Least Successful P.R. Campaign Ever?

That is, the campaign to demonize and delegitimize Arizona’s effort to enforce the immigration laws. Notwithstanding relentless negative coverage in the press combined with positive reports on protests against the law, and condemnation by President Obama and many other prominent politicians, Rasmussen finds that nationally, 59% of voters favor a law like Arizona’s. That figure is unchanged from last week.
Meanwhile, the actual consequences of the Arizona law, assuming it is ever implemented, are questionable. Andy McCarthy argues that it doesn’t expand law enforcement’s powers at all:

[T]he Arizona law actually gives more protection to suspects than federal law does. If I am right about that, the law could well be counter-productive because (a) it gives police less lee-way than they previously had, (b) as a practical matter, it may be ineffective or irrelevant in many if not most instances, and (c) politically, it has put people in Arizona on the defensive when they are actually the aggrieved party.

Andy draws an interesting parallel to the Patriot Act; you should check it out.
Speaking of immigration–seamless transition–I am en route home from Hanover, New Hampshire, where I’ve been attending a board meeting at Dartmouth. Last night I went to a lecture by Robert Putnam, the Harvard professor who is best known as the author of Bowling Alone. More recently, Putnam took a lot of heat from fellow liberals when he published data indicating that racially diverse communities tend to have less social capital (less trust in others, for example, including those of one’s own race) than ethnically homogenous communities. (I couldn’t help noting with some satisfaction that, in Putnam’s research, the community that ranks highest of all in social capital–almost literally off the charts– is rural South Dakota. Footnote: it’s true that rural South Dakota is ethnically homogeneous, which was the variable Putnam was analyzing. I would note that it is also heavily armed. Possibly that, too, has something to do with the confidence with which one views one’s neighbors and the world.) Putnam’s lecture was on immigration and included a review of those controversial data, which, Putnam said, he spent two years of his life trying to make go away.
The lecture was entertaining and intensely interesting. Putnam is manifestly a man of good will and has an excellent sense of humor. Nonetheless, his task–trying to spin optimistic conclusions from bad data–was a hard one. He argued that the racial categories that we now see as relevant to immigration and other issues will, over time, be viewed as inconsequential–that, as with past waves of immigration, Hispanics, Africans and so on will eventually be part of “us.” Putnam drew an analogy to religion, which in former years divided “us” from “them,” where “we” were Methodists, say, and “they” were Episcopalians. In general, I am highly sympathetic to this viewpoint.
One obvious point, however, went unaddressed: it will be difficult to convince Americans that ethnic categories are of little or no importance as long as the present regime of affirmative action exists. It was odd to contemplate a post-racial future in a lecture at an institution where the likelihood of an applicant’s being accepted depends in large part on the color of his skin. If being an Episcopalian were worth 200 points on the SAT and life-long preference in employment, wouldn’t Episcopalians still be “them”?
Speaking of returning home from Hanover–another seamless transition–I’m typing this aboard a Delta flight from Boston to Minneapolis. Airplane wi-fi is finally a reality, and it’s a very good thing. My posting has been down lately because I’m having one of the busiest years of my life at work, but airplane wi-fi should help.
UPDATE: Bob Putnam read my post and responds:

I’m less convinced by your argument about the perverse effects of affirmative action on white attitudes toward other ethnic groups. In the forty years since affirmative action was instituted, white attitudes toward non-whites have become substantially more favorable. and white-non-white intermarriage has significantly increased. Moreover, both those trends are concentrated among the younger cohorts who have lived their lives (and pursued their careers) entirely under an affirmative action regime. And of course, we have now elected a non-white president; you may not like his politics, but he certainly got a lot of young white votes.
In fact, I am myself not a fan of permanent racial affirmative action–and for that matter, neither is Obama. But on your specific hypothesis that affirmative action prevents assimilation, I think the evidence is not supportive. I say that with great respect, because I enjoyed your response to my views.

Our policy is to give substantial figures like Professor Putnam, who engage with us in a spirit of good will, the last word. We appreciate Bob’s willingness to engage in dialogue and hope we will encounter him again.


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