Lou Dobbs Is Winning

David Brooks argues in the New York Times that the nativist, anti-free trade, anti-immigrant message of Lou Dobbs is winning the battle for hearts and minds:

Once there was a majority in favor of liberal immigration policies, but apparently that’s not true anymore, at least if you judge by campaign rhetoric. Once there was a bipartisan consensus behind free trade, but that’s not true anymore, either. Even Republicans, by a two-to-one majority, believe free trade is bad for America, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll.

Once upon a time, the fact that hundreds of millions of people around the world are rising out of poverty would have been a source of pride and optimism. But if you listen to the presidential candidates, improvements in the developing world are menacing. Their speeches constitute a symphony of woe about lead-painted toys, manipulated currencies and stolen jobs.

And if Dobbsianism is winning when times are good, you can imagine how attractive it’s going to seem if we enter the serious recession that Larry Summers convincingly and terrifyingly forecasts in yesterday’s Financial Times. If the economy dips as seriously as that, the political climate could shift in ugly ways.

And this is despite the fact, as Brooks notes, that the things Lou Dobbs and his ilk say are demonstrably, provably wrong:

[D]espite the ups and downs of the business cycle, the United States still possesses the most potent economy on earth.


In the World Economic Forum survey, the U.S. comes in just ahead of Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Germany (China is 34th). The U.S. gets poor marks for macroeconomic stability (the long-term federal debt), for its tax structure and for the low savings rate. But it leads the world in a range of categories: higher education and training, labor market flexibility, the ability to attract global talent, the availability of venture capital, the quality of corporate management and the capacity to innovate.


[T]he number of jobs actually lost to outsourcing is small, and recent reports suggest the outsourcing trend is slowing down. They are swamped by the general churn of creative destruction. Every quarter the U.S. loses somewhere around seven million jobs, and creates a bit more than seven million more. That double-edged process is the essence of a dynamic economy.

And it gets better from there. But you don’t here that if you tune into Lou Dobbs’ nativist screed, or pick up the latest doom-and-gloom book from Pat Buchanan. To them, it is precisely the things that makes America strongest — it’s open economy, it’s willingness to accept new immigrants, and it’s openness to international trade and competition — that are leading to its destruction.

It’s the same nonsense we’ve heard before, really, but, this time, it seems to be gaining adherents in the mainstream of American politics.  And, Brooks is absolutely right about one thing — if the nativists like Dobbs and Buchanan continue to gain credibility, then things really will get ugly when the next recession rolls around.

  • somebody

    People are always looking for scapegoats for their problems. We’ve had immigration “panics” many times before in the US and it doesn’t look like we’ll ever learn. Not surprising, of course.

  • http://publiusendures.blogspot.com Mark

    I might add as further evidence that Dobbs is winning:

    The fact that a certain prominent libertarian-ish politician has signed on to many of Dobbs’ immigration beliefs. When libertarianism stands for opposing immigration, well then Dobbs is mopping up.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis


    Would his initials be RP ?

  • Max

    Dobbs is wrong we need open borders, the mexian and south american peoples ancestors where here first and this is really there land so we should just leave the borders open and we should give amnesty to anyone who comes over here I mean we only have 300 million people here there’s romm for 300 more and shit since where doing that might as well make spanish the official language!! [sarcasm]

  • johnyy

    why is it ‘wrong’ to oppose *illegal* immigration? we have borders, and if you want to cross them there’s a legal process you must follow. it’s a similar situation in every country in the world.

    i’m all for reforming our immigration system, but allowing anyone with two legs to walk over the border & obtain all the benefits of citizenship at the expense of US taxpayers is ridiculous…which Lou Dobbs & Ron Paul are acutely aware of.

  • http://www.no-treason.com Joshua Holmes

    What will certainly lead to the destruction of the country is continuing to use an apostrophe in the possessive “its”.

  • http://www.no-treason.com Joshua Holmes

    why is it ‘wrong’ to oppose *illegal* immigration?

    The United States has no right to tell me who I can or can’t hire or allow onto my land.

  • oilnwater

    i or anyone who pays taxes that that person(s) you hired can collect through wealth redistribution programs, or import his family to expand the collection.

    some libertarians would be amusing if they weren’t so simple. they don’t or refuse to acknowledge that the major tenants of libertarianism will not work if other tenants are obviously absent. unfettered immigration and accommodating it will not work while there is still a mandatory wealth redistribution system in place. and then, when someone wants to point that out, they are now a nazi, nativist, or anything other label placed to stop the thinking process.

  • oilnwater

    tenants =tenents

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    So oilnwater,

    The solution for the problems caused by government oppression is more government oppression?. Damn! :)

    Are you also a proponent of state subsidies for abortion? I ask because children born to people living in the U.S. are a far bigger drain on welfare systems than the tangential drain of an immigrant. Are you opposed to all forms of population expansion? Or only on one particular kind?

    If not all forms, why one and not the others? Where would you like to draw your lines?

  • oilnwater

    i draw the lines *through* all social progroms *at the federal level*

    also, i don’t draw the causation for excessive illegal immigration to government oppression through wealth distribution alone. my perception is that this set of problems is brought about by federal govt entitlement largesse with collusion of corporate interests who want to use that largesse to “even out” the problems caused by the immigration that THEY ARE INCENTIVIZING. it’s quite insane and i certainly find it unwelcoming that when me or anyone else tries to identify the causation then we definitely are racists or at least some kind of secret duke-esque cabaliites. it’s just so ridiculous.

    oh and btw i don’t countenance alpha and beta races and shit like that poster on your Duke thread either. whatever racial suppositions that duke spews is no factor in this causation. what it is is just another of myriad racial obfusication so that no one can really understand mechanisms. and if someone even were to identify with duke or raza or what the hell ever, what does it really matter? do you really think that these *fringe ideologies* is going to lead to overturning any USSC rulings regarding interpretation of constitutional equality? duh.

    but when you guys constantly ensure that david duke, stormfront or whatever else is mentioned as a key figure in ron paul argument, and then ron paul argument from what libertarianism supposedly is, then you’ve plunged the philosophy into a completely ignoble racial cesspool that will only serve to weaken the philosophy. this is just cause for resentment.

  • oilnwater

    oh and yeah lou dobbs is a moron. he correctly rails against the immigration problem, identifies many of the causes, and then just says “let the Feds posse up and arrest everybody.” also, he has no coherent/consistent government philosophy anyway. he’s a demogogue, everyone knows this.

  • Pingback: Publius Endures()

  • oilnwater

    the law breaking comes into effect as the illegal immigrant takes residency in the US and/or takes employment. the signs (in spanish and english) warning about the consequences of crossing that border are meant to serve as a de facto warning of this.

    i bet you could make a sound case about timelines and subjection to US law in the case of a refugee, political or “humanitarian” or whatever subset of refugee. this is implying the person had no real home, or a recently inviable home in his native country. i’m sure this is a popular loophole in illegal cases already.

  • uhm

    If anyone can enter and stay and work in the US then shouldn’t Americans be able to do the same in every other country on the face of the Earth? They just walk across the border to Canada no customs or anything. It’s a double standard!

  • http://publiusendures.blogspot.com Mark

    For the most part, you can just waltz into Canada. Sure, you have to go through customs, but it’s a hell of a lot easier to go into Canada these days then it is to come back. Our border agents, on the other hand, hold up fire trucks crossing the border to fight a fire.

  • LBest

    Publius Endures is wrong! Using the same logic then anybody not belonging to a country they are in can commit an illegal act but not be subjected to the legal process because they never had a say in the host country’s law is out and out wrong. I do not want any illegals in this country…come here legaly! I have many friends who came here and did it by going through the process no matter how long and crazy and they deserve to be here. And to the poster that said an American born child is a bigger drain is wrong–go look at the numbers buddy..besides at least the kids parents are here legally.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran


    I apologise, since I must have asked my question too vaguely; I am not interested in what welfare paynments you find acceptable and whichones you don’t like. No, my question was where do you draw the line on forms of population growth.

    In othere word, which forms of population growth should be legal and which forms should not and why?

    The reason why I ask is that it seems to me that

    1. A child born in the U.S. is guaranteed to be a drain on the taxpayer, if nothing else thoough consumption of state supplied or subsidized education.
    2. Making travel accross borders more difficult makes it more likely that an immigrant will bring his entire family with him, rather than leaving them behind.

    This latter point is one that I think alot of anti-immigration activists who are focused on cultual concerns should consider. A common lament, though not one I ever recall oilnwater making, concerns the “unassimilated” immigrant, who never becomes culturally American, but essentially retains a loyalty to their home-country (I’m not sure why this is a problem, but let’s stipulate it is one for the sake of argument). If you put yourself into the unassimilated immigrant’s shoes, he does not want to stay here forever – his heart is somewhere else. Making it hard for him to come and go ensures that he will stay here, while making it easy for him to come and go will ensure that as soon as he can, he will be returning to the land that is ‘home’ to him.

  • http://publiusendures.blogspot.com Mark

    LBest- read my whole post. My point is that at the moment he initially breaks the law, he is not technically in the US.

  • LBest

    Mark that is still an invalid argument because as soon as he steps onto American soil without a valid passport he is then a criminal.

  • http://publiusendures.blogspot.com Mark

    LBest- I understand what you’re saying. I’m just trying to make the point that the crime shouldn’t exist in the first place because it tells people they have no right to come here. I’m not arguing that it isn’t a crime- just that it’s a crime the government has no real right to define.

    I debated including something in the post about how it’s a malum prohibitum (sp.?-been a few years since law school) crime, and why I find malum prohibitum crimes to be inherently unjust. I also should have done a better job drawing out the effects of preventing children of illegals from being regarded as citizens- there, it’s a much clearer case that the child is being told he has no right to exist despite giving absolutely no consent, implicit or explicit, to the government’s telling him so.

  • uhm

    I know one thing whenever I have kids they will be born in Sweden (maybe another EU country)! Free higher education!

  • oilnwater

    i first responded in this thread about joshua saying the United States has no right to tell him about who he hires. to be sure, if he knowingly hired illegals, they have every right to. does that mean i want the United States to screw with joshua? no, i truly don’t want that. but honestly because of the situation of government/corporate system right now, i would like to see his theoretical employees deported, period.

    BUT if we were able to guarantee (pass through Congress, the whole 9 yards) a phase-out (entire)of Federal income(yes, only income) tax and within say 5 years, i wouldn’t care about arresting or deporting anyone at all right now or at any time again. i would also be immediately for fully legalizing all thoroughly criminally-checked illegals. i would still be for starting full enforcement of traditional Federal law at all borders. nothing crazy like RFID/biometric cards and crap like that. nothing like newgeneration super-surveillance weapons that also scan incorporated/township United States soil, and i would still be for a real fence, go figure. :/


    considering immigration from a population control standpoint is probably the lowest priority in my personal list. that said, i do see the effects of a relatively new population that has not assimilated. yes, there is sociological stress in many metropolitan areas of the US right now. what did you expect? but the people are here, it is what it is, and things could work out quite naturally if we all trusted our government to work at the state level in this situation.

    basically i dont think we should change our federal government with population control in mind at all. we should change our federal government with actual fairness in mind. and this would take care of immigration problems along the way.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    oilnwater, at this point, I am completely baffled as to what your argument is.

    On the one hand you claim to be worried about immigrants consuming welfare services. Then you seem to turn around and say that limiting welfare consumption is no reason to control population.

    These are not consistent positions. Immigration restriction is a population control measure by definition. If you want to restrict immigration, you are arguing that you want to control population at some level. If you are arguing that welfare consumption justifies immigration restrictions then you are arguing that welfare consumption justifies immigration restriction.

    Am I misunderstanding you?

    Or, are you arguing that you want to control the population by preserving the status quo without some overarching principle other than the fact that the status quo represents some sort of political consensus?

  • oilnwater

    well tarran i would guess that these are inconsistent positions, except for that you want to inject population control as an object in the position. i’m trying to say that population control actually is not a factor (imo) in removal of federal entitlement. other people have population control arguments on the topic of immigration, and my position on immigration that most closely relates to a population control aspect is this: population control is being practiced right now and has been for years by incentivizing entitlements and corporate entities that use entitlement money to expedite the acceleration and inflation of illegal immigration to low wage, non-innovative work sites.

    remove federal wealth redistribution, and individual states will or won’t implement “population control” legislation by subsidizing its residents. will people be smarter about this? nah, probably there’d be all kinds of strife about state entitlements, racial misdirection, unprecedented corruption. yeah i faced the facts by now that we cant trust ourselves to be adults.

    and i understand that you see immigration as it should be a “Wild West” and no one needs “papers” and such. i mean part ways with that on general state and local law enforcement issues. but yeah removing federal entitlement is a pipe dream anyway and i dont know why i’m bothering to try to think this through.

  • Juan Valdez

    So, let me get this straight.

    You angry white men stole the Mexican territory

    of California, New Mexico, Texas and Arizona in Feb. 2, 1848.

    Plunging Mexico into a great depression that it still has not recovered from.

    Now the Mexican people have to come back to California, New Mexico, Texas and Arizona

    to look for work to survive.

    It must be nice living off the hard work and natural resources of other people.