October 30, 2006


Going Native (Peter Beinart, 10.30.06, New Republic)

Who is the most left-wing commentator on mainstream television? Keith Olbermann? Bill Maher? Not even close. I'm talking about a man who says both parties are "bought and paid for by corporate America," and calls lobbyists "arms dealers in the war on the middle class." This latter-day William Jennings Bryan denounces the "corporate supremacists" in Congress who write "consumer-crippling" bankruptcy laws, pass job-exporting free-trade deals, and raise the interest on college loans. He peppers his economic analyses with quotes from the labor-supported Economic Policy Institute. And he recently called the GOP's effort to link a minimum-wage hike to a repeal of the estate tax "obscene." I refer, of course, to Lou Dobbs.

The flaxen-haired ex-Republican, who used to host a boosterish business show, should be the answer to lefty dreams. For years, writers like Thomas Frank, author of What's the Matter with Kansas, have argued that what liberalism needs is a strong dose of populism. From Joseph McCarthy to George Wallace to Bill O'Reilly, the modern American right has defined itself against cultural elites. Liberals, Frank and others argue, must fight fire with fire: attacking economic elites with as much gusto as the populists of old.

That's exactly what Dobbs is doing. And it's working so well--Dobbs's ratings are up 33 percent in 2006--that some of his CNN colleagues are getting in on the act. A few weeks ago, curmudgeonly anchorman Jack Cafferty ventured that big oil companies were bringing down gas prices to help Republicans at the polls. To be sure, CNN still features Wolf Blitzer and other just-the-facts, straight-down-the-middle types. But Dobbs increasingly ranges across the entire network, venturing beyond his 6 p.m. slot as a talking head on other shows. And he is turning mild-mannered CNN into the closest thing the United States has to an anti-corporate network.

So why aren't liberals cheering? Because, for Dobbs, taking on corporate America means taking on corporate America's thirst for illegal-immigrant labor. Dobbs is downright obsessive about the issue, and he isn't above nativist scare-mongering--calling Mexican illegal immigrants an "army of invaders" who are bringing leprosy and malaria across the Rio Grande.

Mr. Beinart has accidentally stumbled on the reason why the Democrats will be the anti-immigration party. The politics of envy, Reason, and hate can't help but be nativist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 30, 2006 11:30 AM

How do you "bring" malaria across a border? Do they carry little jars of infected mosquitos with them across the desert?

Posted by: Brandon at October 30, 2006 11:44 AM

Is it hate or self-loathing? I can't envision the hardcore left discarding multiculturalism soon enough to go nativist. (Unless, possibly, majorities of immigrants repeatedly and consistently vote Republican.)

Posted by: Pontius at October 30, 2006 11:45 AM

Blacks hate Mexicans. Seculars hate the religious. Labor hates cheap workers. It's easy.

Posted by: oj at October 30, 2006 11:57 AM

How did Reason get into this?

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at October 30, 2006 12:26 PM

Racism is Rational. Thus the Darwinian Right:


Likewise, Darwinism makes the secular susceptible to racism while Christianity insulates the Evangelicals.

Posted by: oj at October 30, 2006 12:35 PM

Leprosy is even harder to transport.

Posted by: erp at October 30, 2006 12:43 PM

...Christianity insulates the Evangelicals.

Do you even know any Evangelicals? Lots of them are racists.

Posted by: Brandon at October 30, 2006 12:46 PM

Everyone is racist. Polls consistently show that the religious are less opposed to immigration than would be expected given that they are the natives. Reason offers a justification for racism. Christianity doesn't.

Posted by: oj at October 30, 2006 12:53 PM

"How do you 'bring' malaria across a border?"

Maybe the elephant and the mariachi band were carriers.


Posted by: jefferson park at October 30, 2006 1:07 PM

Wolf Blitzer is "a straight down the middle, just the facts" kind of guy?

And Eason Jordan was just a business executive.

But, Lou Dobbs is an idiot. He hasn't said anything worth listening to in years.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 30, 2006 2:09 PM

Hygiene arguments are a classic Nazi trope.

Posted by: oj at October 30, 2006 3:35 PM

Come the dictatorship of me, Lou Dobbs will be deported and a dozen Mexican and Polish families will take his place.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 30, 2006 3:58 PM

What about aid's infected homosexuals? Is that a Nazi trope? Ellis Island immigrants were subjected to health inspections. Is a trope a lie?

And besides you're harping on smoking is trope also, isn't it. You're defining a trope as an unpleasant fact.

Posted by: h-man at October 30, 2006 4:49 PM

Ellis Island is a national disgrace. No one should be denied entry because they have AIDs. They should be denied if they're gay. It's because you have no moral case to make against immigration that you retreat to the racist hygiene nonsense.

Anti-smoking is a Puritan trope. It's a Puritan Nation.

Posted by: oj at October 30, 2006 5:00 PM

Your post was about health issues and erp and Brandon questioned the veracity of the article on that issue. There was no "retreat to.. nonsense" except attempting to correct the their misapprehension.

I don't oppose open borders with Mexico for such trite issues. Neither do I oppose all immigration from Mexico, but instead you "retreat" to accusation of Nazism at the first sign of someone trying to bring sanity to the issue. (not that you are insane, merely misguided)

Posted by: h-man at October 30, 2006 5:12 PM

The post has nothing to do with health issues except to the extent that racists historically tend to "explain" immigrants as a bacillus infecting the pure native body.


What Mr. Dobbs and you are obsessing over is indeed a sign of mental illness.

There's no retreat to Nazism--anti-immigrationism is simply racist, no matter how you dress it up.

Posted by: oj at October 30, 2006 5:29 PM


We'll all be henchmen if you replace him with her:



Posted by: oj at October 30, 2006 5:38 PM