It's frustrating. The three overlapping forces that have sent this country in so many wrong directions -- the conservative movement, the neoconservative movement and the Republican Party -- are warring among themselves, doing their best impression of crabs in a barrel, and sensible people can't even enjoy the spectacle. That's because it's hard to take pleasure in the havoc they've caused and the disarray they will someday leave behind.
Factions within the conservative movement have been engaged in escalating skirmishes over what, exactly, the label "conservative" should mean. This week the fight is over illegal immigration. The nativists and xenophobes want mass deportation and a Berlin Wall looming over the Rio Grande. The cultural determinists lose their studied, academic poise the moment they hear brown-skinned people speaking Spanish or see them waving a Mexican flag. Watch your blood pressure, people, because Cinco de Mayo is just a few weeks away.
The social conservatives seem to be hopelessly conflicted about immigration. They have a kind of immune-system reaction against this unchecked inflow of aliens who look suspiciously like carriers of alien values. But, as some conservative commentators have noted, the immigrants flooding across the border are more likely to have traditional, family-and-church values than many native-born Americans. Does . . . not . . . compute.