May 16, 2006


Behind Bush's Address Lies a Deep History (ELISABETH BUMILLER, 5/16/05, NY Times)

What was remarkable to people who knew Mr. Bush in Texas was how much he still believes in the power of immigration to invigorate the nation.

"He's always had a more welcoming attitude," said Bruce Buchanan, a presidential scholar at the University of Texas. "He always spoke well of Mexican nationals and regarded them as hard-working people. So his grace notes on this subject are high." [...]

"He understands this community in the way you do when you live in a border state," said Israel Hernandez, an assistant secretary at the Commerce Department who traveled with Mr. Bush as a personal aide when he first ran for governor. "Philosophically, he understands why people want to come to the U.S. And he doesn't consider them a threat." [...]

"There was never any effort to cut off benefits, and Bush basically bought into the notion that they were going to be Texans," said Paul Burka, senior executive editor of Texas Monthly, who closely followed Mr. Bush then. "He didn't believe in closing the borders."

Mr. Bush first met Mexican immigrants at public school in Midland, Tex., where Hispanics made up 25 percent of the population. Later, when he owned a small, unsuccessful oil company, he employed Mexican immigrants in the fields. When he was the managing partner of the Texas Rangers, he reveled in going into the dugout and joking with the players, many of them Hispanic, in fractured Spanglish.

"In every dimension of his career, whether it was politics or the private sector or the sports world, he's been engaged with the Hispanic population," Mr. Hernandez said.

Mr. Bush was also living in a state that has stronger historical and cultural ties to Mexico than any other.

"The cultures mingled much more freely here than in California," Mr. Burka said. "Here there was not nearly as much antipathy. There were always workers coming over, and they were very essential."

At the same time, Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's veteran political adviser, recognized that there was potential in the Hispanic vote and that Republicans could appeal to them on abortion, religion and family values.

"Karl has always been a strong believer that Hispanics were a natural Republican constituency," Mr. Burka said. "He once told me that 'we have about 15 years to put this together.' "When Mr. Bush got to the White House, immigration was going to be a signature issue, a key to his relationship with President Vicente Fox of Mexico and essential in attracting Hispanic voters to a Republican Party that Mr. Rove envisioned as dominant for decades to come.

As the fatal flaw of liberalism is the mistaken notion that Man is naturally good, so too is the fatal attraction of conservatism being overly pessimistic just because Man is Fallen--after all, if God hasn't given up on us, by what right would we give up on each other? What makes George W. Bush a great conservative leader is, like Reagan before him, his optimism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 16, 2006 8:42 AM

Geography also plays a major role here in the difference between California and Texas reactons -- the former is a narrow state in which the population centers are mainly within 100 miles of the coast, and with an economic system linked to unionism and cultural identity politics brought west in many cases by folks from the northeast who packed their political beliefs in their suitcases.

Texas has a far wider border and outside of the Big Bend area, population zones across the state that spread out the influx of illegal workers, while at the same time, its politics have been far less affected by the type of special interest groups that cause so much polarization on the west coast (though Dallas has been threatening to fall into that trap over the past 10-15 years and there are still scattered outbreaks of hard-line views on both sides in other parts of the state).

Given that situation, it's not surprising to see that Bush would view the border differently than those who believe Los Angeles' immigration politics is the norm.

Posted by: John at May 16, 2006 11:18 AM

Wait, you mean Bush has always held that view! Gosh, who would've known that.

It really is surprising that the "conservative base," or, if you prefer "Reagan conservatives" (tm Peggy Noonan) act as if W has betrayed them by doing exactly what he always has done and promised to do.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 16, 2006 11:26 AM

His speech was the best he ever delivered, as if he was speaking from his heart. Quite a remarkable performance.

Posted by: Genecis at May 16, 2006 12:51 PM

Truth be told, the only reason why Tancredo and many CO citizens are so up in arms about the illegals is because many CO residents came from...CA. And brought their long-held bigotries with them.

Thank goodness the CA exodus to CO is slowing down a bit. Maybe we'll get everyone to notice the native Hispanics down in southern CO, and what a bunch of good conservative folk they are.

Posted by: Brad S at May 16, 2006 1:09 PM

A/the major factor in the TX vs. CA difference on immigration is the huge differences in cost of living. Life is extremely affordable everywhere in TX. Economic conditions in CA are much more precarious for most people. So you have a middle class in CA seeing that they have little or no chance of buying a house and accumulating the things that Americans want, and they feel extremely resentful that those who do own their own houses can't seem to be bothered to do their own yardwork, housework, or take care of their own kids.

Throw in more than a dollop of crazy leftism from both the unions who are so powerful in CA and the media, and you've got a recipe for not-goodness.

Posted by: b at May 16, 2006 2:13 PM

Tax base is different too. California makes most of its revenue from a steeply progressive income tax. Texas relies on sales tax and property taxes. That means low income and cash-only immigrants do more for Texas's revenue than California's. Virginia Postrel has a brief post on this.

Posted by: joe shropshire at May 16, 2006 3:29 PM