Because of illegal immigration, there is no other country that affects America’s way of life as profoundly as does Mexico. Its politics should he followed, therefore, with the same attention to detail that characterized Kremlinology at the height of the Cold War. Instead, there was an air of unreality to the hundreds of American editorials that accompanied the end of over seven decades of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party in Mexico. “It’s like the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of apartheid and the end of the Pinochet regime all rolled into one—and it was done peacefully,” marveled Eric Olson, an election observer for the independent Washington Office on Latin America. Most commentators focused on the opening of an era of democracy, stability and increased foreign investment in Mexico.

As usual, they completely missed the point. The real American interest in the outcome of the July 2 elections is clear: Will new Mexican leadership curtail the demographic onslaught upon America’s porous southern border? Will the incoming president, Vicente Fox Quesada of the National Action Party, turn Mexico into a more prosperous country? Will he offer his citizens an alternative to taking low-paying jobs from working-class Americans? And will he attempt to stop the flow of drugs into the United States?

Fox has been trying to present himself as a sensible and pragmatic politician. “We’re going to propose solutions for the three important issues of our bilateral relationship: migration, trade, and drugs — very concrete, long-term proposals,” he says. But Fox’s business credentials (he used to run Coca-Cola’s operations in Mexico) and his ostensibly non-ideological approach to problem-solving notwithstanding, on these key areas of American concern, his views are less than satisfactory.

Fox wants to terminate the annual review process that the U.S. Congress uses to certify foreign-aid recipients as good partners in the war on drugs. He would replace the review with an agreement among the hemisphere’s drug-producing countries, transit states such as Mexico, and consumers such as the United States. Each would be responsible for meeting quantifiable goals; the United States, for example, would be expected to improve drug interdiction and reduce the number of users. These are fine words and lofty sentiments, but Mexico’s new president is mistaken if he thinks Congress will suspend its annual review while it negotiates a comprehensive multilateral drug-control agreement. For all of his talk. Fox does not intend to interrupt the massive flow of drugs across the U.S.-Mexican border.

While Fox’s views on drug control are discouraging, his ideas on immigration would be disastrous to America’s national interest. Fox wants a “North American common market” (like the European Union) that would, after “five to ten years,” allow the unrestricted movement of labor. “A worker on the Mexican side will make five dollars a day; in the states, the same work[er] would make $60 a day. What we have to really worry about at the end is reducing that gap and eliminating those differences.”

That’s simply another wav of saying that workers on both sides of the border should be making about $20 per day. The equalization of wages. Vox believes, is how Germany and other prosperous northern European countries stopped the influx of illegal immigrants from Spain, Portugal, and Greece. But Spain, Portugal, and Greece have functioning polities, low birth rates, highly literate populations, and—by Mexican standards—bureaucratic structures that are and eliminating paragons of efficiency, honesty, and civic responsibility. Mexico is essentially a Third World country: Poverty is the norm for most people; drug trafficking is rampant; crime and corruption are rife; education and criminal justice are woefully inadequate; and the unrest in the province of Chiapas is far from resolved. Real wages have been stagnant since 1970. Mexico has twice the rate of child malnutrition as South Africa and Brazil, but it also has the fourth-largest number of billionaires in the world, and they mostly owe their fortunes to government connections. Mexico has one of the most underfunded health-care systems in Latin America—with even lower per capita spending than Peru, Nicaragua, and Bolivia.

Small wonder, then, that Fox wants the United States to open its borders and markets even further. Yet Fox’s agenda has been welcomed by the American media because America’s ruling elite is well aware that it owes its financial fortune to a steady supply of cheap labor from south of the border. Our ruling elite does not care that the destruction of the United States as a distinct nation-state may be the ultimate price of this post-national mindset. This outlook rejects the notion of an American ethno-religious culture, inhabiting a defined homeland from sea to shining sea. Through its lack of responsibility to its own people, America’s ruling elite has shown that the greatest price of empire, its final domestic consequence, is the destruction of the very nation that starts down the imperial path.

I wish President Fox well in his attempt to reform Mexico, but let’s build that long-overdue fence from San Diego to Brownsville.