Among the most valuable non-fiction books of recent years, I would put Mark Steyn’s America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. Before it was published, commentators hardly gave the changing shape of American demographics the time of day. Since then, demographic changes and trends have been regular features of many political analysts’ emissions.
Demography having become a key factor in American elections, Steyn’s most recent column is back on the subject:
I noted the other day that today's swing states - North Carolina, Arizona - were yesterday's red states. How'd that happen? Tim Alberta takes a crack at the question in a piece headlined "Can The GOP Overcome Demographic Change In Red States?"...According to the Census, in 1970 the "Non-Hispanic White" population of California was 78 percent. By the 2010 census, it was 40 percent. Over the same period, the 10 percent Hispanic population quadrupled and caught up with whites.
That doesn't sound terribly "natural" does it? If one were informed that, say, the population of Nigeria had gone from 80 percent black in 1970 to 40 percent black today, one would suspect something rather odd and unnatural had been going on. Twenty years ago, Rwanda was about 14 percent Tutsi. Now it's just under 10 percent. So it takes a bunch of Hutu butchers getting out their machetes and engaging in seven-figure genocide to lower the Tutsi population by a third. But, when the white population of California falls by half, that's "natural," just the way it is, one of those things, could happen to anyone.
The "sweeping and unprecedented demographic transformation" is not natural, but rather the conscious result of government policy enthusiastically supported by one-and-a-half parties in America's two-party state, and accepted with weary fatalism by most of the rest, including Tim Alberta.
As usual, Steyn hits the jugular. The “government policy” at issue is, of course, the more or less bipartisan decision, never explicitly announced, to cease to maintain control of immigration and the national borders.
Really, given that change in federal policy, what but a swift flood of persons from poorer and less free countries – especially the ones closest to us – could we have reasonably expected? It’s certainly what we got, especially in the West and Southwest. Nor does the tide appear likely to reverse itself.
Our immigration debacle has been a primary component of Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency. His plan to wall off the southern border is one of his best known proposals. As popular as it’s been with his supporters, it’s roiled the stomachs of the GOP establishment. Alongside major Republican donors’ supposed affection for cheap labor, the luminaries of the Grand Old Party dislike to take a firm stand on anything these days. A firm stand on immigration law enforcement and border control is particularly frightening to them.
Steyn continues thus:
As to what "Trump cannot deliver", he certainly cannot reverse the last fifty years. But he can change government policy, and thereby slow down a "demographic transformation" Americans of Lee and Pam's generation never sought....[I]mmigration is not a tsunami: It is a public policy enabled by the political class and enforced by the bureaucracy. Demography is destiny, but the erasure of the national borders is not demography: it's a political choice.
True as far as it goes, but – and I hate to say it about an observer of the political scene as astute as Steyn – he’s got hold of the wrong end of the issue.
Pressure against a national border is a matter of the incentives that apply to it. The incentives pertinent to the pressure against our southern border are primarily economic: opportunities for economic advancement on the north side that are few and far between on the south side.
A physical barrier against illegal land entry to the United States is a good idea, but it will not suffice to stem the tide. There are many ways into a country with an eight thousand mile perimeter. Not all of them can be physically obstructed. The genuinely determined will penetrate the land route even after a sturdy wall is put there, as the tunnels from Northern Mexico into the U.S. should make clear. To stanch the flow of illegal aliens, the federal and state governments must eliminate the incentives that propel them.
The most important policy changes would be:
- Elimination of the “anchor baby” possibility;
- Elimination of all government benefits bestowed upon illegal aliens, including public education;
- Exemption of hospitals and clinics from the laws that mandate treatment of illegal aliens;
- Punishment of illegal entry by a prison term rather than mere deportation.
- Punishment of businesses found to hire illegals by a heavy fine or outright dissolution;
- Punishment of “sanctuary” organizations and municipalities in a similar fashion.
Could a Trump Administration bring about those changes? Unclear. Trump would favor them, but the GOP caucuses in Congress would be largely opposed to them. At least one – the “anchor baby” matter – would raise Constitutional questions that would be fought all the way to the Supreme Court, where the outcome would be difficult to predict. Nevertheless, only such changes would lessen the pressure against our southern border to a manageable, endurable level. A wall alone won’t do the job.
Permit me a few unusually contentious words about the nature of this country.
America was originally settled by white Europeans, mostly from England, France, and the Netherlands. Those persons brought their religious, moral, and civic values with them. Those values are embedded in America’s political structure as expressed in the Constitution of the United States and the various state charters. Had the populace been of another stock, it’s unlikely our political order would be what it is.
The wave of immigrants from middle, southern, and eastern Europe that took place in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries respected what it found here and adapted to it. That was due to several factors:
- The orderly nature of the immigration, which was well managed by the port authorities;
- The insistence of existing Americans upon the assimilation of the immigrants to American norms;
- The sharp limits upon American government in that era;
- The racial makeup of the new immigrants;
- The dominant Christianity of those immigrants.
Race and religion were critical to the assimilation. There were almost no Negroes or Muslims in the immigrant wave. While there were thousands of Jewish families in the tide, they respected the Christian framework of the society they found and accepted that it was not theirs to change.
It wasn’t only the political structure of America that those immigrants assimilated to; they also accepted its culture. Though ethnic communities such as “little Italys” and “German towns” did form, their residents didn’t regard those communities as legally or politically separate from what surrounded them, nor did they expect to replace the surrounding culture with their own.
Not long ago, I released an unusual (for me) novelette titled “A Place Of Our Own.” Though it was written as part of a “challenge” posed by another writer and concerns a sub-population distinguished neither by race nor by ethnicity nor by creed, I found it to be a jumping-off point for thoughts about the powerful tendency of the races, creeds, and ethnicities to self-segregate.
Everyone wants a place of his own. The most obvious expression of that desire is the acquisition of private property: home ownership. Yet we also see it among the races and ethnicities – remember those “little Italys,” et cetera? – at an almost equal intensity. Also, there are nations built on the premise of a “homeland” for a particular religion, Israel and Saudi Arabia being the most prominent examples.
The most effective antidote for the frictions that exist among the races, ethnicities, and religions has always been separation, with interactions governed by formal structures such as markets. It remains so today. Yet this clashes with the common notion that America is a “propositional nation,” which “should” be open to all who are willing to abide by its Constitutional principles. By that premise, anyone willing to say “Yeah, sure” when asked if he regards the Constitution to be acceptable as the Supreme Law of the Land gets a ticket to the show.
But that hasn’t worked.
I rather doubt that a Trump Administration could make most of the sweeping changes I noted above. However, in the absence of those changes, we will see continued intense pressure against our borders and a steady increase of the tensions and fears that have beset American life.
Those tensions and fears will cause ever more of us, desperate for “A Place Of Our Own,” to self-segregate. The racial, ethnic, and creedal enclaves that result will enforce unofficial borders that will horrify the bien-pensants. They’ll amp up their proclamations about “racism” and pieties about how “we’re really all alike.” Note, however that that’s a proposition to which their well-guarded redoubts give lip service and nothing more.