Like Donald Trump’s “Eek-a-Mexican!” school of social analysis, the rise of Europe’s sundry populist anti-immigration movements — which run the gamut from decent clear-eyed patriotism to skinhead hooliganism — are a testimony to the fact that when responsible people cede the field on an issue of deep and abiding national concern, it isn’t the issue that goes away but the responsibility. Democrats won’t talk about this for obvious reasons; most Republicans generally won’t talk much about it, either, because they are terrified of being called racists. (As I will be called, by somebody whose job it is to call people racists, for having written this column.) Economics should be an important consideration in making immigration policy — probably the most important consideration — but it isn’t the only consideration, because people aren’t widgets, and culture, as opposed to multiculturalism, has value. Thus the perennial popularity of propositions such as making English the official national language of the United States. (Pakistan, where the government uses English and very few people speak Urdu as their mother tongue, is moving in the opposite direction.) Americans watching the wave of so-called refugees rolling across Europe are worried about it for the same reason that the Swiss are; there may be some malice in it, some racism or xenophobia — but that is not all there is in it.
One wishes that Senator Rubio would at least in some small part take up the case. His immigrant roots and personal charm would do a great deal to insulate him from cynical charges of bigotry, and the discussion desperately needs a second voice, one not issuing from the uncrowded skull of Donald J. Trump or any of the supplementary fools and charlatans in his orbit. It is a different discussion in the United States than it is in Switzerland (with its population well less than that of metropolitan Los Angeles), but the underlying concerns are the same, and they are legitimate.