century.  (We would likely have to fight a well-entrenched and powerful Moving Lobby made up of real estate agents, trucking companies and developers, but it would be a fight worth having.)

This realignment on national questions could possibly run up against the tensions between Prof. Lukacs’ (abstract)nationalists and patriots, as this populist nationalism would appeal to people from both groups.  But here again there is the possibility that those whom Lukacs identifies as patriots will also tend to be sympathetic to many, although probably not all, the policies of the “populist nationalists” and the patriotic appeal to loyalty to place and community and rootedness–and would stress the necessary aversion to the ethic of “creative destruction” and endless unsustainable development for the sake of “growth” that would go with this loyalty–could help ground this populist nationalism in real, living communities rather than the abstract, bloodless idea of a nation that many Red Republican nationalist pundits espouse.  That localism and emphasis on rooted communities would likely leave the abstract nationalists cold and send them scuttling back to the Red Republicans, who at this point would represent little more than megacorps (which is different from now how exactly?).  

Almost all of this is an enormous piece of speculative fantasy based on a few flickerings of sanity among a few Democratic candidates on immigration, but there is some hope of at least a small part of it coming true if enough Democratic voters follow the Dobbsian route.  Mr. Derbyshire is correct that the party that gets on the right side of the immigration question and actually gets a good enforcement law passed first will be the majority party in this country for many years.  That promise of power, if nothing else, should seriously motivate the pols to make some attempt at getting this vital issue right.  The great Chestertonian reawakening will still be a long ways away.