I’m compelled to note a deafening silence.
I know the Republican Party is now in thrall to right-wingism more than actual conservatism, but conservatives are still influential. In the debate over sanctuary cities, where are they? I don’t mean the libertarians, like the good people at Reason and Cato. I mean rock-ribbed, small-government, local-control Buckleyite conservatives.
Why haven’t they defended sanctuary cities?
I have been looking around and have not found any. If I’m missing someone, let me know. But even Bill Buckley’s old magazine, National Review, appears to stand against sanctuary cities. This is the journal, you’ll recall, that famously stood with the South during the civil rights movement. Per Buckley: “Why the South Must Prevail.”
At the heart of that debate is not crime. It is not immigration. It is not even “nationalism,” however you want to define it. It is state’s rights and it is “home rule.” It is the idea, going back to the founding of the republic, that localities have the right to determine their fates on their own terms—and that federal interference can be tyrannical.
Liberals hear “states’ rights” and think Strom Thurmond or some other apologist for Jim Crow apartheid. Thurmond was the original Dixiecrat, the first segregationist Democrat to break for the Republican Party. He helped deliver the South to Richard Nixon in 1968, sparking a party realignment. Throughout his epic run as a United States senator, he managed to yoke, no matter the issue, the federal government to a creeping tide of faceless totalitarianism.
But “local control” means more than that. Here in Connecticut, we believe so much in local control that we abolished county government in the middle of the last century. The Constitution State’s yearly budget woes are rooted in love of home rule. Instead of distributing widely the cost of services, we have 169 municipalities with 169 fire and police departments, and 169 (or so) public school systems. We will have local control if it drives us to the poor house.
These ideas are not only rooted in tradition but enshrined in jurisprudence. The Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Affordable Care Act in 2012 that would have revoked funding from states that did not comply with the law’s Medicaid requirement. Chief Justice John Roberts called that provision a “gun to the head” to the state. Bad, bad. Very bad. Broadly, the federal government cannot commandeer state and local police forces for any reason. That goes back to Tenth Amendment but also the Third, which prohibits the quartering of federal “soldiers” in any “house” without consent.
At least as important as home rule is the privilege given to family. In this too I am hearing a deafening silence among conservatives.
Where are family values figures blasting the federal government for separating children from their mother and fathers? States like Connecticut have assembled “toolkits” in the event a child comes home from school to find her parents taken by federal authorities.
Where are family values figures decrying husbands being separated from their wives? Since the 1990s, unauthorized immigrants who are legally married to US citizens can be and are being deported. One such man, Wilmer Galo-Andino, was apprehended in New Haven in February and ordered to leave the country in the next 30 days.
With local control and family, conservatives tell us they also believe in private property. If we don’t have that, we have socialism or something like it. Well, I don’t see many conservatives outraged by the loss of businesses and property after “illegal aliens” are deported. Yes, I know. “Illegal aliens” are not citizens. But since when is citizenship a pre-existing condition of conservative principles that conservatives have told us for decades apply universally?
I’m being a little coy.
There are a few conservatives here and there who at least not attacking immigrants. People like Lindsey Graham and John McCain. But I don’t see them defending sanctuary cities on conservative grounds. They are defending immigrants as humanitarians and as Republicans of the Old Order, which is to say friendly to business.
And a lot of that states’ rights talk was indeed a defense of racism. It wasn’t mean for non-whites. It isn’t meant for “illegals.” And family values has nearly always been a pretext for attacking women.
But principles matter. And it’s now, ironically, the Democrats who defend local control, family values and the rights of property.
Let’s not shrink away.
Let’s wear the mantle proudly.
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