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Competence doesn’t win elections: bribery does.
This is the central lesson in The Dictator’s Handbook, a book which studies politics in terms of interpersonal relationships and incentive structures, as opposed to vague social trends and ideological dogma—and it’s a lesson the Democrats learned well.
In fact, the Democrats take it a step further: not only do they reward their supporters by expanding the bureaucracy every chance they get (think the New Deal or Obamacare), over the last half-century they imported an entirely new voting block. The Democrats don’t just play politics—they rig the game itself.
The Philosopher’s Stone
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, alternatively known as the Hart-Celler Act, opened America’s borders to the world, and forever changed the rules of political engagement in this nation. No longer was politics fought along primarily ideological (Right versus Left) or historical (North versus South) lines; instead, mass immigration made it exceedingly profitable to play the game of identity politics. By catering to the disparate group identities of new immigrants, the Democrats realized they could lock-up a potentially infinite source of voters.
And while it’s true that America’s political culture has always, to some degree, been mired in issues of identity due mainly to slavery’s legacy, it is also true that by 1965 the exploitation of black-white tensions was not a “growth market”—especially considering that the Democrats were on the losing side of the Civil Rights Movement. They needed a fresh source of reliable voters, and they created one.
Since 1965, more than 45 million people have immigrated to the United States, and America’s immigrant population is now at an all-time high. Obviously, immigration has added significant numbers of new voters, but perhaps less obvious is the fact that America’s immigrant population votes Democrat by an extraordinary margin.
According to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies, immigrants vote Democrat by a ratio of at least 2-to-1, and this gap is widening. This data is supported by a study from Pew Research, which finds that non-white Americans vote Democrat by a roughly 3-to-1 ratio. This is important only insofar as the vast majority of immigrants since the 1965 reforms are not white, and therefore there is significant overlap between the datasets—they prove the same point.
Not only do immigrants vote left, so do their children—and their children’s children. As it turns out, political affiliation is highly heritable, as Jonathan Haidt notes in The Righteous Mind. Of course, this is not to say that politics is genetic, but only that the beliefs and values that underpin a person’s political opinions are shaped by their upbringing.
Politics, like many bad habits, runs in the family.
Immigration as a Political Iron Lung
Before going any further, I need to be crystal clear: I am not arguing that we should deny citizenship to liberals. Nor do I think the GOP should necessarily impose a conservative values test (which I can only assume would be branded patriotically as an “American values” test). It remains, however, that we need to discuss the fact that immigration is changing, and has already changed, America’s political landscape—for better or worse.
For example: with the exception of the anomaly of Ross Perot in 1992 splitting the Republican vote, American-born voters have not elected a Democrat as president since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. That is, every Democratic president since then—Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton (second term), and Barack Obama—won because the immigrant voting block tipped the scales in his favor.
Another example: since 1960 California’s population exploded from 15.9 to 39 million people. This growth was almost entirely due to immigration, much of it foreign. In fact, some 10 million immigrants currently reside in California. This has changed the voter demographics so significantly that California is now a one-party state. To quote my previous work on the relationship between immigration and poverty in California:
In California, immigration has increased the pool of likely Democrat voters by nearly 5 million people, compared to just 2.4 million additional likely Republican voters. Not only does this almost guarantee Democratic victories, it also shifts California’s political midpoint to the left. This means that to remain competitive in elections, the Republicans must abandon or soften many core positions so as to cater to the new center.
California became a Democratic stronghold not because Californians became socialists, but because millions of socialists moved there. Immigration turned California blue.
And as they say: as goes California, so goes the nation.
Again, to be clear: I highlight these examples not to discredit the legitimacy of the aforementioned elections, but because we need to recognize that immigration has political consequences that we need to discuss.
The Last of the Republicans
Republican activists (not congressmen) have spilled oceans of ink and sweat fighting the prospect of a DACA amnesty. While these efforts are laudable, they’re also futile. Sincerely futile. Instead, the Republican base should do everything it can to pressure Congress to reform America’s immigration system before 2020.
Consider that the previously proposed DACA amnesties would grant a “pathway to citizenship” for a maximum of 2 million people—most of whom would likely vote Democrat. Who cares? This is a drop in the bucket compared to the roughly 1.5 million who legally immigrate to America every single year, and subsequently vote for Democrats by a wide margin. Judged purely in terms of its ballot box footprint, DACA doesn’t matter. And yet, the DACA debate is given nearly all of the GOP’s attention (when immigration is on the menu), while the RAISE Act is spoken of in hushed whispers.
The GOP’s reticence towards immigration reform is not simply inconvenient, it’s incompetent, and it could spell the end of Republican presidential aspirations.
Remember, President Trump won by just 112,911 votes in Florida and 10,704 in Michigan—both states which could conceivably alter the course of the 2020 election. These are razor-thin margins, and immigration is currently erasing them.
A net 147,000 immigrants settle in Florida every year. Meanwhile, some 22,919 people immigrate to Michigan annually. If these people vote in line with the national average (which has held steady for decades), then just one or two years of immigration is enough to turn those states blue come 2020.
This is not to say that Trump’s re-election (should he run) is doomed—voter preferences are not etched in stone. But time is not on his side.
Immigration reform needs to happen before the electoral scales tip too far to the left. If not, California is America’s political future.
Photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images