In February, I wrote the bulk of an early draft of a policy document meant for distribution among congressional staffers. The goal was to help pitch a new congressional caucus—the America First Caucus—to carry on President Trump’s legacy in Washington, D.C. without him. When writing it, it seemed like a fairly conventional platform—outlining positions that are broadly shared among Trump supporters. Little did I know that two months later, my words would ignite a firestorm dominating Capitol Hill coverage for days after the draft was leaked to the media by a disreputable congressional staffer.
In the words of Michael Knowles, the platform I wrote, “acknowledges Anglo-Saxon political tradition, hates ugly buildings.” I had simply pointed out that immigrants to this country should respect our national heritage and that federal architecture should look more like the Capitol and less like the Department of Labor building. Bizarrely, this was portrayed by media elites as a national scandal—a sign that elements within the Republican Party were somehow sympathetic to white supremacy.
What makes the faux scandal even more ridiculous is my own background. I am mixed-race Chinese by ethnicity and lived an international cosmopolitan lifestyle before settling in Wisconsin. It is not in spite of my background, but because of it, that I have come to appreciate the American Anglo-Saxon tradition, and I was proud to defend it in the unfinished America First statement of principles.
Impediments to National Greatness
The North Star of any nation with leaders possessing any sense of duty is naturally that which is beneficial to the people they swore to serve and protect. A properly accountable government must always see public policy through such a prism. Those who denigrate policies that put the nation’s citizens first cannot be trusted. They’ve shown time and again they are will to sell out the country.
Republicans who feigned incredulity over my words venerating American values are not speaking out because they fear the document represents nativism, fascism, white supremacy, or whatever term they want to toss about. They oppose the principles undergirding a 21st-century America First movement because those principles stand opposed to lawmakers who would displace American workers with unfettered immigration, unsound trade policies, and incoherent foreign wars. They opposed those principles militantly when Trump rode down the escalator in 2015, and they oppose them even more ferociously now.
Whether it be trade deals that have eviscerated America’s manufacturing base, or immigration policy that has flooded the country with tens of millions of unskilled workers, our leaders have shown that they would let this country burn if they could still rule over the ashes. Their policies are immensely unpopular with the American public, which is why they will not allow the debate to proceed, and instead engage in this kind of hateful labeling. Both Republicans and Democrats will shut down this debate, and politicians you think are like-minded too often fold under the pressure.
The media, academia, and innumerable special interests increasingly have nothing constructive to contribute to the policy discussion. All they seek to do is tear down anything and everything that has been so painstakingly built by better men and women than they, without any alternative to replace the smoldering pile of rubble they’ve left in their wake.
America, First and Foremost
The two main components of an America First immigration policy are economic contribution and cultural compatibility. Ensuring that any immigrant will be a net contributor to the public purse as well as to the community in which he or she settles is taken for granted in any non-Western country—to the point where it is not worthy of mention. The fact that half of households in the United States headed by legal immigrants are on some form of government assistance is something that would bewilder leaders of other nations. Such a policy can only be acceptable in countries that has lost its collective mind.
Strong, serious nations take measures to ensure that those who enter their countries are a tailwind to their collective economic sails rather than a headwind. We are constantly reminded of the smattering of star immigrants who have gone on to found multibillion-dollar companies and created thousands of jobs for Americans in the tech sector, as though they are some sort of implicit justification for permanent demographic change. While these immigrants do contribute to the economy, they do not necessarily contribute to the culture—unless they assimilate and appreciate the Anglo-Saxon and Western traditions that allow them to prosper.
There is simply no economically or morally justifiable reason why immigration policy in America, which is a public policy like any other, should not seek to benefit the people of this country first and foremost. This ethos also extends to the issue of cultural compatibility. If we were to only take in highly skilled immigrants but did nothing to determine how well they would fit into the mainstream of American society, the long-term cultural disruption of such an untactful policy would far outweigh any monetary benefit these immigrants would bring.
Ask any Australian or New Zealander how it feels to be priced out of their own real estate market by rich and highly skilled millionaires from mainland China.
One thing that must be made clear about cultural compatibility is that recognizing the need for it in no way, shape, or form, is a statement about any implied superiority or inferiority of individuals or group of individuals. Take this as an example: an Englishman and Italian immigrate to North America and settle anywhere outside the greater New York City area. Which of these two immigrants will have an easier time adjusting to his new surroundings? The Englishman, obviously. Does this mean that Italians are inferior to the English? Clearly not. All this means is that the cultural proximity of 99 percent of North America to Britain, especially when compared to Italy, predisposes the Englishman toward quicker assimilation into the American mainstream.
Now, take these same two individuals and put them in Argentina instead. Who will find it easier to assimilate? This time, it would be the Italian who will feel more at ease. Again, does this mean that Italians as a group are superior to the English, or does it simply mean that the heavy Italian influence already present in Argentina, all the way down to their unique dialect of Spanish, makes that country more likely to feel familiar to the Italian rather than the Englishman without any inherent or implied superiority or inferiority?
In the context of the United States we would expect, all other things being equal, those from the rest of the Anglosphere to have an easier time assimilating into American society than people who hail from other parts of the world. The solution is not to accuse Americans of racism and xenophobia because of this, but for people to find their own place in the world where they fit in best. That is all an America First immigration policy calls for.
Let this be clear: America is indeed unique in the world in terms of how much more readily we can absorb people from many parts of the world. This is largely due to two reasons. For one, we are a relatively young nation and do not yet have norms and customs as calcified as those of older nation-states, at least not yet. Secondly, Anglo culture—the very thing globalists want to denigrate and discredit—gives the Anglosphere, and America in particular, what is called a low-context culture. This means that there is extraordinarily little reading between the lines and trying to figure out what the other person is implying because individuals typically spell things out without leaving much ambiguity.
These two factors do indeed mean that America has been more successful at taking in people from more distant cultures than other countries have been. We could do it without risking immediate social implosion, but this system cannot be expected to perform miracles.
After more than half a century of reckless immigration policy that has favored roughly a dozen countries through the family reunification clause instead of focusing on skills or compatibility, it is high time America drastically reduced the absolute number of immigrants she takes in every year and reorient that number toward those who would enhance our economic prosperity as well as strengthen our communities and our culture. Virtually every single non-Western country rightfully takes care of their own without any implied ill will to those from elsewhere. America would do well to do the same, for the sake of her own people.
A Nationalist Ideology for a Cohesive Culture
Enduring multiculturalism gave me the perspective needed to develop a healthy nationalism. I am part of an exceedingly small minority of people who were born and raised in Malaysia by a Western father and local Chinese mother. I grew up in Georgetown on the island of Penang. Penang Island is one of two places in Southeast Asia, the other being Singapore, to have a Chinese majority. Georgetown is quite different from most of the rest of Malaysia in this regard and became so as a direct result of past waves of mass immigration from China as well as India during the British colonial period. As a result of this, while Malay is the official language of Malaysia and used in most textbooks, I only speak it as a third language after English and Mandarin.
The Chinese and Indian communities formed so quickly that no assimilation was possible between them and the native Malay majority. To this day, generations of Malaysian Chinese grow up in their households speaking their native dialect, speak Mandarin Chinese in school, and graduate high school knowing barely enough Malay to get themselves through a government office. Indeed, my grandmother, who immigrated to Malaysia when she was four, needs my mother or one of my aunts to get her through these ordeals. The various communities in Malaysia, as much as they would prefer otherwise, exist amid each other very tenuously as they share almost nothing in common. They speak different languages, profess different religions, and even have vastly different value systems by which they raise their children.
All of this has meant that it only takes the slightest provocation for tensions to flare up and then reach the boiling point. A race riot in 1969 over political disagreements resulted in hundreds dead and 18 months of martial law. As much as I miss the familiarity of my hometown, with the variety of delicious and affordable street food for which it is so famous, I do not wish to live in such a volatile place and migrated to America nearly seven years ago. I wanted to escape the kind of social tension that comes from reckless and untactful immigration policy. And now I want to do what I can to prevent it from taking hold in my adopted country.
Truth is, for most of the world’s people, cultural differences still register powerfully in their daily lives. Any country’s leaders who ignore this reality are fools. It is the responsibility of any prudent immigration policy to ensure that these primeval attitudes are not given room to fester—for such tensions only take away from a society’s ability to build a better future. An age-old obligation of newcomers to America has been to dispense of their past loyalties and allegiances and cleave themselves to America fully and unreservedly. Abandoning that duty would transform America into just the sort of country so many people are trying to escape.
One of my fondest memories growing up was moving to a house that had an older set of encyclopedias and reading the nearly 100-page long entry for America. The heroic stories of the colonists and the pioneers who settled this land and built a country from nothing made me fall in love with this country. I understand through my lived experience that the vast majority of countries do not share these traditions, and we must guard jealously the cultural gifts the Anglos of yesteryear have bestowed upon us. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity given to me when I was able to immigrate to a country that I had no part in building, but nonetheless, I am able to enjoy. And as long as I am breathing, I will do all I can to defend it.