Jonah Goldberg

Oh, to be sure, there are racists, bigots, xenophobes and the like among the critics of immigration reform. Of this I am quite sure. I am also certain there are people who believe that the marketplace is the highest source of values, and the bottom line is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong.

There are also would-be aristocrats who probably love the idea of a color-coding system for the lower classes, the working poor, the help. Heck, there may even be some people who really want to make North America into one big American cheese enchilada with maple syrup on top.

But you know what? Even if these are the overriding motives for all of the combatants in the debate over immigration reform, none of them is publicly using these arguments to justify his position. No one - of any consequence at least - is saying we need to keep the Mexicans out because they're racially inferior. No one is openly pushing amnesty as a vital first step toward the nullification of the U.S. Constitution.

Perhaps chief among the many problems with these sorts of accusations is that they help no one, advance nothing. Only those already convinced cheer the unsubstantiated charges of villainy. Indeed, crying racism to delegitimize an opponent's legitimate arguments is typically a left-wing tactic, and conservatives do not color themselves with glory by mimicking it.

The beauty of a democratic system is that it depends on democratic arguments. Even if every partisan is a villain, he has to make his case in a way that will convince people. And it's those arguments we're supposed to be dealing with. It's very easy for me to say that while my opponent may say X that he secretly believes Y because he is a member of a supersecret Satanic cabal or because his fern is speaking to him through his dental fillings. But unless I have proof, debate should be confined to X.

Besides, are the merits of the immigration debate really so boring and trivial that we need to invent dramatically malevolent motives for each other? Must the editors of the Journal be market idolaters seeking to erase the very concept of America in order to dispense with their arguments? And do my colleagues at National Review have to be cast as secretly rabid xenophobes and racists in order to make the conversation interesting? Does every person worried about the influx of millions of poor immigrants - here illegally, by the way - really have to be a eugenicist hiding his phrenologist's calipers behind his back?

Not every businessman is a mustache-twirling robber baron, and not every advocate of enforcing the law is a bigot.

And even if they were, saying so wouldn't disprove their math, refute their examples or invalidate their arguments.

Or at least that's what my Freemason paymasters at Halliburton tell me.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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