America's Egalitarian Temptation—Stalinism's Unquiet Ghost

Peter Brimelow writes: On November 21, 2008, I spoke in Baltimore at the inaugural meeting of the H.L. Mencken Club, part of the fascinating reformulation now proceeding on the Right in the wake of the collapse of the established conservative movement. The $outhern Poverty Law Center, which had a spy in the audience, posed an amazingly quick summary (they have more money than we do). Now a kind reader has provided a complete transcript. I was introduced by an old friend of VDARE.COM, Professor Paul Gottfried.

Thank you, Paul [Gottfried]. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

I want to thank Bill Regnery and Richard Spencer and all the directors of the H.L. Mencken Club. It's a great honor to be invited to speak at your inaugural meeting here tonight.

I know that this organization went through a number of fires to get this conference started. All I can say is it's clearly been purified!

There's nobody here for the money! There are no foundation executives or other careerists! We don't have that problem!

You are all here out of pure principle. And the fact is that the late, great American Conservative Movement used to be like this. I'm old enough to remember. I emigrated to it in 1970. This is how it used to be.

At one point at Forbes, I used to interview every year Milton Friedman, the great free market economist, who was actually also a great man. (Although I realize that he has critics here, Tom! [Piatak—see here]) And he once said to me, in the mid-nineties, that it was to his great surprise late in his long life—and he was 94 when he died—that he had suddenly started to meet stupid libertarians—stupid free market economists.

He said that, when he was a young man on the campuses, starting a career, he just didn't meet stupid libertarians, because they were winkled out by evolutionary pressure. So those remaining were, all of them, very smart. Of course, they were frequently mad, but that's a different matter. They were smart.

And I think that—putting aside the madness!—we can see that in this conference. This is a conference where the audience really matters. Looking around the room, I'm struck with the high quality of the individuals here. There are a lot of you making real contributions. That's not what you'd find nowadays in what's left of the conservative movement, a conference held by the conservative establishment.

John Kennedy once had a dinner at the White House where there were 49 Nobel Prize laureates, and he said, famously:

"This is the most extraordinary collection of human knowledge that's ever been gathered at the White House with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

So I was thinking what American statesman dining alone should we all be compared with. Jefferson Davis? [Laugher from Southern caucus] I'll give you the answer later.

The theme of the conference is "The Egalitarian Temptation". And I'm here to talk about equality and immigration.

Now, being English, I don't have Paul's Germanic bent for abstract philosophy. In fact, abstractions give me the creeps. I'll leave this to Lydia, the philosophy graduate. It's facts, rather than philosophy, that motivate me.

And I'm going to prove that by promptly fleeing from the title and digressing to briefly discuss the presidential election, because that does relate to immigration. Quite obviously American politics are being substantially driven by immigration and the resulting demographic change.

One of the things that American journalists apparently learn in journalism school's Equality 101 is never to mention race. I watched the CNN election night coverage, and I found that they never reported quite what the racial breakdown of the presidential vote was, although it was very clear from their own exit polls.

Of course, this is completely foolish—because race is destiny in American politics. Americans vote systematically differently according to what race they are. They sway back and to. There are some years when the Republicans get more and some years when they get less, but the differences between those different racial groups never goes away. The gaps always remain roughly the same.

Now, the fact is that white voters—who 50 years ago would have been called "Americans", because 50 years ago this country was 90 percent white—went for McCain 55%-45%. It wasn't overwhelming, but it was a solid victory.

In other words, it's not clear to me that the "American people" really supported Obama.

You know, there's a moment in the movie The Good Shepherd where the WASP hero, who is a CIA agent, is asked by a Mafia boss whom he is trying to recruit, "The Italians have food, the Jews have got family, what do you WASPs have?" And the hero replied "We have the United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting."

And that's what this election shows us. The whites vote one way and everybody else votes another way. And white Protestants voted much more for McCain than white Catholics (although a majority of white Catholics did vote for McCain).

Obama has been very widely credited with winning the youth vote. And the only part of the white vote he won was 18-30 year olds. But it wasn't by a huge margin—about 55%-45%, rather similar to McCain's overall margin among whites. It wasn't that great.

If you take the racial breakdown of the presidential vote this year and project it back, adjusting for the demographic shift that has been caused by immigration, you find that, with the proportion of the white vote he got, McCain would have actually won the election in 1976 when Carter beat Ford. In other words he ran better than Ford. Absent immigration, he would now be president.

Looking at it the other way—we did this calculation because Jared Taylor asked me too!—if the GOP could just get back to the share of the white vote it had in 2004, which was about 58 percent, it will win again in 2012. It will be close, but it certainly can win.

The GOP under Bush never did particularly well with the white vote. Back in 1984, Reagan got 65 percent of the white vote, which would be easily enough to win an election right now, particularly considering that white turnout was very low this year compared to black and other minority turnout.

What we should be looking at is the example of Alabama. Alabama, like the South in general, whites are only 65 percent of the electorate, whereas in the US at large they cast about 77% of the vote. So the GOP is in much worse shape in Alabama than in America generally. But still the GOP won overwhelmingly in Alabama—because it got 88 percent of the white vote in this last election.

They don't do it by sending out a fiery cross or anything like that. It's not clear to me how they do it. Maybe [audience member], who is an Alabaman, can explain it. It seems to be like an implicit thing. Everybody in the South understands the way things are and they all vote Republican. I don't know that the Republicans deserve this, but that's how it works.

So my conclusion here is that, for the Republican Party—or any party of the American majority—the way to win is with what we at VDARE.COM call the Sailer Strategy, after Steve Sailer, one of our writers who has written a great deal on it: Mobilize the white base; get them to turn out. Penetrate—get deeper into your base than you are now.

The Democrats carry their base votes by a factor of 70, 80, 90 percent. More than 90 percent in the case of the blacks. But for the GOP, whites have been below 60 percent for many years.

If the GOP did mobilize its white base, than even without actually cutting off immigration, it could continue to win national elections for quite a long time. Although of course, making immigration an issue would certainly help.

It's astonishing how hard it is to get Republican operatives to see this. In the case of Bush and Rove, Occam's Razor would indicate that they personally just want to be like Mexican oligarchs—patricians in a sea of peons. I can't think of any other reason for the strategy they followed.

But, you know, some time ago I was talking to a friend in Washington who used to work for Jesse Helms. I made this argument—that the Republicans need not outreach but "inreach", to mobilize their white base. And he said: "Peter, in this city, if you said that, you would be excluded from any further conversation. It's just not possible to say that."

This is a man who worked for Jesse Helms!

Elite journalists and political operatives literally can't think about race—about the role that race plays in American politics. And, therefore, about the role that immigration plays.

Richard [Spencer] mentioned a few moments ago the danger of being shut down by hate speech laws. I take that very seriously. I think one of the first things that Obama will do is push through this federal hate speech law that Teddy Kennedy has been trying to get through for so long. We're running a column tonight by one of our columnists, Joe Guzzardi, making the point that the big problem we have is not hate speech but what he calls "hate facts."  These are things that everybody knows are true, but that can't be said. The arithmetical need for the Republicans to mobilize their white base is a "hate fact" and can't be said, apparently. But it still remains true.

Well, let's go back to philosophy. What's happened here, of course, is that this equality meme has gotten out of its cage. It's broken loose of any connection to equality before the law, which is a legitimate and traditional use of the concept, and it's been wandering around the countryside killing sheep and generally terrifying people for the last thirty of forty years.

"Equality""non-discrimination"—was a major rationale for the 1965 Immigration Act, which of course opened up the country to mass immigration after a long lull of 40 odd years in which there was almost no immigration at all. The argument was that all countries had to be treated equally as sources for immigration to the US. There was no discussion at the time of the possibility that immigration was actually going to increase. In fact, people who predicted it would were roundly denounced, in the most indignant terms.

Now, I suspect, as a matter of fact, that the insiders, the people who drafted the legislation, were always lying through their teeth. They always knew perfectly well that it would increase immigration and destabilize the American ethnic balance.

A little while ago, we ran on VDARE.COM (and this is one of the wonderful things about the internet) a clip of a film  interview with Norbert Schlei. the Justice Department operative who actually drafted the 1965 legislation.

There are things that you can say in print and things you can catch on film. Schlei was discussing his role and whether he anticipated what was going to happen, and he sort of giggled in a sinister way. The person who showed me this compared it to Mona Lisa's ambiguous smile.

What did Schlei really think? Did he really know what was going to happen? You can't see that video without believing that he did. He knew they were pulling a fast one.

I became aware of this problem with the marauding equality meme when I was talking at the University of Cincinnati Law School some years ago. You know, polemical writers need to anticipate arguments, and one of the reasons I like speaking, and on college campuses in particular (that reminds me, K——, weren't you going to arrange some speaking engagements for me? Thank you!) is you can never anticipate the stupid arguments that people come up with.

I was discussing the idea of immigration reduction—what we call "patriotic immigration reform", to distinguish it from President Bush's so-called "comprehensive immigration reform".

And this kid gets up and says, in effect, "Any immigration reduction would obviously discriminate against foreigners, and therefore would violate American civil rights law."

He thought that foreigners were somehow covered by American civil rights laws!

[Comment from audience] Obviously a future Obama Supreme Court nominee? Yes ! You know, I hadn't thought of that!

Now, obviously, what we're talking about here is not equality. It's an activist agenda designed to destroy the American social order. It's antinomianism. It's nihilism. But it's not equality before the law as it's been traditionally understood.

In terms of this new definition of equality, some people are more equal than others. Right now, founding stock Americans and in fact Americans whites in general are more equal than others, because they're discriminated against by Affirmative Action.

Okay, that's my theoretical comment. I'm now going to move on briefly to discuss the practical impact of immigration on equality.

What happened in the US was that, in 1965, the country had the option of being Switzerland—a relatively smaller population, because all races in the U.S. were lowering their birth rates, so the population was stabilizing; heavily white; very homogenous, highly educated, very productive. Or, the U.S. could decide to be Brazil—much larger, very diverse, chaotic, rampant poverty, tremendous income inequality.

And, of course, what's actually happened is that the US is in the process of becoming Brazil—with gated communities and so on.

Look at immigration's impact on income. It happens, and it's a disgrace that the Bush Administration didn't do something about it, that most Americans have experienced stagnating incomes for 30 years. One of the reasons for that is immigration. For a long time, immigration's impact on American wages was denied. In other words, the Law Of Supply And Demand had apparently been repealed. But over time the evidence comes in and in 2003 George Borjas, who is a Cuban himself, (you know, generally speaking, immigrants are prepared to criticize immigration—we're doing a dirty job that you won't do), in his Quarterly Journal of Economics article of 2003 demonstrated beyond argument that there really is an impact on wages. [The Labor Demand Curve Is Downward Sloping: Reexamining the Impact of Immigration on the Labor Market, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, November 2003,(PDF)]

And it spreads right through every level of income by the way. It affects even college graduates. But it is particularly harsh on the lesser skilled.

Another way of looking at the impact of immigration is poverty. If you look at the government poverty numbers, they're really quite extraordinary. They fall like a stone from the 1930s through about 1972. In 1972 the proportion of Americans in poverty was 11.3 percent. And it's been around there ever since. It's oscillating up and down, but essentially we've been moving sideways for 30 years.

Now, immigration exacerbates poverty in two ways:

Directly—many of those people in the poverty population are themselves immigrants or the children of immigrants. We calculated somewhere around about a third of them are either post-1965 immigrants or their US born children.

Indirect—immigrants compete with and displace native-born Americans in the workforce, and that in turn drives them into poverty. So it's a major reason the poverty level has been irreducible.

We have had three tremendously long booms here: the 1980s and the 90s and 2000s. Yet we still haven't been able to get poverty below the level where it was in 1972. One of the reasons is immigration. It's no accident that both of these problems—income stagnation and irreducible poverty—developed 30 years ago exactly when the effect of the 1965 Immigration Act kicked in.

I'm not saying immigration is the cause of widening income inequality in the US. But I am saying that it is a cause—and that it should be discussed.

But, in fact, conventional economic debate invariably leaves it out. And I've had a terrible time, as a financial journalist, in getting editors to let me write about it.

I'm going to leave you with two closing thoughts which arise out of my long experience in the conservative wars.

  • The first one is that I've concluded that nobody actually knows what's politically possible.

Least of all professional politicians—they don't go around thinking about what's going to happen five years or even five weeks from now. They just react from day to day.

In 1975, I came down to New York from Canada, where I then lived, and interviewed Bill Rusher, the publisher of National Review, about his attempt to start a third party. (A very good idea by the way and it's a shame it didn't work.) We exchanged a number of signals, in the way that you do—I told him I worked for John Ashbrook (Ashbrook and not Ashcroft) against Nixon in 1972—he, of course, had been a great supporter of Ashbrook. So when the interview was finished, he said to me, confidentially, off the record: "You know, I think that it's all over" (remember, this was 1975) "and the Red Flag will one day fly over the world. The last chance we had to turn things around was 1968 when Reagan [some of you may not remember this, but Ronald Reagan actually ran against Nixon in that year and came quite surprisingly close to winning] was stopped by Strom Thurmond." Thurmond was the one who held the South for Nixon. But, Rusher said to me, "We keep on going. One reason is you never know what is going to turn up. And the second reason is that there are theological injunctions against despair!"

Well, just five years later, Reagan was in the White House. Things had changed around with extraordinary speed.

Similarly, you know, and again, the people in this room perhaps don't remember this, but the power of the Soviet Union was once omnipresent. We went around thinking about it every day—the possibility of nuclear war, what they were up to all over the world, and so on. It's hard to remember now, but it was a central fact of political life for a long time. And nobody predicted that the Soviet Union was going to collapse.

I interviewed  Seweryn Bialer, who was supposed to be this great Kremlinologist, in 1986 for Forbes. That was just four years before the Soviet Union collapsed. But he had no idea it was going to collapse. He had spent his entire career studying it—and yet he had absolutely no idea.

So, because of that, I conclude that the ghost of the Soviet Union—because that's what this equality stuff really is, it's the unquiet ghost of Stalinism—can be exorcised. It appears to be all-powerful now. But it can be exorcised. And it will be.

  • The second conclusion I've come to about politics is actually not really drawn from politics. It's from my day job as a financial journalist. It's an axiom in the stock market that things that can't go on forever, don't.

For example, for six or seven years now, it's been obvious that the stock market has been massively overvalued by traditional measures. But the people who were saying this, almost all of them, eventually gave up—because it kept on going up anyway.

But it turned out that it couldn't go on forever. And it didn't.

And that's how I feel about American politics right now.  I think that whites, that is to say Americans, will organize. They will ultimately throw off the leadership they currently have. I think immigration will become an issue, and the issue will become an important part of that self-organization process, with your help.

And this brings me to who I think the single statesman I think you all resemble. It has to be George Washington.

Not just because of his intelligence, but because of his character and courage—the heroic rethinking that they all did between about 1750 and 1775, to reformulate the American idea and what the future of the American nation was going to be.

Of course, from my point of view, George Washington was a rebel too!

But that's what we need. We need a rebellion. And I want to thank our hosts here for fomenting it.

Thank you!

Peter Brimelow (email him) is editor of VDARE.COM and author of the much-denounced Alien Nation: Common Sense About America's Immigration Disaster, (Random House - 1995) and The Worm in the Apple (HarperCollins - 2003)