An essay by one of former New Republic
owner Marty Peretz’s
Bright Young Men (along with Andrew Sullivan and Al Gore), James Kirchick
Can American Jews Be White Nationalists?White House Adviser Stephen Miller Is a Spokesman for Groups That Wouldn’t Have Him as a MemberBY JAMES KIRCHICK | OCTOBER 11, 2017Stephen Miller and I have a few things in common.Both Jewish, we were raised upper-middle class in comfortable, liberal suburbia (he, Santa Monica; me, outside Boston). We both rebelled against the stifling, progressive conformity of our respective communities by embracing a contrarian, at times combative, conservative politics. … Our work caught the eye of David Horowitz, the ur-leftist turned hardcore conservative. …
Another substantive difference is our views on immigration. While I always have favored high levels of immigration … Miller is a severe restrictionist. …This provided one of the most improbable spectacles of an already bizarre presidential campaign: the nasally, nebbishy Jewish kid from Santa Monica egging on crowds of down-scale whites in middle America with attacks on coastal elites.While Miller was attracted to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, I, and many other Jewish right-of-center writers, were repelled. “A country that is politically pluralistic, open to new ideas and new people, ethnically diverse, and respectful of religious difference, is a country that will naturally be safer for Jews than a country that is none of these things,” I wrote in March of last year, in the first of what would become many pieces articulating my vehement opposition to Trump’s candidacy. …[Miller’s] improbable existence as a Woody Allen character who talks like Pat Buchanan is a near-comical rebuke to those white nationalists who claim a Jewish conspiracy has orchestrated untrammeled immigration to dilute America’s racial stock.Indeed, Miller has run with these ideas. In a recent televised exchange with (the equally insufferable) Jim Acosta of CNN, who asked Miller if the Trump administration would forsake Emma Lazarus’ paean to “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” Miller accused the reporter of harboring a “cosmopolitan bias,” an indictment redolent of the Soviet-era, anti-Semitic slur, “rootless cosmopolitan.”I don’t doubt the sincerity of Miller’s views. He is clearly well-versed in the policy particulars, and gives articulate voice to ideas shared by tens of millions of my fellow Americans. “I think it was growing up in California, he saw the role that mass migration played turning a red state blue,” one unidentified former Senate colleague of Miller told Politico Magazine. “He was fearful that that would happen to the rest of the country.” Miller would hardly be alone in fearing how Hispanic immigration will change America. But these were the same fears that the restrictionists of yesteryear raised about Stephen Miller’s ancestors.By giving voice to a form of American nationalism that is ethnic rather than creedal, Stephen Miller—whose family fled Belarus to these welcoming shores in 1903—is a perverse emblem of successful Jewish assimilation into America’s racial culture. Miller “passes” as white. On a personal level, he is deeply annoying, vexing, and has caused me to re-examine some of my deepest beliefs about being American, being Jewish, and being a conservative.First, there’s something desperately preening about Miller’s entire career, a sense that he adopts such harsh positions, and in so strident a fashion, as if to ingratiate himself with the most goyishe precincts of the Trump universe—the sort of people who might otherwise question his roots. …To that point, the strange case of Miller illuminates the recent debate over whether Jews are white. Throughout his career, Miller has gone out of his way to make people think that he belongs to this particular racial group. …To cite a bit of wisdom from that great American Jewish philosopher Groucho Marx: It’s sad that Miller has become a mouthpiece for a group that won’t accept him as a member. Yet there’s something oddly reassuring about the rise of Stephen Miller, something that speaks to the comfort and respect that Jews have achieved here. For where else could a Stephen Miller have been created but in America, a country so open to outsiders and assimilation that a Jewish kid from Santa Monica could grow up to work for the most nakedly nativist president in living memory? …American Jews, then, have something of a communal obligation to pay it forward by supporting a liberal immigration regime. … Nor does it apply to other parts of the world; continued mass Muslim immigration from North Africa and the Middle East into Europe, for example, is a portentous development that will make Jewish life there, already difficult, increasingly so. But an American Jew calling for a drastic reduction in legal immigration to America is unseemly.Whether he is a “white nationalist,” as many now call him, or not, Miller remains in essence the campus provocateur of his Duke days. … Larry Elder, a Los Angeles-based conservative talk radio host whom Miller sought out as a mentor, told The Washington Post that, “The way that people on the left abuse and slam people on the right—that’s probably the thing that’s most concerned Stephen. The lack of fairness. The left wing dominance in academia. The left wing dominance in the media. The left wing dominance in Hollywood.”It’s true that liberals dominate all these fields. But Stephen Miller has had a privileged life, and he’s now working for the most powerful man in the world. The coy conflation of Jewish identity and whiteness, the revisionist undermining of America’s immigrant history, the constant cries of victimhood from someone who has benefitted enormously from the American system and who would deny its blessings to others, well, we Jews have a word for all this: chutzpah.James Kirchick, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, is a columnist for Tablet and author of The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age.
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