Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.
A new Reuters poll shows that not only do 70% of Americans think that illegal aliens threaten the traditional American way of life, but 45% believe that even the number of legal immigrants should be reduced.
Only 17% think that legal immigration should increase. That’s a problem because increasing legal immigration is one of the major planks of the “immigration reform” plan of both parties.
Everyone used to agree that immigration was a good thing. But that was before they saw photos of gang members slumped in their gyms and buses full of illegal aliens in Homeland Security convoys coming to hike up their taxes while lowering their property values.
And then immigration suddenly stopped being a Neil Diamond song and became a national crisis.
America is developing an anti-immigration consensus. That wasn’t supposed to happen in the nation of immigrants. Media outlets are shaking their heads over the poll numbers and correctly tying them to the border crisis. What they aren’t saying though is that the border crisis was calculatedly set off by Obama’s illegal alien DREAM amnesty. And as with ObamaCare, the radical agenda backfired.
The border crisis was supposed to start the amnesty machine. It was the sort of confrontational activism popular with Chicago community organizers who know that if you can’t get what you want, you dump a bunch of people on the doorstep of whatever agency you want to blackmail which creates an instant social services mess so that the politicians will have no choice but to “solve the problem” on your terms.
The harassment of politicians by illegal alien activists took Chicago community organizing to the national level. The border crisis was the next phase of the assault aimed at hitting Americans right where they lived by turning every state into a border state. But the rest of the United States isn’t Chicago. Or at least not the parts of Chicago that community organizers like.
Crowds waving American flags blocked buses. Stories leaked out about diseases being spread around. Even Democrats did their best to keep the illegal alien drops out of their states.
The border crisis was meant to move Americans toward an even more liberal position on illegal immigration. Instead it had the opposite effect and tainted the idea of immigration as a whole.
The backlash was completely predictable to anyone who had been paying attention to Europe.
The United States didn’t have an anti-immigration consensus until Obama duplicated the European situation by manufacturing a refugee crisis. Europe developed an anti-immigration consensus when a poor economy collided with large numbers of refugees and a central authority that remained blindly intent on pushing more immigrants and migrants through the system regardless of popular discontent.
Democrats and Republicans plotted amnesty while dismissing the idea of an anti-immigration consensus. They acted as if the rise of anti-immigration parties like UKIP was a purely European phenomenon and that the American political brass ring would go to the biggest amnesty shill.
Now the polls are telling them that they were wrong.
Republicans and Democrats had always been selectively reading the polls in favor of amnesty while ignoring the negative polls involving immigrants and the economy. Americans appeared to support legalization because they didn’t care much about illegal aliens. Even Latino voters ranked immigration low on their set of priorities. The passion had always been on the side of immigration opponents.
Just like ObamaCare, an issue that no one had particularly cared about before and for which passionate support was virtually non-existent, Obamnesty became the banner policy of the establishment and that made it possible for the opposition to define the issue through the politics of confrontation.
The border crisis made immigration seem urgent for the first time by visualizing a massive human tide swarming inside. Now immigration is polling as a priority and not the kind of priority that Obama had in mind. Instead the border crisis has caused immigration to be seen as an economic threat.
Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012 had played off isolationism among ordinary Americans while promising multilateral soft power to the elites. Pledges of opposition to the Iraq War in 2008 and the dishonest promises of “Nation Building at Home” in 2012 allowed Obama to outmaneuver a moribund Republican political machine that was desperately short of ideas.
But Obama forgot that isolationism tends to go together with immigration skepticism. Once people decide that the outside world isn’t worth bothering with, their suspicion of international interventions easily transfers over to immigration.
America today has more than a little in common with the period of the great immigration backlash of the 1920s. Economic uncertainty and a period of isolationism after an exhausting foreign war combined with the arrival of huge numbers of immigrants led to an immigration backlash back then. It would not be unprecedented for it to lead to an immigration backlash all over again.
Economic malaise and political isolationism are just as present in the United States as in Europe. The amnesty push polarized the issue and created a major crisis. Obama took on the role of America’s EU, an internationalist force dedicated to unlimited immigration with no concern for the citizenry.
The anti-immigration consensus stunned Tories and Labour alike in the UK. Both parties are still reeling from how easily UKIP exploited popular anger over immigration. And both parties have been forced to learn how to talk to working class voters again. If the same political tsunami hits America, Republicans and Democrats will be even more unprepared to deal with a phenomenon that will make the Tea Party disruptions over ObamaCare seem like a fond memory for the political establishment.
The two big parties are unready to deal with real isolationism. Barack Obama and Rand Paul may flirt with anti-war sloganeering, but they are also committed to amnesty, free trade and open borders.
Both Democrats and Republicans have made the mistake of trying to trade the white working class voters that they have for the future demographics of a transformed nation. But like their European counterparts they may find that they have prematurely buried the white working class voter.
Isolationism is less of a rejection of the outside world than it is a rejection of the terms on which a domestic political leadership has dealt with the rest of the world. Skepticism toward foreign intervention and immigration are really votes of no confidence in our own government. And that’s what the poll numbers for Obama and Congress have been communicating even before the border crisis.
In a miserable economy with living standards on the decline and little hope for the future, there is a great deal of free-floating anger in the political atmosphere. The sleeping giant of the coal mines and bars, the rust belt and the drought-plagued farmland may wake to his anger much more slowly than the mobs of migrants who have been community organized into parading back and forth all day in front of government offices waving their fists in the air, but when he wakes up, the political establishment that has gotten used to ignoring him will collapse and fall apart.
The amnesty radicals pushed too hard and too fast. They could have gotten everything they wanted through a consensus of both parties, but now they may end up with nothing at all.
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