In the Nineties, the “culture wars” were over “God, guns and gays”. The overreach of the statists has added a fourth G: Government itself is now a front in the culture war, and a battle of the most primal kind. Is the United States a republic of limited government with a presumption in favor of individual liberty? Or is it just like any other western nation in which a permanent political class knows what’s best for its subjects? Pat Cadell, the former Carter adviser and Democratic pollster, surveying popular discontent over the summer distilled it to a single question:
Who is sovereign? The people or the political class?
To which the political class responds by modifying Barbra Streisand:
People? People? Who needs people?
In California, the people can pass a ballot proposition, but a single activist judge overrules them. In Arizona, the people’s representatives vote to uphold the people’s laws, but a pliant judge strikes them down at Washington’s behest. It is surely only a matter of time before some federal judge finds the constitution unconstitutional. It is never a good idea to send the message, as the political class now does consistently, that there are no democratic means by which the people can restrain their rulers. As Pat Cadell points out, the logic of that is “pre-revolutionary”.
What Judge Bolton in Arizona and Judge Walker in California have in common and share with Mayor Bloomberg’s observations on opposition to the Ground Zero mosque is a contempt for the people. The rationale for reversing the popular will in all three cases is that the sovereign people are bigots. In Arizona, they’re xenophobic. In California, they’re homophobic. In New York, they’re Islamophobic. Popular sovereignty may be fine in theory but not when the people are so obviously in need of “re-education” by their betters. Over in London, the transportation department has a bureaucrat whose very title sums up our rulers’ general disposition toward us: “Head of Behavior Change.”
Perhaps re-education camp will work, and Californians and New Yorkers will shrug and decline to take to the ramparts for gay marriage or minarets over Ground Zero. But it’s harder to ask Arizonans to live with the dissolution of the national border. To the enlighted coastal progressives, “undocumented immigrants” are the unseen servant class who mow your lawn while you’re at work and clean your office while you’re at home. The TV celebrity Joy Behar provided a near parodic example the other day when she taunted Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle about her views on illegal immigration: “I’d like to see her do this ad in the South Bronx,” said Miss Behar. “Come here, bitch, come to New York and do it.”
The bitch doesn’t need come to New York. Sharron Angle and her fellow Nevadans live on the front line of America’s evaporating sovereignty, where immigration means more than remembering to tip your Honduran busboy. In border states illegal immigration is life and death. “Those of you who have never lived in a border town have no idea what it’s like,” wrote the Hyacinth Girl:
In bigger cities you can avoid the nasty side of illegal immigration, but in the tiny towns that dot the US-Mexico border, it is unavoidable. Cartel hits are freakishly common, and with nearly zero chance of catching the murderers, since they simply skip back over the border before the bodies grow cold… For the most part, life was good in my little border town – great friends, great families, a sense of solidarity, a wonderful blend of culture, access to the best authentic Mexican food this side of the border – but the darker, uglier side was there too. Drug murders, readily available drugs of every kind, real, brutal, ugly violence. Drive-bys, executions, fear…
Don’t tell me that it’s racism to be in favor of legal immigration only. It’s easy for you north of the 33rd parallel to pass judgment, but you have no idea what it’s like to see the place you call home riddled with violence and addiction.
Consider life in a permanently poorer America with permanently higher unemployment, less social mobility, and any prospect for self-improvement crushed by the burden of government. Will that mean more or less marijuana? More or less cocaine? While America’s Big Government pursues the same failed “war on drugs” decade in decade out, Mexican cartels account for approximately 70 per cent of the narcotics that enter the United States. Arizona already has a kidnapping rate closer to Mexico’s than to, say, New England’s or the Midwest’s. Are the numbers likely to rise or fall in an ever more Mexicanized US? If you’re lucky, San Diego will seem no worse than, say, Cancun, eastern resort capital on the Caribbean Riviera and generally thought of as relatively far from the scene of Mexico’s drug wars. Yet even in Cancun, within the space of a year, the head of the city’s anti-drugs squad, one of Mexico’s most decorated military heroes, was murdered; the chief of police was arrested on drugs-trafficking charges; and then the mayor was, too. We will start to read similar stories of the wholesale corruption of local government from the cities of the American south-west. (The US is already sliding down the Non-Corrupt Hit Parade.) And similar tales of depravity, too: In 2010, the bodies of four men and two women were found in a cave on the outskirts of Cancun. They had been tortured. Three of them had their chests ripped open and their hearts removed. Over 4,000 US soldiers died in Iraq between 2003 and 2010. Between 2006 and 2010, nearly 25,000 Mexicans died in drug violence. America has no “exit strategy” for Mexico, but Mexico has an express check-in strategy for America.
What is happening on the southern border is the unmaking of America. And if a state under siege cannot pass even the mildest law of self-defense, what then are its options? Simultaneous to the federal court decision on Arizona, the International Court of Justice in the Hague declared that the province of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia two years earlier “did not violate any applicable rule of international law”. Certain European secessionist movements, in Spain and Belgium, took great comfort in the ruling. Russia and China opposed it, because they have restive minorities – Muslims in the Caucacus, and the Uighurs in Xinjiang, for example – and they intend to keep them within their borders. The United States, as is often the case, barely paid any attention to it: If the ICJ’s opinion was of any broader relevance, it was relevant to foreigners, and that was that. But, taken together, Judge Bolton and the Hague raise an interesting question: What holds the United States together? And will it continue to hold together?
In 2006, the last remaining non-Serb republic in Yugoslavia flew the coop and joined Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia …hang on, isn’t it Bosnia-Herzegovina? Or has Herzegovina split, too? Who cares? Slovenia’s independent, and Slovakia. Slavonia wasn’t, or not the last time I checked. But Montenegro is, and East Timor, and Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and every other Nickelandimistan between here and Mongolia. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, big countries – the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Indonesia – and not so big countries – Czechoslovakia – have been getting smaller. Why should the United States remain an exception to this phenomenon? Especially as it gets poorer – and more statist.
For the best part of a century, America’s towns, counties and states have been ceding power remorselessly to the central metropolis. We are becoming the highly singular United State of America – even though, insofar as it works at all, Big Government works best in small countries, with a sufficiently homogeneous population to have sufficiently common interests. There’s a fascinating book by Alberto Alesina and Enrico Spolaore called The Size of Nations, in which the authors note that, of the ten richest countries in the world, only four have populations above one million: America (300 million people), Switzerland (seven million), Norway (four million), and Singapore (three million). Small nations, they argue, are more cohesive and have less need for buying off ethnic and regional factions. America has been the exception that proves the rule because it’s a highly decentralized federation. But, as Messrs Alesina and Spolaore put it, if America were as centrally governed as France, it would break up.
That theory is now being tested on a daily basis. The United States cannot continue on its present path and hold its territorial integrity.
CAMPAIGN COUNTDOWN: SOVEREIGNTY AND TERRITORY
by Mark Steyn