It was mentioned to me recently that my views have become more “liberal” regarding the wall along the southern border of the US. In truth, my views haven’t changed in over 22 years. The ironic part of this is that it is actually Republicans who accuse me of becoming more liberal.
The accusation actually makes me laugh a little, because I remember the exact moment when my mind was changed to be against such a wall, and it was Republicans who had convinced me that a wall on the southern border is a bad idea.
Pat Buchanan was a contender in the GOP presidential primary in 1996. Just like Trump, one of the centerpieces of his platform was the erection of a wall along the US-Mexico border. Just like Trump, he was accused of being a hatemonger and a bigot for suggesting this wall. But, the labels were actually coming from the bulk of Republicans who were supporting other candidates – predominantly those supporting Bob Dole.
I was in attendance at the district convention for the Oklahoma State Republican Party in Oklahoma City in 1996. At that time, I was an ardent supporter of Buchanan. (This was a mistake. I know. You don’t have to tell me.) In fact, I waltzed around the convention proudly sporting my Buchanan campaign sticker on the lapel of my sport coat. The number of people stopping me to say things like, “How can you support that bigot who wants to put up a wall?” shocked me, because I thought Buchanan to be the most consistent representative of small government and Republican ideals (my ideas were a bit mixed up at the time).
After being insulted a few times by other attendees at this convention, I began to get more curious. So, rather than walk away annoyed, I began to ask more questions to flesh out their thoughts a little bit. While i did not agree at all with the idea that a wall was racist in nature, I began to listen to the more relevant arguments against such a wall, and I was convinced.
The dominant thinking at that time, by Republicans, was that a wall represented a fringe – more liberal – element of the party. It represented something that was spending other people’s money on a big public works project that was probably not going to be effective. It would also mean that some people would even lose their land by force through eminent domain. There was also a belief amongst many at the time that immigrants were a crucial part of the economy, and to stem the flow of labor across the border would be to hinder a free economy. A majority believed that immigration needed to become easier – not more difficult. In an era when the figure of Ronald Regan still dominated conversations at GOP conventions, it had not been that much earlier that he had suggested amnesty for many illegal immigrants.
Bob Dole went on to handily win against Buchanan in that primary. It wouldn’t be until 2016 that the idea of a wall would gain steam and become popular within the GOP. So, it was at that convention in 1996 that I formed my beliefs about a wall, and in many ways about immigration in general. I find it very ironic that these ideas didn’t come from wide-eyed leftist Democrats. Not for me. These ideas came to me from devoted members of the GOP.
Republicans pulled a flip-flop on their ideas about immigration and about a wall. While it could be said that the wall was always a part of the more conservative right, there is no doubt that it was not a Republican idea at all. It took hold in what was considered the conservative wing of the party, but in truth, it better serves what many think of as conservative priceless to oppose the wall.
If you want less government, then it makes sense to oppose stealing other people’s money to pay for a large public works project. If you are for less government, it makes sense to oppose the use of eminent domain for such a project, and it also makes sense to oppose things that hinder trade and the free movement of capital resources, such as labor. If you are truly for less government, then what really makes more sense is to reduce barriers to immigration and make it much easier for people to move into jobs where labor is needed. In my opinion, it is Republicans that have moved to the left. Not people like me.