On The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page, it is not generally permitted to mention immigration reform at all, or at least not without flotillas of escorting sneer words.
But George Melloan, the WSJ Deputy Editor, International, has been tiptoeing around the borders of the prohibition in recent weeks. Which leads me to wonder whether
1) Melloan is so senior at the paper as to feel exempt from the page's general proscriptions,
2) Editor Bob Bartley is so caught up in the happy holidays that he isn't noticing, or
3) Something else is going on.
For instance, on December 19, 2000, Melloan wrote an entire column on America's changing demography. He noted in passing the Democrats nearly won the election with heavy black and Hispanic votes in the cities; that most new immigrants, their naturalization speeded up by the Clinton administration, voted Democratic; and that, "beyond the legalities," serious questions were arising about what sort of country America was becoming.
Melloan mentioned without a sneer word columnist and author Georgie Ann Geyer, who worries that immigration is changing America for the worse; and then, more favorably, essayist John Fonte, who has a high-brow theory about the country being torn between Tocquevillian "individualism" and neo-Gramscians for whom minorities (including, until they are no longer a minority, new immigrants) are a battering ram against the "privileged classes." Which happen to include most of The Wall Street Journal's readers.
Melloan doesn't fully endorse Fonte and in the end he fudges around the issue by going on about how all of us, immigrants and natives, believe deeply in freedom anyway, etc. etc.; and that these matters are very "complex".
But, clearly, he's thinking.
To affirm how "complex" matters are, Melloan the following week (December 26) wrote from Israel, musing about the peace process and the future of the Jewish state.
In a tight paragraph he describes the Israeli dilemma: many in the Israeli establishment feel guilty about ruling over the Palestinians without granting them democratic rights (the current situation in the occupied territories). So why not the "truly liberal-minded solution" - liberal used here in its positive nineteenth century sense - of giving the Arabs in the occupied territories full political rights so the two intertwined peoples in the "cramped space" of the Palestine Mandate can cohabit as equal citizens?
Well, Melloan explains, that is a "non-starter." Because of their higher birthrate, the Arabs would within a few decades numerically overwhelm the Jews, thus putting an end to the Zionist aspiration of political self-determination for Jews in a Jewish state.
The Mid-East peace process is complicated, but this is simple to understand. With my parochial concerns about American political demography, however, I wondered if this might be a first: the first time The Wall Street Journal has respected the concerns of citizens of a Western (or Westernish) democracy that they might be overwhelmed by peoples who don't share their culture and have no intention of assimilating into it.
We know the WSJ does not think well of Americans who worry about such things. Nor about the French, who in the WSJ's view should simply get past their racist concerns about the North African and African immigration. Italy, ditto (especially those folks in the Vatican, foolishly worried about the Church's status in a country becoming more Muslim).
Immigration restriction in Germany?
After this century, you must be kidding.
Switzerland, Austria? See above.
So for the moment, I shall be content with the principle that Melloan has established, and even been allowed to publish on the WSJ editorial page: that in one single democratic capitalist state, it is all right - not bigoted, xenophobic, nativist, crabbed, fascist, etc. but really OKAY - to be concerned about the relation between demographic change and political continuity.
And who knows? Maybe one day what is okay for Israel will be considered legitimate for (other) Western nations as well.
January 2, 2001