Immigration Restrictionists, the Importance of Words, and "Never Trumpers"

By Dan Cadman on September 27, 2016

Reihan Salam has written an interesting piece in National Review Online, "The Right Can Stop Losing on Immigration: Here's What it Will Take", that's worth a look. In it, he argues for a new strategy, one that:

  • Uses the power of language to alter the psychological balance (my words, not his) by not permitting open borders and unrestricted immigration advocates to define the boundaries of the immigration debate by tagging so-called restrictionists with pejoratives and negative labels such as "nativists"; and

  • Is inclusive enough to encourage long-term legal immigrants and first-generation Americans to join in understanding that unrestricted immigration is not in the best interests of their own families' futures.

There is logic in what he says, and I think that is exactly what the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) represents. I can say this without blushing, because I am a relatively recent addition to CIS and had no influence in shaping it. The credit for that goes to others such as Executive Director Mark Krikorian, the Center's Board of Directors, and my colleague Jessica Vaughan and the other permanent staff and fellows. The phrase "Low Immigration, Pro Immigrant" is not just a motto; it's taken seriously. If CIS did not represent inclusiveness I would have little interest in being a part of the organization.

It pleases me that my colleagues hold a variety of views on the social and political spectrum: What we all have in common is a deep concern over unrestrained and ill-thought-through immigration policies that in our opinion poorly serve America or Americans, including most especially those in the lower strata of the economic ladder who are struggling to get by.

Some of us believe that it is the defining issue confronting our nation because it wraps up so many things within its ambit: sovereignty, the common weal, homeland security, economic wellbeing and prosperity, you name it.

One of the most visible representatives of the kind of change-the-rhetoric strategy that Mr. Salam endorses is Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who speaks of his concern over runaway immigration from a position of "humble and honest populism".

The concern over immigration has driven no small number of ordinary Americans into the Donald Trump camp, even as they sometimes wince at his unrefined way of speaking or trying to make a point. The price for this deeply held concern? They are labeled as part of the "basket of deplorables," as Hillary Clinton so recently and infamously stated. Her contempt for the hoi polloi knows no boundaries.

But let's be honest: She's not alone. Some of Mr. Salam's colleagues, those who are among the "Never Trumpers" at National Review and elsewhere, have themselves been quick to dismissively label Trump supporters with a broad brush as disaffected white guys, nativists, and worse. They do themselves no credit in the process, because even as they claim to reject Trump as a matter of principle, they are rejecting the right of a substantial portion of the American populace to accept Trump on the same grounds without being disparaged.

If Mr. Salam's strategy — and it's a good one — is to take hold, then it's incumbent on these outspoken conservatives to accept the premise that others of very different, but equally deeply-held, views operate out of good faith, instead of dipping into the lexicographical basket of Hillary Clinton pejoratives to belittle them.



Topics: Politics