Mickey Kaus is a Democrat

Just back from a house-party campaign event for Mickey Kaus’s Quixotic campaign against Barbara Boxer. I’m still not sure how Mickey figures that Democrats are supposed to win elections by annoying Latinos, union members, and Social Security recipients, but on several points he did manage to put the “Democrat” back in “contrarian Democrat” more than was usual in his Kausfiles posts.

– Kaus thinks that institutions where rich and poor alike serve and are served on an equal basis are essential to social solidarity, and that creating such institutions is one of the key roles of government. So he likes universal health care coverage.

– Kaus thinks that California needs to get rid of the 2/3 rules for budgets and taxes, via constitutional convention if necessary.

– Kaus thinks that letting the University of California descend into mediocrity is a rotten idea.

– Kaus thinks that Barack Obama is doing a pretty astounding job as President.

Footnote My etiquette instructor would have been proud of me; when Mickey ranted about how the UAW had destroyed GM, I didn’t ask him whether he thought that Massey Energy was a better place to work.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

18 thoughts on “Mickey Kaus is a Democrat”

  1. Why even bother to show up to see him, Mark? The guy is really an embarrassment, even if he recognizes the superiority of universal vs. means-tested programs. If he had any real interest in progressive or New Deal politics, he'd have run against Jane Harman, or someone like that. To run against Boxer, who is one of the finest civil servants in the entire State and therefore the nation, he showed us nothing more than the type of petulance one expects from right wing talk show hosts.

  2. It’s news that a guy running for nomination as a Democrat tells Democrats that he’s with the Party on some issues? OK, the Party needs candidates who question its orthodoxies, & I’m gratified he supports the institution that employs you, but on the issue he’s most associated with, his main raison d'etre as a candidate, what most distinguishes him from Democrats, his record isn’t just wrong but awful. (For Christ’s sake, George Wallace was a Democrat. He cared about the Party & I'm sure was good on some issues.)

    What the right demands now on immigration is a moral enormity. However they phrase it (in SB1070, “attrition through enforcement”), they want a forceable population transfer on a scale not seen in the developed world since the aftermath of World War II. This requires that they devote enormous resources to inciting ethnic division. Like it or not, the rest of us can't evade the issue any longer; & Kaus has decided the thing to do is give the advocates of transfer more running room. So you have a choice. You can talk about things like moral authority & hope to be taken seriously, or you can couch the criticism of his position on immigration in terms merely of political expediency, whether it “annoys” one group. But you can’t do both.

  3. Actually, Kaus spoke out clearly against forced population transfer. His position is that the twelve million now here illegally should be allowed to remain (as he put it) "in the shadows" until the border can be secured to the point where regularizing their presence isn't an open invitation to the next twelve million. He supports the expansion of legal immigration quotas. And he is against any sort of "guest worker" scheme: anyone who comes to work, he said, should be entitled to stay.

    Immigration is an issue on which Kaus and I don't agree, but there's lots of daylight between his position and that of the true nativists.

    And no, my opposition to his position isn't primarily on political grounds. But his stated claim was that Democrats need to break with unions and with Latinos in order to win elections; that claim seems to me, on its own terms, something worse than dubious.

  4. It's nice to hear that one the issues he manifestly doesn't much care about Kaus is aligned with the Democrats, or is willing to claim that he is. On the other hand, his entire shtick, along with the rest of the special contrarian alumni of "even the liberal New Republic" is to assert that they belong within the Democratic caucus but spend all their time vituperatively sniping at the Democrats on the only issues they seem to care about. As a Republican, Mickey Kaus would be seen as squishy and unremarkable; such little attention as he garners, he only gets by saying that the Democrats are on the wrong side of the issue of the moment, whether it's the Mickey Kaus of 2003-4 saying the Democrats are wrong about Iraq or the Mickey Kaus of 2006-2010 saying the Democrats are wrong about immigration. Or, of course, Mickey Kaus's perennial favorite, propagating Republican caricatures of corrupt unions while ignoring the sweeping degradation of worker rights and benefits of the last several decades, and the fact that, for all their faults, and for all that the overblown caricatures are based on some truths, the unions are the only people even trying to fight this tide.

    On every issue that actually animates him, Mickey Kaus is a Republican. Fortunately, his silly primary campaign will soon be even more forgotten than his career as a blogger.

    P.S. It confirms my already low opinion of Kaus hat he believes we can ever "seal the border". Illegal immigrants leave behind every thing, every place, and every person they have ever known or loved; assume crippling debts upon not only themselves but their families, who are placed at the mercy of thuggish moneylenders and people traffickers; travel thousands of miles in difficult if not terrible conditions; place their lives in the hands of "coyotes" they've never met before and whom they known to often be swindlers and robbers, most likely drug dealers, and all-too-frequently murderers; march on foot across the blazing desert to get here; and, once here, to live in fear and in hiding, not only doing jobs for pay and conditions few legal workers would tolerate but being kept in line by employers who can threaten them with exposure of their undocumented status. More chain-link fences and more patrols, or even turning all of Arizona, a state that reaches 400 miles from the border, into a militarized border zone, is not going to discourage people who've confronted all of these factors and braved the odds regardless, not so long as there are economic opportunities awaiting them here, few opportunities at home, and we are remotely humane in how we treat them when they're caught. If we see the issue as being a "border problem" and we think we can "seal the border", we've already entered fantasyland and conceded defeat. The last time a US government official proposed a feasible "border problem" solution to a flood of illegal immigrants was when Douglas MacArthur proposed using nuclear and radiological weapons to seal the Korean-Chinese border, a vile and inhumane suggestion that would probably have worked if it somehow hadn't triggered World War III, and a suggestion that rightly caused MacArthur to be sacked. If we really want to stop illegal immigration, we need some way to deny undocumented laborers opportunity within our borders. More punishment for employers would be an obvious place to start, perhaps with prison accompanied by big fines partly payable to the informant, documented or not; indeed, more government action against exploitation by abusive employers across the board would be a welcome change. And we need to consider the forces in the illegal immigrants' homelands that drive them into undertaking this desperate migration.

  5. My tone was a bit Savonarola. As I understand, his idea has been to secure the border, however long that takes. Then wait another 10 years, during which enforcement, incl. interior enforcement, continues. Then he'll "consider" what to do with whoever's left — no promises. This is precisly the "attrition" policy defended by those on the Republican right who've concluded that a one-off transfer campaign (they actually used cattle cars in Operation Wetback) might unsettle the sensibilities of the non-Hispanic public. But do the math. 400,00 were deported last year, many through interior enforcement. The number will continue to rise. (The post-AZ pressure for "border security" is mostly a demand for interior enforcement.) By the time Kaus deigns to consider calling off the hunt for the remaining population, how many will be left? Which is precisely the point. The beauty of it is that it's already authorized in existing law; so anybody who who'd leave the last remnant child undeported can always be castigated as an enemy of the rule of law. (Last week I listened to Heather MacDonald — don't get me started — lay out this trope in especially coarse terms to an audience at Georgetown Law Center. It works.) And forced population transfer done one-by-one, family-by-family, by harassing, humiliating, & starving careworn people out over a period of a decade is still forced population transfer. Even accepting the real dilemmas of immigration policy, do you not think it's a moral enormity that we're even talking about this? Is it less of one because the particular approach chosen is designed to assuage the uneasy conscience of people who want it done, but don't want to see the enormity of it? Do you think Kaus hasn't done the math?

    I dunno, it may be that in the context of this campaign he's changed the tone or details of his proposal. But frankly that's not the whole point. For a decade he's trucked w/ & given succor to the very worst nativists on this issue. (You occasionally run across grip-&-grin photographs of him w/ these degenerates on the internet. On his blog he made a practice of linking to them, w/o disapprobation.) Being a bright & pleasant guy isn't a reason to absolve him. Friends don't let defective friends influence public policy.

    A general political note: I can't imagine that Republicans aren't going to put huge emphasis on this in the fall. Someone who'd know told me that Fox News has been devoting almost a quarter of its news hole over the last month — every hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, w/ no sign of letting up — to immigration & related issues. That's a remarkable amount of programming. Some of it falls little short of incitement, & most is designed to inflame base passions. It's the same on talk radio. This will have social consequences. On the other side, liberals, who're always uneasy & ambivalent about the issue, have mostly been trying to creep quietly away since the first adverse polls came out. This isn't going to work.

  6. Mickey has a loooooong track record; he's been earning his living as 'Even the Democrat Mickey Kaus [trash liberals and Democrats here]'. Screw him. And picking an election where he makes Nader look like a good bet doesn't help any; he *could* run for the CA legislature, but isn't. It's just a stunt.

  7. All,

    Let me try to offer you folks what another (much more famous) politician had to say on the subject of illegal immigration.

    "To make sense about the national interest in immigration, it is necessary to make distinctions between those who obey the law, and those who violate it. Therefore, we disagree, also, with those who label our efforts to control illegal immigration as somehow inherently anti-immigrant. Unlawful immigration is unacceptable."

    "Fourth, deportation is crucial. Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave."

    Who was this vile nativist? Barbara Jordan. See http://www.utexas.edu/lbj/uscir/022495.html

  8. Warren Terra,

    "The last time a US government official proposed a feasible “border problem” solution to a flood of illegal immigrants was when Douglas MacArthur proposed using nuclear and radiological weapons to seal the Korean-Chinese border"

    Sorry, soldiers aren't illegal immigrants. Actually they aren't immigrants at all.

    However, you have your facts wrong. See "How Eisenhower solved illegal border crossings from Mexico" (http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0706/p09s01-coop.html). I quote

    "Fifty-three years ago, when newly elected Dwight Eisenhower moved into the White House, America's southern frontier was as porous as a spaghetti sieve. As many as 3 million illegal migrants had walked and waded northward over a period of several years for jobs in California, Arizona, Texas, and points beyond.

    President Eisenhower cut off this illegal traffic. He did it quickly and decisively with only 1,075 United States Border Patrol agents – less than one-tenth of today's force. The operation is still highly praised among veterans of the Border Patrol."

    With 1000+ agents Eisenhower removed (or induced to leave) as many as 1 million illegals. Wasn't even hard. It took a couple of months.

  9. Just more not for the Open Borders crowd. If you want a real insight into border security, read

    "What America can learn from Israel's West Bank security barrier." (http://www.slate.com/id/2143104)

    "Here's one lesson Americans can definitely draw from the Israeli experience of building a fence to separate them from the Palestinians: High fences don't always make good neighbors. It didn't happen in the West Bank, and it probably won't happen in Texas. The country that builds the fence buys a sense of security, but the people prevented from getting to work, or shopping, or marrying someone on the other side will not be thankful for it. And the reason is pretty obvious: Fences work."

    For folks who purport to be members of the "Reality-Based Community" I don't see much evidence of it.

  10. Frank, we've still got Eisenhower's system, and more, and it doesn't work. Didn't even for Eisenhower: sure, he made illegal immigration harder, but he hardly sealed the border.

  11. It’s nice to hear that one the issues he manifestly doesn’t much care about Kaus is aligned with the Democrats, or is willing to claim that he is.

    I don't think this is fair, given that one of Kaus' first big splashes as a public intellectual was a book, "The End of Equality", that while primarily focused on welfare reform, contained a pretty long and detailed argument in favor of national health insurance (and I mean the big-L Left Wing Socialized Medicine Single Payer variety, not simply some form of subsidies for private coverage).

  12. The Eisenhower-era campaign Frank Youell recommends is Operation Wetback, which my grandfather witnessed as a journalist. It's looked on with nostalgia by advocates of population transfer — Russell Pearce, the sponsor of SB1070, praises it, as does Pat Buchanan — but most of them now think the more practical course is transfer by attrition.

  13. Warren Terra,

    We still have Eisenhower's system? Not in the "Reality-Based Community" we don't. I quote from the same article.

    "One of Swing's first decisive acts was to transfer certain entrenched immigration officials out of the border area to other regions of the country where their political connections with people such as Senator Johnson would have no effect.

    Then on June 17, 1954, what was called "Operation Wetback" began. Because political resistance was lower in California and Arizona, the roundup of aliens began there. Some 750 agents swept northward through agricultural areas with a goal of 1,000 apprehensions a day. By the end of July, over 50,000 aliens were caught in the two states. Another 488,000, fearing arrest, had fled the country.

    By mid-July, the crackdown extended northward into Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, and eastward to Texas.

    By September, 80,000 had been taken into custody in Texas, and an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 illegals had left the Lone Star State voluntarily."

    Under Bush, workspace enforcement fell to essentially zero (from an extremely low level when he took office). Bush allowed a few high profile enforcement actions (wages rose significantly after they occurred). Obama has de facto banned workplace enforcement.

    We still have Eisenhower's system? On what planet? See the last sentence below.

    "According to the Handbook of Texas Online, published by the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas State Historical Association, this illegal workforce had a severe impact on the wages of ordinary working Americans. The Handbook Online reports that a study by the President's Commission on Migratory Labor in Texas in 1950 found that cotton growers in the Rio Grande Valley, where most illegal aliens in Texas worked, paid wages that were "approximately half" the farm wages paid elsewhere in the state.

    Profits from illegal labor led to the kind of corruption that apparently worried Eisenhower. Joseph White, a retired 21-year veteran of the Border Patrol, says that in the early 1950s, some senior US officials overseeing immigration enforcement "had friends among the ranchers," and agents "did not dare" arrest their illegal workers.

    Walt Edwards, who joined the Border Patrol in 1951, tells a similar story. He says: "When we caught illegal aliens on farms and ranches, the farmer or rancher would often call and complain [to officials in El Paso]. And depending on how politically connected they were, there would be political intervention. That is how we got into this mess we are in now."

    Bill Chambers, who worked for a combined 33 years for the Border Patrol and the then-called US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), says politically powerful people are still fueling the flow of illegals.

    During the 1950s, however, this "Good Old Boy" system changed under Eisenhower – if only for about 10 years."

    To be precise, Eisenhower didn't secure the border at all. He made illegal immigration sufficiently unappealing that it more or less stopped.

  14. K,

    I am not recommending Eisenhower's approach. I was however responding to the claim that

    “The last time a US government official proposed a feasible “border problem” solution to a flood of illegal immigrants was when Douglas MacArthur proposed using nuclear and radiological weapons to seal the Korean-Chinese border”

    As you see, Warren Terra is on vacation from the "Reality-Based Community".

    I actually favor the Amnesty approach. Anyone here illegally should be allowed to turn themselves in and get a free trip home with no penalties, sanctions, or legal prejudice. At that point they should be allowed to apply for lawful entry at the nearest U.S embassy or consulate (which might be in a country other than their homeland). Based on their ties to the U.S. (and conduct in the U.S.) they should afforded the same treatment as others applying for lawful entry into the U.S. Basically, they should get in line and wait their turn. No rewards for having cheated the system and profited by doing so.

    Of course, those who have violated U.S. criminal law (drugs, violence, robbery, etc.) should never be allowed to return. Those who have violated deportation orders should also be banned.

    Those who choose not to take advantage of the Amnesty should understand the consequences. If and when they are caught, they will be removed and not be allowed to return.

  15. Frank, by your own admission Eisenhower didn't offer a solution of "sealing the border". He used police-state methods instead. Unsurprisingly, they work, especially when deployed against migrant farmworkers. Whether they'd be seen as appropriate today, and whether they'd work in Brooklyn, I rather doubt. Eisenhower's border enforcement, we still have, for all the good it does.

    Also, comparing our situation to Israel's is just absurd. Sure, it's possible to solve an illegal immigration problem. But it's darn hard to solve it just as a "border problem": Israel manages to do so only because they're willing to kill to close their border, they make it a massive national priority, and their "border solution" is backed up by broader forces in the society that make border crossing undesirable. Consider the many non-parallels between our border and Israel's: Israel invests far more heavily in wall construction and patrols than we'd ever contemplate; they are far more willing to use lethal force; they have far tighter enforcement of labor laws; illegal immigrants would have to make their way among a mobilized population in an entirely justified state of national paranoia, given that terrorists were slaughtering crowds of women and children every couple of weeks just a few years ago; the Israelis use some police-state tactics in Arab neighborhoods; unlike here, Arab immigrants don't have a hope to achieve legal status or full citizenship, and nor do their children; and (regrettably) there is an Asian Guest Worker program that fills the economic niche once occupied by itinerant workers from Gaza and the West Bank. And pre-1967 Israel is, what, 18 miles wide at one point, and densely populated, while Arizona alone is 400 miles tall and is in many places sparsely populated. Other than all that, it's a great example for the US.

  16. Warren Terra,

    Thanks for admitting that Eisenhower did find a "solution to a flood of illegal immigrants". Better yet he didn't even use nuclear weapons.

    Eisenhower used "police-state" methods? Sure. I guess the Supreme Allied commander was a Nazi sympathizer at heart. He probably deported all of those illegals when he was taking a taking a break from attending Klan rallies. Sorry, I meant taking a break from when he desegregating the military and integrating Central High in Little Rock.

    I guess you really need to retarget your ire towards the real villains such as… LULAC (The League of United Latin American Citizens) which supported the crackdown. They must have been part of the nativist Gestapo as well (commanded by Eisenhower of course). Did I mention the GI Forum and the Texas State Federation of Labor? Obviously fascist front organizations.

    You wrote

    "Israel invests far more heavily in wall construction and patrols than we’d ever contemplate"

    However, you again have your facts wrong. Israel is spending around $2 billion building its fence. That's about 1% of GDP. A similar number for the U.S. would be $140 billion. Obviously a fence along our Southern Border will cost far less. Similarly it will cost the U.S. far less (as a fraction of GDP) to patrol our fence compared to Israel. Indeed, a fence is a force multiplier that will enable the U.S. to maintain control with fewer agents, not more.

    Of course, the Israeli situation is different. However, many of those differences favor the U.S., not Israel. To state the obvious, suicide bombers are probably a bit more motivated than your typical illegal alien. Much of the U.S. / Mexico border is in quite remote areas where any human activity stands out. In Arizona and New Mexico the border is well removed from major population centers allowing for defense in depth. If a suicide bomber reaches an Israeli town or city, Israel has lost. By contrast the U.S. can simply deport an illegal that gets past the fence and reaches Tucson. Israel has roughly 14,000 people per mile of fence. The U.S. has 150,000 people per mile.

    It's quite true that the U.S. is not likely to try as hard as the Israeli's do. However, given that illegals aren't nearly as motivated and we have vastly more resources, we don't have to. Nor do we need 100% success. 99% is good enough.

    It turns out that other countries have built fences solely to stop illegals. Notably Spain. In this sense, the Spanish fences are closer to the U.S. / Mexico model. When they were built the same arguments were used. "You can never stop illegals with a fence". How well do they work. Almost no one gets over the fences (at all). The handful of people who somehow climb them are always caught.

    One final argument, you are overestimating the difference in the motivation levels of Americans versus Israelis. It might seem obvious that a country facing suicide bombers would be drastically more focused on security than a nation losing wages to illegal construction workers. However, Israel had its Open Borders lobby too. They stopped the fence for years. They were not driven by cheap labor, but a vision of "Greater Israel" that the fence marked the end of.

    In the U.S. context, Bush opposed fence construction because he saw it (rightly) as a blow to his plan for a NAU. Sorry make that the SPP. Eventually he was force to support fence construction to save whatever minimal credibility he still had on border control. Of course, he ended up with none at all.

    Conversely, Americans are much more motivated to enforce our immigration laws than you appear to recognize. According to one poll 73% of Americans favor "Requiring people to produce documents verifying legal status" and 62% favor "Allow the police to question anyone they think might be in the country illegally".

    Another poll found that 75% of Democrats agree. They must be secret police state activists.

  17. Mark, I think your etiquette is poor: Mickey Kaus wants a conversation, and you denied it to him – went to his party, smiled, left, and now are talking with your pals about what a jerk you think him. Massey is not a counter to his GM example – and I think he's right that GM has been so hamstrung by work rules and featherbedding that it can't compete with Toyota/Hyundai on quality and price. But, you know, you should have had that conversation with him, instead of ducking out and then blogging coulda woulda.

    I like Kaus, myself, have given him money and if in California would vote for him.

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