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Iconography of the Pledge

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Iconography of the Pledge"

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The visual iconography of the Pledge to America is fascinating. It’s full of photos of what I think are Republican members of Congress meeting with real Americans to better understand their problems and their burning desire for large deficit-financed tax cuts for rich people. But literally 100 percent of the people in the photos are white. It’s just a little glimpse at a particular vision of what America looks like. I don’t really have the chops for a thoroughgoing analysis—maybe Scott Eric Kaufmann could deliver—but I thought the appealing-yet-nonsensical promise of cowboy-led economic growth on page 17 sums the whole thing up pretty well:

cowboy 1

But perhaps a more telling exemplar of the incoherence of the modern right is that the very first image in the document is a nearly full-page shot of the Statue of Liberty. And why not, she’s an iconic symbol of American freedom and on a rhetorical level that’s the aim of this document. And yet the iconography of the statue is inextricably linked with the idea of immigration, and specifically the open borders era that preceded World War One. Hop on a boat, steam to Ellis Island, demonstrate that you’re not carrying dangerous contagious disease, and away you go.

But when I observed on Twitter yesterday that today’s conservatives have turned their back on the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breath free I got an enormous amount of pushback. Oh no, the right yelped, we’re not against immigrants, we’re just against illegal immigrants coming here illegally. And of course they are. Yet throughout this document you don’t see any pleas to make it easier to immigrate to the United States legally. Nor do you ever see discussion in the conservative press of the fact that we have so much illegal migration of unskilled workers largely because it’s almost impossible for an unskilled worker to move here legally under current law. But it’s obvious that someone genuinely interested in the “avoid lawlessness” aspect of fighting illegal migration as opposed to the “I don’t like all these Mexicans” aspect would be trying to create better legal channels.

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