By Peter Farmer
Family Security Matters
Would it not be simpler if the government dissolved the people and elected another?
Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), German playwright
Bertolt Brecht’s name is now largely lost to history, but the idea expressed in the succinct question above remains as potent today as when he uttered it. Brecht, a self-made Marxist who was once investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) during the “Red Scare” era of the late 1940s and early 1950s, probably did not know a then-young Edward Kennedy or the other politicians who later devised the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, and he did not live to see the eventual mass migration of immigrants, legal and illegal alike, into the U.S. after his death. We can only speculate on how Brecht would have viewed the rapidly-Balkanizing United States of the early 21st century, but it seems safe to conclude that the old Marxist would be astounded at its scope, scale and rapidity.
The Democrat Party and the new left faced an existential political problem in pre-1965 America: the majority of its citizens were white Anglo-Saxon Protestants – or “WASPs” – Americans of European descent who voted conservatively in most (if not all) elections by a substantial plurality. The Democrats still enjoyed the political momentum provided by the FDR “New Deal” coalition, as well as strong support among urban ethnic and racial minorities – but these advantages were off-set by the substantial power of the conservative “Dixiecrat” wing of the Democratic Party and mainstream Republicanism. The “Greatest Generation” of the Great Depression, WWII and Korea was largely a traditional one, still firmly committed to the civic and cultural norms its parents and grandparents had held.
How to break the cycle? Following Lyndon Baines Johnson’s landslide win in the 1964 presidential election, the left saw its chance to alter the political landscape permanently – and seized it, right in front of the unsuspecting Republicans. In 1965, Representative Emanuel Celler (D-N.Y.) and Senator Philip Hart (D-MI) proposed the Immigration and Naturalization Act, which sought to overturn the national origins immigration quota system in place since the 1920s. Under the existing system, immigration preference was given to Europeans and members of the Anglophone world; the Celler-Hart Act would abolish these guidelines, granting no special status to groups heretofore extended preferential treatment. When polling data showed that a clear majority of the electorate was opposed to the measure, Democratic Party leaders assured the public that the measure would not have an adverse impact on American culture. Shortly thereafter, with strong support from Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the bill was passed and President Johnson signed it into law.
In the beginning, changes to immigration policy were modest and the fears of skeptics appeared unfounded. The Celler-Hart Act fit the cultural zeitgeist of the unfolding 1960s counter-culture and civil rights movements. Besides, hadn’t America always managed to assimilate people from different nations and backgrounds successfully? The news cycle passed by the issue, which seemed settled. Months, years and decades passed.
Gradually, however, as the 1970s gave way to the 1980s and 1990s, the changes fostered by the Immigration Act began to make their presence felt in ways great and small. Hospitals, schools and prisons which previously had conducted business in English, were now confronted with a dizzying array of foreign languages with which to contend – from Spanish to Laotian and so many more. The United States, particularly in its cities, has always had ethnic enclaves – from Chinese to Polish to Korean to Greek – but this was new and different. Entire tracts of some U.S. cities resembled foreign nations, where only Spanish or other languages were spoken. Moreover, thanks to the leftist-sponsored multicultural and diversity movement, assimilation was now seen as passé; keeping your racial and ethnic identity was “in” – becoming an American was “out.” Traditional civics and American history courses, long an effective means of acculturating immigrants, were discarded or watered-down.
Politically, the new multi-cultural United States was a smashing success for the Democrats, particularly in its strongholds in California, the upper Midwest and Northeast. The vast numbers of immigrants entering from the Third World proved to be very amenable to big government and the presumed virtues of the welfare state. Ethnic-racial identity groups soon sprang up and coalesced into political blocks that could be counted upon to vote Democratic on a consistent basis.
Economically, it took businesses some time to adapt – but adapt they did. The Democrats were not the only ones benefitting from the new scheme of things.