In recent years, a flood of immigrants, largely illegal, has been inundating California, some from Asia but mainly from Mexico and other Latin American countries. These immigrants have dominated and transformed much of the culture, proving unassimilable and swamping tax-supported facilities such as medical care, the welfare rolls, and the public schools. In consequence, former immigration official Harold Ezell helped frame a ballot initiative, Prop. 187, which simply called for the abolition of all taxpayer funding for illegal immigrants in California Prop. 187 provided a clear-cut choice, an up-or-down referendum on the total abolition of a welfare program for an entire class of people who also happen to be lawbreakers. If we are right in our assessment of the electorate, such an initiative should gain the support of not only every conservative and libertarian, but of every sane American. Surely, illegals shouldn’t be able to leach off the taxpayer.
Support for Prop. 187 spread like wildfire, it got signatures galore, and it quickly spurted to a 3:2 lead in the polls, although its organized supporters were only a network of small, grass-roots groups that no one had ever heard of. But every single one of the prominent, massively funded elite groups not only opposed Prop. 187, but also smeared it unmercifully.
The smearbund included big media, big business, big unions, organized teachers, organized medicine, organized hospitals, social workers (the latter four groups of course benefiting from taxpayer funds channeled to them via the welfare-medical-public school support system), intellectuals, writers, academics, leftists, neo-conservatives, etc. They denounced Prop. 187 grass-roots proponents as nativists, fascists, racists, xenophobes, Nazis, you name it, and even accused them of advocating poverty, starvation, and typhoid fever.
Joining in this richly-funded campaign of hysteria and smear was the entire official libertarian (or Left-libertarian) movement, including virtually every “free-market” and “libertarian” think tank except the Mises Institute. The Libertarian Party of California weighed in too, taking the remarkable step of fiercely opposing a popular measure that would eliminate taxpayer funding of illegals, and implausibly promising that if enough illegals came here, they would eventually rise up and slash the welfare state.
The once-consistently libertarian Orange County Register bitterly denounced Prop. 187 day after day, and vilified Orange County Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who had long been close to the Register and the libertarian movement, for favoring Prop. 187. These editorials provoked an unprecedented number of angry letters from the tax-paying readership.
For their part, the neo-conservative and official libertarian think tanks joined the elite condemnation of Prop. 187. Working closely with Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute, Cesar Conda of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution circulated a statement against the measure that was signed by individuals at the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute, the Reason Foundation, and even the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
The Wall Street Journal denounced the initiative almost as savagely as did the Establishment liberal Los Angeles Times, while neo-conservative presidential hopefuls Jack Kemp and Bill Bennett cut their own political throats by issuing a joint statement, from the center of the Leviathan, Washington, D.C., urging Californians to defeat the measure. This act was self- destructive because Governor Pete Wilson, leading the rest of the California Republican Party, saved his political bacon by climbing early onto Prop. 187, and riding the issue to come from far behind to crush leftist Kathleen Brown.
The case of the think tanks is a relatively easy puzzle to solve. The big foundations that make large grants to right-of-center organizations were emphatically against Prop. 187. Also having an influence was the desire for media plaudits and social acceptance in the D.C. hothouse, where one wrong answer leads to loss of respectability.
But the interesting question is why did Kemp and Bennett join in the campaign against Prop. 187, and why do they continue to denounce it even after it has passed? After all, they could have said nothing; not being Californians, they could have stayed out of the fray.
Reliable reports reveal that Kemp and Bennett were “persuaded” to take this foolhardy stand by the famed William Kristol, in dynastic and apostolic succession to his father Irving as godfather of the neo-conservative movement.
It is intriguing to speculate on the means by which Kristol managed to work his persuasive wiles. Surely the inducement was not wholly intellectual; and surely Kemp and Bennett, especially in dealing with the godfather, have to keep their eye, not simply on their presidential ambitions, but also on the extremely lucrative and not very onerous institutional positions that they now enjoy.
In the meantime, as per the usual pattern, the ruling elites were able to mobilize the “oppressed” sectors of the public against Prop. 187, so that blacks and groups that have been and will continue to be heavily immigrant, such as Asians and Jews, voted in clear if modest majorities against the measure.
Voting overwhelmingly against Prop. 187, of course, were the Hispanics, who constitute the bulk of legal and illegal immigrants into that state, with many of the illegals voting illegally as well. Polarizing the situation further, Mexicans and other Hispanics demonstrated in large numbers, waving Mexican and other Latin American flags, brandishing signs in Spanish, and generally enraging white voters. Even the Mexican government weighed in, with the dictator Salinas and his successor Zedillo denouncing Prop. 187 as a “human rights violation.”
After a massive October blitz by the media and the other elites, media polls pronounced that Prop. 187 had moved from 3:2 in favor to neck-and-neck, explaining that “once the public had had a chance to examine Prop. 187, they now realized,” and blah blah. When the smoke had cleared on election night, however, it turned out that after all the money and all the propaganda, Prop. 187 had passed by just about ... 3:2 ! In short, either the media polls had lied, or, more likely, the public, sensing the media hostility and the ideological and cultural clash, simply lied to the pollsters.
The final and most instructive single point about this saga is simply this: the elites, having lost abysmally despite their strenuous efforts, and having seen the democratic will go against them in no uncertain fashion, quickly turned to naked coercion. It took less than 24 hours [correction: three days to issue though it may have been requested within 24 hours] after the election for a federal judge to take out what will be a multi-year injunction, blocking any operation of Prop. 187, until at some future date, the federal judiciary should rule it unconstitutional. And, in a couple of years, no doubt the federal judicial despots, headed by the Supreme Court, will so declare.