David Frum's Right Way To Talk About Immigration: Don't!
Print Friendly and PDF

[Click here to order Sam Francis' new monograph, Ethnopolitics: Immigration, Race, and the American Political Future]

The ink was not even dry on the California ballots before the Open Borders neoconservatives at National Review Online started pontificating about how Arnold Schwarzenegger's victory in California tells us what to say and think about immigration.

"There are important lessons to be learned from this election about the right way and the wrong way to talk about the immigration issue," pronounced David Frum, the World's Most Patriotic Neo-Con. Arnold, of course, talked about it the right way, which was not to talk about it at all.

The neocons, you see, ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, want to posture as being anti-immigration or at least in favor of "responsible" immigration control. They also want to scuttle the real conservatives, who have argued against immigration for decades, by claiming that the neos are the ones who really know how to oppose it effectively.

But of course, like most of what the neocons do and say, their immigration control position is a fraud, which is why the Schwarzenegger campaign is supposed to be the model of how neocons want to approach the issue.

The burden of Mr. Frum's argument that Mr. Schwarzenegger could teach us a lesson in how to deal with immigration is that he received some 30 percent of the Hispanic vote in the race, even though he had himself endorsed California's Proposition 187, which cut off most state benefits to illegal immigrants, in 1994, had former Gov. Pete Wilson (closely associated with Prop 187) on his campaign, and opposed Gov. Gray Davis' bill giving illegal immigrants driver's licenses.

Therefore, it's supposed to be surprising Mr. Schwarzenegger got any Hispanic votes at all.

Mr. Frum's argument buys into the now decrepit Open Borders claim that Prop 187 was a disaster for the Republicans who embraced it.

Of course it was so much of a disaster that it revived Gov. Wilson's flagging career and helped elect five Republicans to Congress in 1994, but the Wall Street Journal and the rest of the Open Borders crowd at once propagated the big lie that Prop 187 was losing the party the Hispanic vote.

Mr. Schwarzenegger's win of 30 percent of that vote is supposed to show that what Mr. Frum calls his "spirit of calm and practicality" toward immigration has undone the damage Prop 187 did.

But the argument is without merit. In the first place, Mr. Schwarzenegger, as Mr. Frum acknowledges, "never developed much of a position on immigration" at all apart from the driver's license issue, so his "spirit of calm and practicality" on immigration is rather like the calm and practicality of the Great Sphinx of Gizeh.

In the second place, the Hispanic vote Mr. Schwarzenegger received is not in the least remarkable.

Since at least 1972, Hispanics have delivered about 30 percent of their vote to Republicans in most presidential elections, and in 1994 Prop 187 itself won 37 percent of the Hispanic vote—well above what Mr. Schwarzenegger won this week.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan also won 37 percent of the Hispanic vote, which is usually regarded as the high point for a Republican.

Even if you throw in conservative Republican Tom McClintock's 9 percent share of the Hispanic vote, the total of 39 percent for both Republicans combined in this week's election is not unprecedentedly high.

The real reason Republican candidates in the late 1990s—Bob Dole and Jack Kemp in 1996, Dan Lungren in the California gubernatorial race in 1998—lost more Hispanic votes than Republicans usually do is that they were weak candidates in general—they too discussed immigration "in a spirit of calm and practicality"—which is why they lost votes in general.

That's probably the same reason Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante did so poorly this week (he still won a sizeable 54 percent majority of the Hispanic vote and a landslide 65 percent of the black vote).

Mr. Schwarzenegger, by contrast, and whatever the merits of his positions, was a strong candidate. He won.

He also won with a heavy white turnout and majority white support (61 percent of whites voted for the recall itself, with 65 percent voting for the two Republicans).

Neither black nor Hispanic voters turned out to the degree those who pander to them wanted or needed. [Exit polls PDF]

Of course there is every reason to discuss the immigration issue in a real "spirit of calm and practicality," which is how the most knowledgeable supporters of real immigration control always have discussed it.

What Mr. Schwarzenegger did and what neocon know-nothings want is not to talk about it at all so it won't be an issue.

But how much longer that strategy can work on an issue as critical and controversial as mass immigration is something the California election tells us nothing about.


[Sam Francis [email him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection of his columns, America Extinguished: Mass Immigration And The Disintegration Of American Culture, is now available from Americans For Immigration Control. Click here for Sam Francis' website.]

Print Friendly and PDF