MEMO TO MY FELLOW CONSERVATIVES:
That nativist, “doomsday-prepper” image some of you have been cultivating lately isn’t winning any friends.
Forget Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s concern that Republicans are in danger of becoming the “stupid party.” The opposition of some conservatives to bipartisan immigration reform and background checks for gun owners, combined with the Ron Paul crowd’s excessive fear of government, puts us in danger of becoming the “paranoid party.”
Don’t get me wrong — conservatives are correct to argue that government is bloated, incompetent, costly, and inefficient. We are right to warn that our shrinking private sector puts us at risk of becoming a bankrupt, European-style, social welfare state. And we must insist that our leaders take on government largess and over-regulation.
But government is not inherently evil. And an obsessive fear of government threatens to render Republicans impotent. When it comes to illegal immigrants (you know, our friends without whom the restaurant and agricultural industries could not survive) reasonable people agree that there is a middle ground between deportation and amnesty.
Those who come here illegally should not be rewarded with government benefits, tuition breaks, or a path to citizenship that allows them to cut in front of those who came here legally. And, yes, before any individual relief is granted, we need to secure our borders to stop the uncontrolled flood of newcomers.
But those who would ignore the 11 million illegals among us or deal with them solely through deportation are just as wacky as the open-borders nuts, if not outright cruel.
Almost as crazy is conservative fear that the government wants to strip us of our constitutional right to bear arms. Well, OK, maybe this president does. But he has neither the constitutional power nor the political support to do so, and background checks are hardly equivalent to an outright ban.
As a supporter of gun ownership — for hunting, sport, collecting or self-defense — I fail to understand how criminal background checks infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens. I know, I know, “it’s a slippery slope.” That’s the same argument left-wing activists use to protest reasonable limitations on abortion, such as parental notification, informed consent, and bans on partial-birth abortion. Well, sorry, folks, policy-making is about compromise, not slippery slopes.
So, how about this for compromise? Secure the borders; implement a better tracking system for immigrants here on visas; make any path to citizenship contingent upon a background check, clean criminal record, and the payment of fines and back taxes; require background checks for gun ownership; prohibit felons and non-citizens from owning guns and from registering to vote; and — for some real bi-partisan reform — require identification in order to register to vote and cast a ballot.
Intrusive? Overly burdensome? Not really. Every day, Americans submit personal information to the government in order to obtain all kinds of licenses; show identification to board an airplane or buy beer; surrender financial information to credit card companies; reveal personal information to strangers online; and submit to thumb scans in order to enter Disney World.
Verifying that someone is a law-abiding citizen before allowing him or her to exercise a constitutionally protected right is not a violation of that right. And it does not give our government the powers of a Soviet-style secret police. It is simply the administrative price we pay for living in a free and secure society.
If Republicans are not willing to pay this price, we will soon be known not just as the “stupidparty.” We will be known as the “paranoid party.” And that will cost us a governing majority for years to come.