Immigration Newsmaker Transcript: A Conversation with Ryan Girdusky about his new book, They're Not Listening

By Mark Krikorian and Ryan Girdusky on June 18, 2020


Book: They're Not Listening: How the Elites Created the Nationalist Populist Revolution

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The Center for Immigration Studies streamed an Immigration Newsmaker conversation on Wednesday, June 17 featuring political consultant and writer Ryan Girdusky, co-author of a new book, They're Not Listening: How the Elites Created the Nationalist Populist Revolution. In the book, the authors examine the history of the anti-establishment revolution and describe the political force that contributed to its development – national populism – and the role massive immigration played in the growth of this movement.


Mark Krikorian
Executive Director
Center for Immigration Studies

Ryan Girdusky
They're Not Listening

MARK KRIKORIAN: Hello. My name is Mark Krikorian. I am executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

And joining us for today’s newsmaker discussion is Ryan Girdusky, who’s co-author of a new book, “They’re Not Listening: How the Elites Created the Nationalist Populist Revolution.” And it’s not strictly about immigration, but about half of it is about immigration, obviously. And so we thought it would be a good idea to have Ryan come in and talk to us about, you know, the immigration – the state of immigration politics, how it’s affecting politics more broadly, that sort of thing.

So, Ryan, welcome. We’re glad to have you with us. And before we get into the book itself, just tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you come to this issue? Why does it interest you? How did the book come about? That sort of thing.

RYAN GIRDUSKY: Oh, OK. So thanks for having me.

And I got started in politics when I was 19 years old as a political consultant. I worked on a lot of campaigns. When I was about 27 I was like, oh, I could write about this because a lot of people who are writing about this don’t really know what they’re talking about. So I started that. And then I worked for the Washington Examiner, where I was the only person in a company of – I was working for Red Alert Politics, which is a sister site of the Washington Examiner, and I was the only person in a company of a hundred plus people who sat there and said Trump would be the nominee, and I kind of understood a working-class mentality better than most people in Washington did, and – just the echo chamber of Washington.

And then this book came about because I realized most people don’t have a global sense or an understanding of global politics. So, so many people kind of chided national populist leaders like – and moments like Brexit and Trump when it happened, and said that it was kind of like a frozen incident. And even when discussing it, they maybe would bring in Marine Le Pen, maybe bring in Salvini maybe, but it was mostly an England-America thing. It was very much an Anglo worldview of the world.

So I just started – I wrote an article for The American Conservative about two years ago about the growth of national populism from a chronological standpoint of, OK, this is what happened first and then this is what happened second, and I tried to string together the history of it. And so then I thought – became interested in an idea of a book for it that didn’t just focus on it from a chronological perspective, but also from a thematic perspective where you sit there and talk about themes of immigration, the themes of national sovereignty, of economic prosperity and the lack thereof, and those issues, and then how they affect and impact national populist leaders all over the world. Because essentially, it’s – and in the book, I chronicle this – Harlan Hill and I chronicle this – that there are major – like, nine major issues that really all national populists agree with the majority of them, and that’s what is electing them to the – to leadership in countries all around the globe.

Because I wanted to make people understand that this is not a white thing, this is not a Christian thing or a northeast – northern England and Midwestern thing; this is happening in Angola, in Chile, in Australia, in India, in Israel, all over the world. It breaks borders and religious barriers, and I think that that’s important to sit there and understand.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah. I mean, that’s one of the things that really struck me, was not only on the cover do you have – you sort of communicate that this isn’t just about American politics. You have a – there’s a MAGA hat, but also a Brexit button and a yellow vest from France. But like you suggested, the beginning – the first thing you talk about in the illegal-immigration chapter is Congolese illegal aliens in Angola.

MR. GIRDUSKY: (Laughs.)

MR. KRIKORIAN: I mean, I think that was really – that was striking.

MR. GIRDUSKY: You know, it’s such a – such a hot topic, is Congolese illegal immigration in Angola and then Haitian illegal immigrants in Chile. But I wanted to – I thought it was important to talk from a nonwhite, non-European perspective on immigration because so many – like, we’re having this conversation on BLM right now and on – and on slavery and the history of slavery, and you saw Senator Tim Kaine literally say America invented slavery. I think there really is that perspective from certain people – certainly, quote/unquote, “smart people” who don’t really have an international perspective that other nations like to protect their borders and do not like mass immigration, especially when it’s not – you know, when it’s illegal.

And there was a great – a great study by Cambridge University – and unfortunately, it didn’t make the book because it came out right after I was done submitting all the changes to it – but there was a study done by Cambridge University of 16 African countries that just looked at mass immigration of Africans inside Africa and found they had all the same exact responses that Americans do to mass immigration, which is lower levels of social trust, lower – as well as institutional trust. Every one of those – of those problems that people often tangle to racism was in a nation – was covered in 16 countries that were all 100 percent, basically, black.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Right. Yeah. I mean, and that actually – it is interesting that many of the people who see themselves as the most cosmopolitan and, you know, internationally aware really are astoundingly provincial and narrow, you know, in their view of the world. I mean, it’s The New Yorker joke. Remember there was a New Yorker cover years ago about a map of the world, and you know, half of it was Manhattan, and then there was New Jersey, and there was everything else.

MR. GIRDUSKY: (Laughs.)

MR. KRIKORIAN: I mean, there really is that –

MR. GIRDUSKY: I mean, well, that is – as a New Yorker, that is kind of true. But – (laughs) –

MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, true, true. But the fact is, a bunch of our elite – in other words, in a sense that’s almost part of the problem we’re dealing with here.

MR. GIRDUSKY: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

MR. KRIKORIAN: You specifically talked about illegal immigration is – you know, the Congolese in Angola was the beginning of your illegal alien – illegal-immigration chapter. And you, obviously, deal with the illegal-immigration issue. But one of the other things that struck me is that your legal-immigration chapter was so much longer, and that really kind of goes against this mantra of a lot of Republican politicians that illegal is bad but legal is good. They kind of compensate, as it were, for the fact that their friends may not like them if they oppose illegal immigration by saying they actually want more legal immigration. So what was your thought on that?

MR. GIRDUSKY: Yeah. It’s like that Charlie Kirk – it’s like that Charlie Kirk tweet yesterday where he was like – I’m sorry if there’s any noise in the back of my window. But he said, oh, there’s – you know, we’re losing our country. And someone else tweeted, yeah, but we’re losing it legally.

MR. KRIKORIAN: (Laughs.)

MR. GIRDUSKY: That is – that is – it’s so – why Trump was elected wasn’t just because he wanted to build a wall on the border and stamp out illegal immigration. It’s a genuine view that mass immigration has affected this nation in a negative – in a negative aspect, not because immigration is inherently always bad or not because anyone from around the world cannot be Americanized over time. It’s the fact that when it is thrusted upon people – and I bring up Hazleton, Pennsylvania, which I think that everyone else does at this point, too. But Hazleton, Pennsylvania, which was 98 percent non-Hispanic white in 1980, and by 2020 – 40 years later – is a minority-majority community. If you are a, you know, 20-year-old in that setting and you’ve invested to grow old in a place, and at the end of that time you feel like you don’t belong there, that is a tremendously triggering experience for so many people.

And we have a conversation all the time about, you know, what happens when white yuppies move into black neighborhoods and outprice them and they feel disassociated from the communities they grew up in. Well, why aren’t we having that conversation about working-class communities – white communities, majority, but working-class any kind of communities – in America who are kind of having that same experience when you are being flushed with mass immigration and you don’t feel associated to communities you may have been in for generations? I think that’s a really important thing.

And I think there was a PRRI survey in the book that I cite that showed, you know, something like – it was like 40 percent of Americans don’t feel like they understand their country anymore and don’t feel like they are, you know, part of their country anymore. And it’s something that we’re seeing even right now, when we’re seeing the toppling of statues or the renaming of monuments or – renaming of forts, whatever. You’re seeing – I mean, there is a guy named David Reaboi. We’ve only ever communicated on Twitter, and he’s a smart guy. And he tweeted, I think, really in frustration yesterday, we’re losing our – our country is lost; we’re losing our country.

I think that the culture matters so much more than any other aspect of immigration, and I think culture matters more than any other issue. And I said in the book that, you know, we can lose – we can come back from a Great Depression. We can come back from a lost war. We can never come back from a bad immigration policy for generation after generation after generation, which is what we’ve had for – since 1965.

MR. KRIKORIAN: And I’m glad you brought that up. To play devil’s advocate, why is that concern for social cohesion and cultural continuity, why isn’t that racist?

MR. GIRDUSKY: Because it crosses race. Because if nonwhites are feeling the same thing, as I brought up with the aspect of these African countries, if they’re feeling it towards Africans, then it’s not about race. Same thing with when the – I mean, I am – I am the descendant of Italian immigrants from, you know, a million years ago at this point. But the Irish weren’t particularly well-taking of the Italians moving into their communities, and the Germans before the Irish. They’re all white, so it wasn’t a matter – I mean, you could sit there and say that their, you know, whiteness is growing, but the English didn’t like the Germans all that much, either, when they came in, and you can read in the Constitutional Convention them sitting there and saying – shouting about the Germans. And I think it was Ben Franklin said they’ll never be fully white or never be fully American or something like that.

MR. KRIKORIAN: And the Congregationalists in Massachusetts didn’t think much of the Quakers, either.

MR. GIRDUSKY: Right. Yeah. So it crosses – it crosses race and it’s not a matter of race. And you can sit there and see – I mean, what was it, Finland and Sweden were the same country for 800 years or something like that, and they had to split up because they could not be in the same place, you know.

We just saw that in Scotland. Scotland wanted to secede from the rest of England and came fairly close to it for a modern-day secession movement, and I think that that is – that says a lot about culture. I mean, most of England’s white. Most of Scotland’s white. It’s not a racial thing. It is a cultural thing.

MR. KRIKORIAN: So we – let’s talk about specifically what’s going on now. How do you think President Trump is doing? You write in the book a lot about, you know, getting elected isn’t all there is to it; that populists need to learn how to govern and that there’s always going to be opposition, that sort of thing. So, I mean, give us some thoughts about how you think the president and his administration have been doing over the past three-plus years.

MR. GIRDUSKY: So I think that the president spent the first two years kind of dithering and waiting for the Republican Congress and about Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to see what they would actually end up getting done. I think it was a very long, wasted two years. I don’t think that he fully understood the administrative state and the power of the executive. And I know from sources of mine inside the White House that, you know, he’d have these White House lawyers sort of saying you can’t do this, you can’t do that, you can’t do this, don’t do any of that. So I think that he felt shackled in many ways.

And then I think when the wall funding battle happened and the government shutdown battle happened and he started using his authority as the executive to get things like wall construction done that mattered – I think the most fundamentally positive thing he’s done in terms of immigration was the remain in Mexico policy. I think it fundamentally altered our illegal-immigration system. It kind of ended, basically, de facto catch and release. The third – the safe-country agreements with other – with the Central American countries was fundamental to that. That was extremely important. That kind of went by the wayside. And we’ll see what happens with other portions of it, the rule changes when it comes to the rule changes over welfare and over other things with the green cards, how fundamentally it goes. Most of it’s not even in place yet simply because of all the lawsuits. But that was what he did administratively.

I think somewhat – so he’s been pretty good on illegal immigration. I give Trump an A-minus on illegal immigration. I think he’s actually done something. Deportations have gone up. Border crossings since the spike last year are down to historic lows or recent historic lows. So I give him that credit.

On the issue – on the subject of legal immigration, he’s been a disaster. He just – he just has – somewhere along the lines of his campaign he just got sold this bill of goods that, you know, he needs Tim Cook’s support more than he needs voters in Michigan’s support, and it just doesn’t make any sense and it’s so disappointing. And I know he’s been reached to several times, sit there and say, you know, you need to sit there and change immigration.

And one of my proudest moments, if you read Politico, was when I helped get Derek Lyons prevented from getting that job, because Derek Lyons was the one who told him – when he wanted to stop immigration from happening, Derek Lyons was one person to sit there and say, you know, Tim Cook’s going to call you about this, or – you know, and trying to sit there. Because that’s what the White House is right now, if no one understands. It’s sometimes Trump coming up with a great idea and then the Greek choir in the background sitting there and saying no from 85 different angles. And that’s part of Trump’s own doing because he hired a lot of the bad people.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah. I mean, we’ve got – we’re getting questions from listeners, and people who want to submit questions can submit them on Twitter at @CIS_org, our CIS account. But several of the questions related to, you know, why Trump hadn’t followed through – some of them really quite angry, actually. I mean, there does seem to be, at least among some people – now, Twitter isn’t the real world, obviously, but there is, you know, some significant element of anger at the president that he seems to – you know, some people feel betrayed. Let me put it that way. And for instance, people are asking, you know, why did Trump fill his staff and his cabinet with people who just don’t agree with him? You know, and sort of – why did he sort of wait for Paul Ryan to do something and rely on his promises? What is your – what’s your – I mean, I have my own thoughts. What’s your thinking on that?

MR. GIRDUSKY: So according to people I’ve spoken to in the White House and in – who were on the campaign and there early on, you know, Trump walks into – there was a meeting that happened right after Trump was elected. Remember when Trump met with Obama after he was – he won, but before he was inaugurated he came in to have, like, a meeting with them? There was a meeting that day, as well, with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, and Paul Ryan was very much afraid that Trump was going to – after Paul Ryan basically bashed him, that Trump was going to attack Paul Ryan and say you can’t be speaker of the House. And there was kind of like this quiet deal where McConnell and Ryan sat there, you know, patting each other on the back and saying, you know, Mr. President, so nice to meet you, you know, McConnell’s got great judges for you and Ryan’s got great legislation. You’re going to overturn Obamacare. You’re going to get tax cuts through. Everything is ready, ready, ready to go. Your approval rating’s going to be 65, 70 percent. And they kind of did this thing where Trump’s a very impressionable people, and Trump sat there and nodded and said, OK, let’s give it a shot.

And the worst moment of – (laughs) – even as bad as Trump’s approval ratings are at this exact moment, the worst moment of Trump’s presidency as far as approval ratings go was when he listened to Paul Ryan over Obamacare repeal. And I think that he kind of just got suckered into it. And part of the thing was he never understood the administrative state, and he kind of trusted far too many people, and he trusted – when Reince Priebus told him to hire a guy named Johnny DeStefano to head PPO, that was probably one of the biggest fails –

MR. KRIKORIAN: That’s Presidential Personnel Office, that –

MR. GIRDUSKY: Yes, to do – obviously. So there’s two wings of hiring, because I get asked this question a lot. There is the White House hiring, which is separate from the staff hiring, so people who hire underneath the staff at, you know, DHS or Labor or wherever, other departments. So the people who do all the under hiring, that are really important positions because they actually make laws follow through and, you know, draft them in many cases and stuff like that. So they are very important jobs, not to sit there and say that they’re not important. But the person who does that is the Office of Personnel, PPO.

And Johnny DeStefano, who was formerly at the RNC’s organization, Data Trust, hated Donald Trump. I mean, he mocked him constantly. I believe, according to sources, was that he attended an end-of-the-world party when Trump became the nominee. And he became the head of hiring. And who did he hire? The RNC, the Heritage Foundation. I’m going to mix up their names so I don’t want to sit there and say – but the Texas group that – Texas Public Policy –

MR. KRIKORIAN: – Public Policy Foundation.

MR. GIRDUSKY: Yes, that group, which is a – which is basically a libertarian organization. And he flooded the administration.

Now, luckily one of the few positive developments in the last year is that Johnny DeStefano, who has since basically long gone, his replacement – who was not that far from Johnny DeStefano – got replaced with John McEntee, who is fantastic at the job, doing an amazing job actually clearing house and putting in Trump loyalists into the position of government agencies. So we’re seeing a slow transition. But that first two-and-a-half years was a lot of time lost, and it was lost because he trusted Reince Priebus to put in Johnny DeStefano. It really was a gigantic, gigantic misstep on his behalf.

MR. KRIKORIAN: But I mean, I think that underlines your point in the last chapter, where you have sort of recommendations and look forward, that learning to govern is key, because how do you – you know, that’s one other – if you don’t – I mean, look, Trump basically staged a hostile takeover of the Republican Party, and he didn’t even expect to win, and then he won. Well, if Hillary had won, she has a government-in-waiting. If Jeb somehow had gotten nominated and somehow won, he had a government-in-waiting. Trump didn’t have a government-in-waiting and really didn’t have any people who knew how to do this. So in a sense, I mean, I’m not trying to sort of cover for the man, but there was – something like this was inevitable just because, you know, this is – you have to learn. This is a complicated thing. You need to learn how to do this.

MR. GIRDUSKY: Well, I think – I don’t know if it’s inevitable. I think it was – it was because of the total lack of understanding of the administrative state and how powerful some of these positions were, I think, I mean, because some of his hires were great. Some of his hires were really, really smart. I mean, Lighthizer is fantastic at his job at trade. He does a great job. Wilbur Ross, great, great pick. Peter Navarro, fabulous. He did do – you know, the Heritage Foundation did do the job of picking, you know, conservative jurists. They did do their function.

With the subject of immigration specifically, the problem that came up from that – and I’ll talk very briefly about it – was that his original position was to hire Kris Kobach, and then there was pushback from several people. And ultimately, they brought in General Kelly because the understanding was, well, it’s more than just immigration; you need to worry about national defense. You need a general. Trump loves generals. They met with Kelly, and the idea was it was going to be Kelly, then Kobach – it was going to be like one after the other, and then Kelly didn’t hire Kobach, and he didn’t like him. So that was really kind of where the whole thing fizzled, and he hired Nielsen, and we are still kind of dealing with the Kelly DHS administration because it’s all the underlying people still run that administration.

But on a global perspective, which is very, very interesting, you know, Salvini crashed his government because he wanted to hold elections, and in the end he didn’t get elected.

MR. KRIKORIAN: This is in Italy. This is in Italy.

MR. GIRDUSKY: In Italy, rather, yes. In Italy. He didn’t get the elections and he didn’t get the government that he wanted, so he got nothing because he – Geert Wilders in the Netherlands did that same exact thing, and it failed miserably at Geert Wilders. And it takes some time to kind of understand how to govern from the perspective of these, you know, very much non-government entities so, I mean – Viktor Orbán in Hungary, with his Fidesz Party, they ran, they ran in 1998 – kind of where the book starts – but then they lost very quickly afterwards because they couldn’t know how to govern, so he had to come back – I think it was in 2002, 2003 – and he took over the government again, and he had a far more – better understanding. The Swiss People’s Party in Switzerland has a better understanding. They’ve been in power since 1999, which is a very long period of time if you think about European politics. And sometimes it takes government – leaders who are from the outside perspective a longer time to sit there and kind of understand how to govern, how government works, how bureaucracies work.

And I have this conversation on my podcast in the American Conservative magazine that you – you know, well, right now I think the most important thing to build on the right really is the national populist Heritage Foundation or the national populist, you know – organizations that will fill presidential administrations in the future.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Right. Now we had a question related to – somebody asked about progressives and why won’t they acknowledge the victims of crimes by illegal aliens. But I wanted to make that a broader question. Why do you think the left has become so radicalized on immigration? And this isn’t here. I mean, you are seeing this in Europe as well – I don’t know if you’re seeing it elsewhere – where they’re used – even Bernie Sanders was, you know, more sensible on immigration, you know, before six months ago or a year ago.


MR. KRIKORIAN: What do you think explains that, and of course, it’s not just Sanders. There were serious Democrats, not that long ago, who were serious about at least immigration control.


MR. KRIKORIAN: You know, there’s that video of Bill Clinton giving one of his State of the Union addresses that basically Trump could read now – you know, putting in a few Trumpian phrases, it would be a Trump speech.


MR. KRIKORIAN: So that’s all gone now – completely gone. What do you make of that?

MR. GIRDUSKY: So I actually talk about this in the book, in the immigration section, and I map out – using the great Zach Goldberg, who is a Ph.D. student – I don’t even know what school, I never even – I talked to him very briefly, but that was it – but the great Zach Goldberg’s data on wokism and woke terminology.

So like we’re having this conversation about BLM right now and about Black Lives Matter, and the conversation we’re having from the media versus the data are two worlds apart. The data shows that life for black Americans has gotten substantially better over the last 30 years. Incarceration rates are down 40 percent, the killing of unarmed black men by the cops – the shooting and killing is down 80 percent in a matter of like six years. The education gap is narrowing. Everything is happening in a positive light for black Americans.

But the conversation from the media and from social media is extremely bad. You know, black Americans who were killed by cops get nine times as much media attention as white Americans. And I think that the same thing is – the media and elites in general have become drunk over the idea of wokism, and I chart this out in the book using Zach Goldberg’s data, which is that in the last 10 years – since the late 2000s – 2008, 2007, something around this time – you saw the usage of woke terminology explode in our general public and our general conversations, so things like white privilege, person of color, racism, racist – those terminologies are increasingly used by mainstream outlets. And wokism has become a religion. We are in the midst of a secular religious revolution right now. And I think that the anti-racism revolution has affected conversations on immigration because if you fundamentally do not believe it is good to have a white majority in this country, well, then you are willing to do anything and support anything – logical or illogical – to make that happen. And so – to make that not happen rather.

And I think that that is very much a part of the conversation in general – is simply kind of a reflexive move by people who have an anti-white bias, as white liberals have. White liberal have – it’s been studied, and I cite it in the book – the study that white liberals have a bias against white people, and because they have that personal bias against white people, I think that it affects the immigration conversation so much, and it makes it so much harder – where you have Bernie Sanders, who is a classical socialist in the most – you know, workers-of-the-world-unite sense – Marxist, and he is drunk on woke terminology to court the AOC wing of the Democratic Party.

MR. KRIKORIAN: So to get back to kind of today’s politics, the president – supposedly he tweeted he was going to suspend immigration because of the economic slowdown caused by the virus, and then his proclamation was very minor – frankly pretty disappointing. But he’s on track – supposedly – to issue one now that would limit at least some foreign worker programs.

What’s your thinking, both in a specific sense about what you are hearing is going to happen, but also politically, what is – you know what are the risks of issuing a proclamation that, you know – that doesn’t really do very much, that’s more from the, you know, kind of Republican establishment perspective and it just kind of pretends to be Trumpian. What’s your take?

MR. GIRDUSKY: So there is definitely – from all my sources within the administration – and I don’t want to sit there and go too specific – but there is the possibility of having a broad immigration moratorium until the election is absolutely possible, like, it’s in the works.

The threat is, is that there are people in the administration, like Chris Liddell, for example, who do not want that to happen and that are leaking to the Chamber of Commerce, and they are leaking to – I actually have another guy’s name, too, I can give you who has been leaking left and right, and I don’t care who hears me because I’m not friends – I’m on no one’s Christmas card list so it doesn’t really matter to me. But the – Shawn Packer from the Department of Labor has been leaking left and right to the Chamber of Commerce, and to people who’ve said they’re going to stop a moratorium.

So these kinds of people are absolutely working to stop it in every which way, and you also have people like Brooke Rollins, who is the new head of the domestic policy, who also is not a big fan of this. I don’t think she actually has a personal stake in this, but I think she’ll just go whatever way the wind blows. But there’s a lot of people, administrative level, names you would have not heard of who really don’t want this to happen and are leaking to sabotage it at every single measure.

The problem for the administration now is that there is a certain belief going on among high-level conversation that Trump cannot lost his base, and that is –

MR. KRIKORIAN: In other words, they have nowhere to go; they’re going to vote for him regardless.

MR. GIRDUSKY: They have nowhere to go, so yeah, exactly. And it’s been said almost explicitly, like, you know, what can they do? And I don’t think the administration realizes – and people in the administration truly do not realize how much they are susceptible to losing their base. Five million voters were former Obama voters. They have no loyalty to Trump or to the Republican Party. They just may not vote at all. They might just – or vote for Joe Biden, or vote third party – doesn’t really matter.

But I think that – I think that – I think that that is – I think that that is an important thing to sit there and to realize – and the administration doesn’t realize that. And, you know, in the book, “They’re Not Listening: How the Elites Created the [Nationalist] Populist Revolution” – in my book, I kind of map out really what immigration policies the administration should be taking on.

I think right now an immigration moratorium would be so substantially beneficial to Americans simply because of the economic prospects, and not being replaced by H-1B workers, and having jobs opened to them by H-2B workers that would have been taken by farm workers otherwise. I think that there is an immense amount of excitement that is being lost in the base right now that would be filled if you did something like a moratorium on immigration.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, and actually you bring up a good point that people may not – who don’t know the alphabet soup of visas may have missed, is that this isn’t just an issue of low-skilled immigration, even if you are talking just about the guest worker part of it. H-2Bs are people who are lower-skilled, seasonal workers; people, you know, changing beds in hotels, forestry workers, that kind of thing. H-1B are the higher-skilled, white-collar, computer workers.

And so – I mean, what’s your sense about whether the higher skilled immigration – and I use higher skilled in a relative sense because H-1Bs generally are actually not very skilled. They do very routine, kind of rote computer work. But what do you think the political effect of that is given the fact that most voters probably are not going to be – even most Trump voters are not going to be, you know, getting, you know – get jobs making beds in hotels, that sort of thing?

MR. GIRDUSKY: Well, the 40 million unemployed Americans, they’re going to take a job doing anything –


MR. GIRDUSKY: And I bring up the perspective of that article from the Chicago [Sun-]Times – I cite this in the book, “They’re Not Listening: How the Elites Created the National(ist) Populist Revolution.” It was an article at a muffin shop that black Americans were being – were losing out to wages that white – sorry – that illegal immigrants were taking. And when the place finally got raided, black Americans saw their wages go up. I think it was by 20 to 30 percent.

And in order to meet the – as we’re going to see the end of the kind of unemployment bump that we got out of Congress in the last stimulus package – as that fades, I think, in July, and people don’t get the extra money for being unemployed, there’s going to be a rush to try to get jobs. And if there is a hole, and there is no foreign worker visas to be had, people are going to just raise wages. It’s natural supply and demand. And you’re going to see an increase and bump in wages. That will excite people alone.

There’s all the economic offsets as well as just exciting the base and saying, hey, haven’t forgotten you guys. I’m still – I’m still your guy, I’m still your champion. I haven’t been completely sold out to the absolute, you know, corporate interests. I haven’t become Jeb Bush lite.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, and actually – I mean, that – it seems to me all the arguments about the economics specifically – in other words, does it rage wages to have less immigration, whatever it is – misses the basic political point, which is what you are talking about, which is, in a sense – it’s both in a specific and a general sense. The general sense you mentioned: it’s a way to excite the base, but I would actually point specifically to the president, who owns resorts, he owns hotels, he owns golf courses. He uses the H-2B foreign worker program, and it seems to me, an exemption for those workers, even if the president isn’t doing it for self-interested reasons, and I don’t think he would be – I don’t – I mean, he’s not in this for the money – it still would give that sense, not only to those who hate him, but even to people who vote for him.

So, I mean, I think this is a really important decision they’re going to be making about this proclamation over the next couple of days.

Let me ask – we’ll go on for a few more minutes. To remind people, the book is “They’re Not Listening” – well, we have a regular – here, I’ll hold it up, but yeah, there it is. It’s by Bombardier Press, by Ryan Girdusky and Harlan Hill, in all the usual places you would get books.

If the president does lose in 2020, what do you think happens? In other words, what happens to this national populism you are writing about here, and have developments – similar developments around the world informed what might happen here?

MR. GIRDUSKY: Well, it’s bigger than Trump.


MR. GIRDUSKY: It was bigger than Jean-Marie Le Pen in France after he did so abysmally – I think it was in the 2007 elections, and the Front National was so low, and his daughter –


MR. GIRDUSKY: – his daughter, Marine, rather – yeah – Marine – their names are always so similar. Marine kind of took the mantle and formulated and made it a more appealing message.

You saw the same thing in – you know, in Finland where the True Finns Party splintered over the course that they were – the national populist party wasn’t considering immigration hardline enough, and so they expelled the leader, the founder of the party because he had been basically – he had been willing to conform too much to the establishment.

I think that this issue of national populism is bigger than any one person or any one movement, and I would venture to guess – if I could on a global perspective simply because that is – I mean, just – think about it, though. I grew up – I turned 18 in 2005. I remember that Republican Party. That wasn’t that long ago – 15 years ago.

Our Republican – I mean, Fox News has a man like Tucker Carlson on, and Laura Ingraham, too, who are immigration skeptics who talk about how bad the wars are abroad, and how we need to rethink free trade. I mean, we are having general conversations that would never have happened 15 years ago. They just – I couldn’t imagine it, and I wanted it to, but I didn’t imagine it would ever happen.

And you’re having – you know, you’ve having a lot of Republican senators, like Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio, to a certain, you know, portion, and Tom Cotton. And they are kind of getting pieces of the agenda down. They haven’t gotten the full agenda; they don’t really understand like – I hate this reference, but the three – the three stool – the three-legged stool version of national populism. They don’t fully get it, but they’re kind of picking up pieces – and not that I’m endorsing any one of those candidates, but they are having interesting conversations that are noteworthy to sit there and have.

And Jim Banks and other congressmen are having these conversations, and it’s – you see the creation, the start of a new Republican Party. It’s not there yet, but it’s growing there and it’s getting there. And I think that that doesn’t stop with Trump. And if I had to venture a guess, the next major political moment I think we’re going to see is in the next Italian election, which will probably in 2021. If Lega can win, there will be an absolute push – if Lega and the other national populist party, which is – that’s Salvini’s party. The other national populist party is the Brothers of Italy. If they win and they create a coalition government of just national populist leaders, there will absolutely be a referendum to leave the European Union from Southern Europe. I think that that’s an important thing to do. I’ve mapped it out in the book, “They’re Not Listening: How the Elites Created the National[ist] Populist Revolution.”

And the important thing to realize in the book is that – and I mention this constantly – is that this didn’t have to happen. Trump didn’t have to happen. You know, Trump – had Barbara Jordan’s original commission come through in the 90s, and Bill Clinton signed an immigration reduction bill, and actually became hardline, and reduced legal immigration, and built a wall – all the things that Clinton promised, we probably wouldn’t have had a President Trump because the anxiety – the economic anxieties, the anxieties over immigration, over demographic change – those things wouldn’t have been there to the place that they are now. Assimilation would have happened at a much faster pace because there would have been lower levels of legal immigration.

Trump is a symptom of the problem, which is neo-liberalism, and it’s the post-Cold-War order. He is not, on his own, this – America didn’t become a rapid, ideological nation about national populism. We were sold a bill of goods by the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-McCain view of neo-liberalism, and we rejected it wholesale. That rejection isn’t going to stop simply because Trump is not in office.

And I venture to guess if Biden is there, it will actually increase even more so. And people always bring up the question, you know, has America fundamentally changed too much that it doesn’t really matter? Well, no, I don’t believe so. One, we have 40 million non-college-educated, white Americans who are not registered to vote, and we have a growing number of Hispanic Americans – working class Hispanic Americans – and younger black men specifically – that’s the key point is younger black men, probably ages between 25 and 35 who are – or 40 – who may be only 1 percent of the population, but they are more open to voting Republican than their grandparents ever would have been.

MR. KRIKORIAN: OK. Well, thank you. Let’s wrap it up now. Bryan, if you could put the cover of the book up again, it’s “They’re Not Listening: How the Elites Created the Nationalist Populist Revolution” by Ryan James Girdusky and Harlan Hill. It’s in all the usual places.


MR. KRIKORIAN: Ryan, if you could tell us where people can find you, like on Twitter, for instance –


MR. KRIKORIAN: – or a website, or what have you. Go ahead.

MR. GIRDUSKY: My legendary Twitter account – (laughs) – my Twitter account is at @RyanGirdusky – G-I-R-D-U-S-K-Y. Facebook is Ryan Girdusky. My website is It’s all very basic.

But I just want to bring up the point that I think that my book – and you read the book – I think the book – if you are – if you are a supporter of national populism, then this is the book that is going to help you advance your argument. There’s over 700 citations in the book. It really was a labor of love by Harlan Hill and I to really give more of a complex understanding of the subjects that we care about.

And then if you are a skeptic of it, this explains where it’s moving to. And if you really want to stop it, you can. It’s the elites’ choice to make it happen. You just have to start listening to the issues of things like immigration to make that happen.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Ryan. Our website, the Center for Immigration Studies, is, and this conversation is going to be posted there and archived there. My own [Twitter handle] – I figure I’m here, I have you, so I’ll give a little plug –

MR. GIRDUSKY: (Laughs.)

MR. KRIKORIAN: – for people who have a taste for snark and sarcasm – is Mark S – as in Steven – Krikorian, @MarkSKrikorian. And good luck with your book, Ryan. It was –

MR. GIRDUSKY: Thank you.

MR. KRIKORIAN: – the publication date was just yesterday, so –


MR. KRIKORIAN: – this is a timely conversation. And we hope to have more of these Immigration Newsmaker conversations – whether with government officials or authors of books – in the future, and we’ll let you know in the future.

Thank you again, Ryan. Good luck and thanks to all of you for listening.

MR. GIRDUSKY: Thank you.