Capital is woke and asked for this immigration crisis.
By Micah MEADOWCROFT
Some days—increasingly, it feels like—there is a confluence in online commentary. You see a piece over here and a piece over there and find they seem to speak to the same question from different angles, yet it feels more fortuitous than simply your own mind seeing what they share; the design is not your own, the luck is real, and surely they were published in digital proximity to each other for some kind of reason. Did you believe in zeitgeists? You do now. That’s putting a hopeful spin on it, after you remember we’ve had this conversation before and you’re not sure anyone has learned.
This morning, Newsweek published an editorial by J.D. Vance, who needs no introduction to regular readers of The American Conservative. Vance puts the blame for the crisis on our southern border on the U.S. rich, especially the political megadonors. As he reminds us, access to a legally precarious labor force drives low-skill wages down, and workers here illegally don’t have to be given benefits.
They love illegal immigration for the simple reason that their livelihoods are subsidized by illegal immigration—while illegal aliens themselves are subsidized by the taxpayer. It’s a redistribution scheme from the poor to the rich. More immigration means lower wages for their workers and easier access to servants for their decadent personal lives.
Of course, those whom this arrangement has made very rich distract from the material economic realities of this dynamic with accusations of racism.
Whenever I criticize the Biden administration’s immigration policies, someone tells me I’m “racist.” Many Republicans naturally grow defensive—no one wants to be tagged as a racist, especially in today’s environment when an accusation like that can end your career or ruin your life.
This move has power precisely because the United States is, uniquely, a country that has spent more than a century now trying not to be racist, to make good on the proposition that it is self-evident that all men are created equal, with rights endowed by their creator. Marshaling the associations of racism to defend open borders and illegal immigration is a perversion of that long effort for justice, as the alien labor so ripe for abuse is used to undercut the economic position of the black and Native American workers that the country owes a square deal. As Vance writes,
It’s not racist to want a secure border, higher-paying jobs for our fellow citizens and a government that doesn’t allow human smugglers to earn billions of dollars on the plight of poor people. It’s not racist to want to keep meth and heroin (most of which comes in through Mexico) out of our aching communities’ bloodstream. And it’s not racist to prevent human traffickers from taking advantage of the desperate poor of Central America.
What’s so disgusting about the charge of racism is that it takes something good about the American people—their compassion for their fellow citizens—and warps it in service of our corporate overlords.
Of course, one thing that should be added to Vance’s editorial is the fact that many of those who have profited off open borders at the expense of their fellow citizens support the GOP, and not just the Democrats. They have a stranglehold on both parties. As Bernie Sanders used to say, in 2016 before the money got to him, the free movement of people is a “Koch Brothers” idea, a piece of a three-legged stool of loose money, loose borders, and loose personal information.
This afternoon, TAC published the latest column from contributing editor Matthew Walther, on the significance of “woke capital.” Capital referring to the economic regime of modern liberalism, the self-ordering logic of unrestrained market forces, Walther reminds us that the adjective “woke” is not an additional, secondary qualification of capital like saying Penelope is tired, but is instead a primary quality of capital, like Penelope is wise.
The teleology of globalized capital was always going to be wokeness, by which I mean the emancipation of men and women from every bond, custom, obligation, tradition, attachment, or harmlessly venerable practice they might once have held in common, sometimes more or less consciously—e.g., the moral dictates of the Christian religion—but more often than not simply as a matter of habit. This blind destructive power is, in fact, what wokeness is.
Wokeness is the acid bath of individualism coming out the other side to demand collective action. After all the old ties that bind have been eaten away by Coca-Cola we, lonely, look to corporations to sell us an identity and a captured state to enforce it. I won’t pretend Walther and Vance would draw the same connections between their pieces I have, or are likely to agree on what is to be done, but I think they write from and for our particular moment. The importation of illegal immigrants is—not only a disaster for the men, women, and children stuck in limbo on our border or in our neighborhoods—just one more means of dissolving the solidarity that might give us a defense against who and what would reduce us all to units, and those merely economic.