Immigration: Did The American People Just Clear Their Throat?
Print Friendly and PDF
A hundred years and some ago, G.K. Chesterton wrote a poem titled “The Secret People.” The poem is a very brief (60 lines) history of England from a Chestertonianromantic, traditionalist—point of view.

“The Secret People” is hyperbolic and not very logical, but it contains some memorable phrases.

It may be we are meant to mark with our riot and our rest

God’s scorn for all men governing. It may be beer is best.

But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet.

Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.

Whether God does indeed nurse “scorn for all men governing,” I couldn’t say. But plainly Chesterton thought the common people of England did:
We saw the King as they killed him, and his face was proud and pale;

And a few men talked of freedom, while England talked of ale.

The poet had hold of an important point. Politics doesn’t occupy much space in people’s minds. Sport, celebrities, entertainment, gadgetry, gossip, and, yes, ale, are all much more popular topics of conversation among ordinary citizens.

George Will remarked some years ago that he had published a shelf of books about politics and one about baseball, and his royalty statements told him where America’s heart was. (My own statements suggest that even analytic number theory is more interesting than politics to the book-buying public.)

In Anglosphere nations it’s hard to get great masses of people concentrating on political topics. This is even the case with a topic like immigration, vital to the futures of their children and grandchildren.

From time to time, however, the Chestertonian paradigm breaks down. Some event comes up to concentrate people’s minds on a key issue, and they do speak. Twenty-one thousand of them spoke in the parliamentary constituency of Clacton, in Chesterton’s England, last month, electing the first ever Member of Parliament from the anti-globalist, immigration-patriot United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

The voters of a different constituency, Rochester and Strood, look set fair to do the same tomorrow (November 20):

The BBC’s assistant political editor, Norman Smith, who spoke to candidates in Rochester and Strood for the BBC News Channel on Tuesday, said immigration was the main issue in the constituency.

He added that the topic “has become something of a catch-all issue for a wider discontent towards Westminster and the political establishment.”

[Rochester and Strood by-election: Campaign in final stages, BBC News, November 18,2014]

A “scorn for all men governing,” as it were.

American voters have no UKIP equivalent (USIP?) to vote for. For one thing, there is no such clear, in-plain-sight embodiment of globalization as the European Union for Americans to fix their attention on. It was antagonism towards the EU that propelled UKIP into the British political arena.

For another, the U.S.A. is nothing like as crowded as the U.K.: 84 persons per square mile, versus the U.K.’s 680. Demographic issues are much more…pressing in a country that crowded. (So logic would suggest, at any rate. It remains to be explained why Australia, with a mere eight people to the square mile, is putting up the Anglosphere’s firmest resistance to mass illegal immigration.)

There are signs, none the less, that while Americans may not have spoken yet, they were clearing their collective throat in the November 4th midterm elections.

We’ve all seen the map of House results: a few splashes of blue in a sea of red. As Michael Barone observed in a more-than-usually perceptive column, the map is somewhat misleading, in that the blue splotches have higher population density than the broad red swathes. But as Barone also points out, though:

It does tell us something about the geographic and cultural isolation of the core groups of the Democratic Party: gentry liberals and blacks.

[Is this the political map of the future? by Michael Barone; Washington Examiner, November 13, 2014]

He proceeds with a surprisingly frank analysis of the results, concluding with a prediction:
History shows that self-conscious minorities tend to vote cohesively, as blacks have for 150 years and Southern whites did for 90. [And still do—J.D.] It’s an understandable response to feeling outnumbered and faced with an unappealing agenda.

In that case, Romney’s 59 percent or House Republicans’ 60 percent among whites [i.e. in the November 4th election] may turn out to be more a floor than a ceiling. And that map may become increasingly familiar.

If any one factor has been key to getting white voters to the throat-clearing stage, it has been the flood of illegals from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador this summer. So at least thinks Pat Caddell, former pollster for President Jimmy Carter.
We’ve had a sea change in attitudes on immigration that is stunning in the last three or four months,” [Caddell] said.

The wave “became the reality of ‘Let’s be nice to everyone,’” which has been the public’s traditional attitude toward immigrants, he said. But the wave ensured that Americans “talked to each other and said ‘Oh my God, this is insane,’” Caddell said.

[Polls Show Hostility Toward Obama’s Work Permits For Illegals, by Neil Munro, Daily Caller, November 13th.]

Another professional pollster, Kellyanne Conway, concurs. From that same Daily Caller piece:
After the wave of migrants, Americans aren’t focused on what’s fair to immigrants, said Conway. “Now people are asking ‘What’s fair to the rest of us? What’s fair to the high school or college student who is looking for a job? What is fair to the guy who can’t find unemployment? [Sic]What’s fair to the business owners?” she said. Many business owners are disadvantaged when their rivals hire low-wage illegals.

The shift has been missed by most pollsters because they won’t push past respondents’ polite comments about immigrants to discover their real strongly held attitudes, Conway and Caddell said.

But those attitudes—which can be summarized as, “We mostly like immigration, but we really, really want fewer immigrants,” said Conway—emerged in the voting booth.

It may be that beer is best, as usual.

Or it may be that White Americans had something else on their minds, and have not spoken yet.

Or it may be that they were making a statement about mass illegal immigration on November 4th—and President Obama somehow just didn’t notice.

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. His most recent book, published by com is  FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle).His writings are archived at

Readers who wish to donate (tax deductible) funds specifically earmarked for John Derbyshire's writings at can do so here.





Print Friendly and PDF