People power counts

Published 1:27 pm Monday, July 17, 2006

No issue discussed in this column has brought in so much virtually unanimous mail, so full of outrage, as the issue of amnesty for illegal aliens living in this country.

Much of this mail also expressed a sense of futility. “What can I do?” these letters and e-mails often asked. “I am just an ordinary citizen.”

Sometimes these letters and e-mails said, “I have written my senator” (or representative) — and either received no reply or got back an obvious form letter, not really responding to the concerns expressed. Some said that they wrote to their local newspaper but these letters were not printed.

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“I am just one person,” some said. “What difference do my views make?”

What difference? Public outrage made the Senate and the President of the United States back down from their amnesty bill.

That’s the bottom line that counts — not whether you get a personal reply to your letter to a member of Congress or whether your letter to your local newspaper gets printed.

Never think that you don’t count. You are what count most of all. Politicians understand votes if they don’t understand anything else. They are virtually obsessed with public opinion polls.

Democracy means that each individual voter cannot expect to prevail on every issue because there are other voters with other views. But that does not mean that the public is powerless when a clear majority knows what it wants and doesn’t want.

The media, the politicians, and the intelligentsia may all be overwhelmingly on the opposite side but the people will prevail. That is how bilingual education was defeated at the polls in California and why the amnesty bill is now dead in the United States Senate.

Make no mistake about it. The elites always think they know better, that the public’s views are just mindless stereotypes or ugly prejudices.

They think we can always be fooled with a little rhetoric and clever political spin. Sometimes these elites succeed in confusing the issues and pulling a fast one on the public. But, as Abraham Lincoln said long ago, “You can’t fool all the people all the time.”

No small part of the outrage over the immigration issue came from people’s sense that their intelligence was being insulted by those they elected.

The biggest insult was the endlessly repeated claim that illegal aliens “take jobs that Americans won’t take.” Even in agriculture, where illegal aliens have their biggest impact, three quarters of the workers are not — repeat, not — illegal aliens.

In some particular localities, some particular work may be done primarily by illegal aliens. But that does not mean that this work would go undone without them. More pay attracts more people.

New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg is still pushing the line that there would be economic collapse without illegal immigrants. But, despite the scary picture of 12 million illegals being suddenly deported, the cold fact is that 12 million young Americans in the prime of life were removed from our economy to go into the military during World War II and the economy did not collapse.

These 12 million young men went into the military a lot faster than 12 million illegals can be rounded up and deported.

Yet the American economy boomed, producing an incredible amount of output, half of it going into the military to equip and support our own troops and to supply the British and the Russians with vast amounts of war materiel.

Incidentally, the real issue is not how feasible it is to round up and deport 12 million illegals. The real issue is how you prevent 12 million from becoming tens of millions more by allowing amnesty.

There were only about 3 million illegal aliens when an amnesty bill was passed 20 years ago, leading that number to quadruple. Do we want today’s 12 million illegals to quadruple?

The other big insult to our intelligence was the claim that amnesty is not amnesty when you call it something else. But, when the people didn’t buy it, the politicians had to stop selling it.

(To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His Web site is