The Corner

‘A Humble and Honest Populism’ Would Be a Winner

The in-depth polling on immigration released by Kellyanne Conway finds little support for Obama’s unilateral amnesty scheme and significant backing for more consistent enforcement. But as important as the law-and-order findings are, what I found most interesting was the depth of support for what Senator Jeff Sessions has described as a “humble and honest populism.” His push for a Republican approach to immigration that would “speak directly to the real and legitimate concerns of millions of hurting Americans whose wages have declined and whose job prospects have grown only bleaker” would appear to have political potential. As Conway’s memo on the poll findings put it, “Immigration is an issue unto itself AND as part of an overall economic message.”

Among the relevant findings

‐ Three in four respondents wished to see substantial reductions in immigration rates.

Incorporating immigration reduction into a broader pro-worker, pro-middle-class economic agenda is the right thing to do as a matter of policy, but it’s also politically beneficial because it helps reverse stereotypes about the parties – a significant source of the GOP’s recent troubles, not just with Reagan Democrats but with longtime Republican voters as well. A responsible economic populism that includes a consistent focus on mass immigration’s harm to Costco shoppers (contrasted with its benefit to Cartier shoppers) can help the party get beyond its image as the home of top-hatted Monopoly Man (and Car-Elevator Man). A conservative reform agenda, whichever version it might be, must include reductions in legal immigration (rather than doubling it, as the Schumer-Rubio bill would have done) if hard-pressed Americans are to take it seriously.

The flip side is that a more populist GOP immigration message would put the Democrats on the defensive, helping paint them – accurately – as the real party of oligarchy. Obama, after all, is the one consulting with his corporate cronies on ways to hold down Americans’ wages through immigration. Democrats are the ones seeking to import more foreign workers for the Silicon Valley wage-fixing cartel, even as tech firms lay off Americans. Democrats are the ones trying to make sure Michael Bloomberg’s country club doesn’t have to raise wages (“who takes care of the greens and the fairways in your golf course?”).

This necessary project of reversing the commonly held stereotypes about the parties is not helped when Paul Ryan says we need even more immigration because someday there might be a labor shortage, or Karl Rove says he doesn’t want his son to have to soil his hands with manual labor, or Haley Barbour justifies mass worker importation because “Colonel Sanders needs these guys.”

A sober, ethnically neutral, wage-focused agenda of lower immigration is needed to help the GOP become a party that speaks to people who commute by bus rather than private jet. Conway’s polling shows its enormous appeal. It remains only for the party’s grandees to get the message.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

Most Popular


Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his ... Read More

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More