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Blast From The Past, 1993: US Agonizes Over Its National Identity As Melting Pot Overflows
James Fulford writes: This appeared in the London Times in 1993, shortly after Peter Brimelow published Time To Rethink Immigration in NR. Since then, a number of things have happened, starting with the National Review changing sides. In Britain, the truth of Enoch Powell’s arguments are becoming much more obvious—and thus much harder to say, since as Powell also predicted, mass immigration erodes free speech.
Note the reference to “grass-roots insurrection”—the Tea Party is doing that now, and there are signs of the same phenomenon in Great Britain.
New York, April 24, 1993
THE issue of immigration into the United States is in what might be called its pre-Powell stage. The sharp influx is causing increasing discontent, just as there was in Britain before Enoch Powell made his famous speech 25 years ago. The political establishment has been sitting on the problem, but is looking increasingly uncomfortable.
As well it might: American politics lacks the British parliamentary system's institutional barriers against grass-roots insurrection.
The immigration issue has an explosive characteristic: it blasts across all political lines. Last year, for example, my story in the conservative magazine The National Review raised economic and crypto-Powellian questions about the influx. That got me into trouble with luminaries of the conservative movement, such as the editor of The Wall Street Journal, who complained not unreasonably that he had been instrumental in my arrival here.
Jack Miles, an editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times, published an Atlantic magazine story questioning immigration from a liberal perspective (new evidence suggests it is worsening the economic plight of poor blacks). His heresy was equally denounced, especially by ethnic factions.
The American immigration situation is unprecedented in world history. The 1965 Immigration Act, which abolished the previous preference for Europeans, triggered an unexpected immigrant influx, predominantly Hispanic and nearly nine-tenths coloured. Simultaneously, illegal immigration has soared. An estimated nine million people arrived in the 1980s, equalling the previous peak decade of the 1900s. About 15 million are expected this decade.
White American birth rates are much lower than at the turn of the century, so the ethnic balance is shifting quickly. Whites have fallen from almost nine-tenths of the population in 1960 to less than three-quarters in 1990. Demographers calculate that America might cease to be majority white by 2050.
So much American political debate trembles with barely contained hysteria about race and ethnicity. To anyone who knows about the history of nation-states in Europe, it is obviously no more possible to change the ethnic content of a polity without fear of consequence than to replace abruptly all the blood in a human body. Yet this is the experiment upon which America has embarked.
To be fair, the rationale for the post-1965 immigration influx is that America is not a nation-state in the European sense. Instead, it is said to be an "idea", a political construct based on adherence to a written constitution, without any specific cultural, ethnic or linguistic content.
That rationale is unhistorical. It would have astonished Theodore Roosevelt, president during the last great immigration influx, whose many books explicitly celebrated the link between the Anglo-Saxon invasion of England and their descendants' winning of the American West. When President Coolidge signed the legislation ending the last influx in the 1920s, he explained his reason succinctly: "America must be kept American." Everyone knew what he meant.
Although US immigration policy is irrational, the political establishment resists discussion of it. The reasons are various. Some will be familiar to British observers; others reflect peculiar American pressures. We may be watching America heaping up its funeral pyre, to use Mr. Powell's phrase. Or perhaps a launching pad to becoming the "first universal nation". Whatever it is, it looms increasingly large.