Towards A Good Samaritan World

Monday, July 31, 2006


I used to like Mickey Kaus. But there was always a certain moral deficit about him, a certain cynicism which was humorous and charming but was, unfortunately, not just schtick. It took a little while to figure out that Kaus was razor-smart-- superficially, his writing consists of cleverisms which mask the underlying intelligence-- but his agenda remained a mystery.

It was very fun to have a self-proclaimed Democrat lampooning Kerry all through 2004. It's fun how he picks on the New York Times, and plays sensible-centrist gadfly to the pontifications and pieties of the liberal left. He achieves a certain credibility through his apparent flippancy: this guy's not spinning, you feel, because he's not serious; he doesn't care deeply enough about anything to be blinded by idiosyncratic yearnings and desires.

Which is why Kaus's stance on immigration is so startling. Kaus hems and haws and links, and rarely makes his position clear, but at bottom he's one of the most irredeemable paleocons on this issue in all punditry. And very effective, because he's been so shrewd in building up his centrist credibility.

But why? Why would Kaus, the centrist, so often dwelling on gossip and trivia, take it into his head to oppose immigration with such ferocity? It seems out of character... but Kaus's endorsement of Kerry in 2004 may provide a clue:

I'm voting for Kerry, mainly because I think Bush is prosecuting the fight against terrorism in a way that will make us dramatically less safe unless we have a conspicuous change at the top. Even if you supported the war in Iraq, now is the time to a) try to preserve our gains in that country and Afghanistan while we b) let the world calm down so that fewer people hate us (and hence fewer people try to come and kill us).

I don't expect Kerry to be a successful president in any other respect. It doesn't matter.

It's rare to find a piece of writing in which cowardice is so openly expressed. Kaus is a coward, and that's why he voted for Kerry, and why he opposes immigration. He's afraid that immigrants will undermine social equality and make life in America less tranquil. But what's really weird is that cowardice for Kaus is not just lack of courage, it's a living conviction, even a source of purpose. The only comparable historical figure I know of is Thomas Hobbes.

Kaus's opposition to immigration makes him an increasingly open ally of the paleocons. Given that the paleocons have become the odd man out in the Bush-led Republican party, the Democrats might have a chance to pick off their votes. The reason not to is that the paleocons are the most amoral constituency in the American electorate and Democrats, corrupted as they are by Bush-hatred, confused as they are by their own sophistries and their own spurious sense of superiority, still have enough conscience to sense that legitimizing the palecons would be wrong. Kaus, the sly tactician who, for weird reasons of his own, has become an ally-of-conviction of the paleocons, is a source of diabolical temptation for the Democrats. The party that embraced the high ideals of mercy and justice of Martin Luther King just might, in the next few years, make a Faustian bargain to regain power through a quietly ruthless campaign of violence against much of America's working poor.

Pray for their souls, that they might make the right choice.


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