"Natural Conservatives": 9/11 And The Myth Of The Uncorrupted Immigrant
Print Friendly and PDF

Among the casualties of the Islamic fundamentalist holocaust inflicted upon our country may be the illusion, held by many on the Establishment Right, that immigrants are more American than we are.  Talk about a silver lining behind a dark cloud.

For at least a decade, Establishment conservatives of the Wall Street Journal and Commentary stripe have made their case for immigration on the assumption that coming to this country is in itself an act of de facto Americanism.  Keeping a large and steady flow of immigrants from the world over is essential to reinvigorating our flagging sense of national purpose, as we native-born Americans have come to take our liberties and prosperity for granted. 

To some extent this view is a legacy of the Cold War.  Taking in refugees from Communist countries from Poland to Vietnam to Cuba had a special urgency. These people hungered for the liberties they could not enjoy back home. 

But after the downfall of the Soviet empire, proponents of mass immigration developed a different, albeit related, angle: Immigrants can combat the domestic cultural decay that first surfaced in those sinister 1960s.  Rather than look for foreign-born scapegoats to explain high crime rates, illiteracy and drug abuse, they insist, U.S. public policy should focus its wrath upon homegrown elite pied pipers and their youthful captive audiences. 

In this scheme of things immigrants from the Third World — even from Islamic police states — embody such out-of-favor American virtues as close family ties, thrift, sobriety and religious piety.  They are, in essence, "natural conservatives," as immigration enthusiasts often put it.

One proponent of this view is grand theorist Francis Fukuyama.  Fresh from publication of his heralded book, The End of History and the Last Man, Fukuyama, in the May 1993 issue of Commentary in an article entitled "Immigrants and Family Values," argued, contra Pat Buchanan, that while America's culture war was indeed real, the enemy lay within:

Those who fear Third World immigration as a threat to Anglo-American values do not seem to have noticed what the real sources of cultural breakdown have been…. (T)he ideological assault on traditional family values–the sexual revolution; feminism and the delegitimization of the male-dominated household; the celebration of alternative lifestyles; attempts ruthlessly to secularize all aspects of American public life; the acceptance of no-fault divorce and the consequent rise of single-parent households–was not the creation of recently arrived Chicano agricultural workers or Haitian boat people, much less of Chinese or Korean immigrants.  They originated right in the heart of America's white, Anglo-Saxon community.  The "Hollywood elite" who create the now-celebrated Murphy Brown, much like the establishment of "media elite" that Republicans enjoy attacking, do not represent either the values or the interests of most recent Third World immigrants.

Fukuyama worried not that our own predominant culture will be corrupted by Third World immigrants, but vice versa.  "In the upcoming block-by-block cultural war," he concluded, "the enemy will not speak Spanish or have a brown skin.  In Pogo's words, 'He is us.'" 

More such ventilations can be found in that magazine's 50th anniversary issue of November 1995, which featured a symposium, "The National Prospect," [VDARE.com note: Commentary is now a pay archive so we can't link.] of more than 70 contributors. [Peter Brimelow writes: including me, to be fair!]  The prospect for immigrants apparently was pretty grim.  Zbigniew Brzezinski denounced today's "style-setting culture," with its catering to base consumer instincts and manufacture of empty celebrities, as making it difficult for recent immigrants to want to share in a national vision.  Dinesh D'Souza weighed in with this observation:   

"Immigration is not the problem.  The challenges faced by newcomers, such as what language to speak, how to gain access to credit, and a feeling of cultural displacement and isolation, are precisely the same as those faced by earlier generations of immigrants."  The problem instead, he argued, was our counterculture's blurring of "the ancient distinction between civilization and barbarism." 

Meanwhile, Gertrude Himmelfarb, provided a prim Victorian rebuke to America's cultural elites:  "Multiculturalism and immigration are frequently discussed under the title of America's 'identity crisis.'  But it is less an identity crisis that America is experiencing than a moral and cultural crisis."  This crisis was triggered by upper classes who propagated a false doctrine of anti-bourgeois personal liberation, with the lower classes paying the bills for the resulting spiritual devastation. 

"Immigration, si! Counterculture, no!"  This has been the Right's quasi-official party line for the Nineties and beyond.  Conservative paladins from Paul Gigot to Bill Bennett stand ready and willing to advance it. 

And if there aren't enough native-born traditionalists to vote the counterculture out of their metaphorical offices, well, America can import the votes.  Washington Times assistant national editor Jeffrey Kuhner argued in the June 21, 2001 edition of that paper that a good way for the GOP to court Hispanic voters across the U.S. would be to make Puerto Rico our 51st state.  Far from creating a Quebec-style separatist cauldron, he argued, we would lay the groundwork for a Catholic version of Hawaii.  These people are natural conservatives, Kuhner explained:

Although the island's residents tend to favor statism and lavish entitlement programs, they are also deeply Catholic and socially conservative.  This renders them receptive to the Republicans' message on abortion, family values and homosexual marriage.  In fact, Puerto Rican statehood can help buttress the GOP against the onslaught of the forces of social liberalism, which have defeated the Republican Party on every cultural front for the past decade.

And you thought the era of Big Government was over.

Meanwhile, Inside-The-Beltway eminence Grover Norquist thinks Muslims have become the conservatives' secret weapon.  In the June issue of The American Spectator, Norquist, argued in a piece titled "Natural Conservatives," that George W. Bush owed his margin of presidential victory to Islamic voters.  Norquist referred to an exit poll conducted by the Tampa Bay Islamic Center showing Bush got 88 percent of Florida's Muslim vote, compared to 4 percent for Al Gore and 8 percent for Ralph Nader.   He cited other surveys revealing 61 percent of Muslims would ban abortion except to save the life of the mother, while 84 percent support school choice.  From such surveys Norquist, a member of the founding board of directors of the Islamic Institute, deduces that conservatives should fight to admit far more Islamic immigrants.  

Does our friend Grover (email him) want to reevaluate his position in the context of the events of September 11?       

For sheer audacity John J. Miller's article in the August 6, 2001 National Review, "Immigrants for President," takes first prize.  He calls for scrapping the Constitution's clause in Article II, Section 1 that bans the foreign-born from serving as President.  "An immigrant president," wrote Miller, "most likely would embrace the United States with the fervor of a convert–a flag-waving nationalist whose public displays of love for country would match Joe Lieberman talking about his faith.  People would start rolling their eyes by the third Pledge of Allegiance in every stump speech." 

Miller believes amending the Constitution would yield massive dividends for Republicans.  "America's 27 million immigrants–roughly a third of them citizens–would look up to Bush with a new appreciation," he noted. 

Taking such logic to its conclusion, why not put the other two-thirds on the fast track to citizenship?  In fact, let's open our borders to accommodate tens of millions more future conservative voters, thrilled over the prospect that with hard work and luck they just might get to be President one day.

Francis Fukuyama assures us that second- and successive-generation immigrants pose far greater potential then their elders for political and cultural disruption–i.e when they've been corrupted by America.   And it's true, as he notes, that the offspring of first-generation immigrants are more susceptible to the siren call of affirmative action, bilingual education and other manifestations of radical multiculturalism. 

But Fukuyama's point easily could be used to make a case for restricting immigration.  If the sons and daughters of Mexican, Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants are the ones organizing all those campus rallies for diversity, future diverse immigration only will beget more diversity demonstrations down the road - whatever the quality of tutoring from their parents, or from neoconservative admirers.  An ethnic herd instinct is hard to break. 

White counterculturalists, by the way, may be a good deal less predisposed toward multiculturalism than Establishment conservatives would have us believe.  Neocon wit David Brooks, at least, understands that with aging, a career and a family have come a certain truce with the real world among the children of the '60s, thus the metamorphosis into that benign cultural hybrid, "bobo" (bohemian meets bourgeois).

But in fact the alleged virtue of even the initial generation of immigrants may be Establishment wishful thinking. For one thing, they are not models of self-reliance and deferred gratification.  Steven Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), using data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, concluded that the proportion of immigrant households using means-tested anti-poverty programs now ranges anywhere from 30 to 50 percent higher than usage levels among the native-born.  Moreover, 33.1 percent of immigrants age 21 and over lack a high school diploma. Among Mexican arrivals the figure is an alarming 65.5 percent.  This contrasts with only 13.2 percent of the native-born. 

First-generation immigrants also produce their share of sociopaths—a share likely proportionately larger than that of the native-born population.  In an April CIS report, "An Examination of U.S. Immigration Policy and Serious Crime," I raised several sound reasons why immigrant crime, especially when committed against other immigrants, has gone vastly underreported.  A few of these reasons:  Ethnic crime networks, local or international, can be as sophisticated as they are ruthless, and thus difficult to penetrate; immigrants from the Third World tend to brush off domestic violence as a "family matter" not requiring police intervention; FBI crime reports rely on data furnished by state and local law enforcement agencies, which typically do not break crimes down according to whether committed by immigrants or the native-born. 

In case you thought that slavery was a national relic, the recent and well-publicized upsurge in that peculiar institution is, for the most part, imported from the Third World.

Those Establishment conservatives who equate immigration with family values, and hence support for the Republican Party, would do well to consult a recent CIS paper by University of Maryland political scientists James Gimpel and Karen Kaufmann.  The study details why GOP Hispanic outreach efforts are likely to backfire.  Hispanic citizens almost across the board vote Democrat by wide margins, and even the lone exception, Cubans, prefer the GOP less than convincingly (George W. Bush would have won Florida in a cakewalk if the Miami-Dade County Cuban ethnic vote really was as conservative as reputation would have it).   

One final point: As debate intensifies over whether to provide amnesty to 3 million or more undocumented Mexican aliens  — the recent Islamic airline holocaust has driven this proposal underground, but it's still there — you can expect to read more Establishment conservatives arguing there are no bad immigrants, just bad American cultural institutions.

But even assuming immigrants want "protection" from modern American institutions, that is not the same as developing an American identity.  The most traditionalist immigrant will never be an American until he or she agrees.  The willingness to become a citizen is one reliable barometer. The news is less than encouraging.  CIS's Camarota in a separate paper revealed the percent of established immigrants who had become citizens plummeted from 63.6 percent to 37.4 percent during 1970-2000.

Here's another, more urgent barometer:  Ask an immigrant, especially one from the Middle East, which prospect is more scary: 

1)  Islamic terrorism goes unchecked and literally destroys America; or

2) anti-Arab and anti-Islamic "backlash" grows among the native-born. 

Let us be frank:  Anyone who answers the latter does not belong in this country.  Period. 

Increasingly, the U.S. is importing people who not only are unable, but also unwilling, to assimilate.  But that's a reality that Establishment conservatives, locked into their smash-the-Sixties'-residue mentality - and increasingly mouthpieces  for the GOP and its short-term electoral timidity - aren't likely to grasp anytime soon. 

Carl F. Horowitz (send him email) is a Washington-area domestic policy consultant.   Previously, he has been a Washington correspondent with Investor's Business Daily, and housing and urban affairs policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation.  He has written for LewRockwell.com and World NetDaily.com  Presently, he is doing research for the Center for Immigration Studies.  He has a Ph.D. in urban planning from Rutgers University.

October 02, 2001

Print Friendly and PDF