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The Unstoppability Of Mass Migration
And the dangers of a reactionary revolt.
There was a point — somewhere in the mid-2010s — when it seemed as if a plurality and, in some cases, even a majority of Western voters had finally decided to restrain mass immigration. The election of Trump and the success of Brexit were both part of this shift. Trump promised to build a wall; Boris insisted that a line had to be drawn.
But now, almost a decade later, after four years of Trump and seven years of Brexit, we can see that … basically nothing happened. Covid made it hard to see long-term trends, but as the pandemic recedes, it’s now crystal clear that mass immigration has not just continued as before in the US and the UK — but has even increased, quite substantially. Both countries are now absorbing a huge new wave of immigrants, reaching historic highs in their share of foreign-born citizens, and there seems to be no slowing the pace of it.
In the face of a new influx, the Biden administration has all but given up on immigration enforcement in the interior of the country. Under Obama, 155,000 illegal non-citizens were deported on average each year. Under Trump, it was 81,000. Under Biden, it is now just 28,000. Meanwhile, the number of new US citizens reached one million in 2022 alone, the third-highest number in American history (1996 and 2008 were higher). The foreign-born population is now almost 50 million people — with about three million added since the beginning of 2021 when Biden took office. Next year, it’s likely the proportion of Americans born in another country will be the highest ever — surpassing the records set in 1890 and 1910. You can see it, in part, in the numbers encountered at the border: 2.4 million last year in a global pandemic.
Yes, the Biden administration has had some key successes in opening more avenues to legal immigration — which has brought down the number of illegal apprehensions since the end of Title 42 last month. Immigrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti now have a far easier legal pathway — and around 30,000 people a month, or 360,000 a year, are arriving that way. That’s far more humane, and preferable, but it is effectively managing the huge influx rather than taming it. By the end of his first term, Biden will be presiding over the highest number and highest proportion of foreign-born Americans in the entire history of the republic.
Britain, meanwhile, is now in the process of remaking its entire population. Brexit has not ended mass migration; it has, in fact, turbo-charged it. All Brexit did was end the right of anyone in the EU to live and work in the UK. And the Tories replaced that with a new law that brings huge numbers of non-EU citizens to the UK instead. In 2010, the new Tory prime minister, David Cameron, pledged to cut net migration to “tens of thousands” a year. Thirteen Tory-run years and one Brexit later, the number of net migrants to the UK last year was more than 600,000.
About 20 percent of the UK workforce is now foreign-born — higher than in the US. And the new wave is almost entirely non-white. Before Brexit, Poland was the biggest exporter of migrants to the UK. After Brexit, as Fraser Nelson notes, “India has supplanted Poland as the biggest source country for new workers: followed by the Philippines, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Australia and the United States.” One in four Brits — and one in two Londoners — now has a foreign-born mother. The notion that Brexit was about keeping Britain “white” has been turned on its head. Brexit may well be the turning point toward white minority status in Britain in the next century. Somehow I don’t think that’s what Brexit voters had in mind.
What are we to make of this failure even to restrain, let alone control, massive demographic change in both countries? I have to say I’m not entirely sure anymore.
Some on the left have argued that the GOP and the Tories never had any sincere intention of restricting mass immigration in the first place, and were just using the issue in an utterly cynical way to gin up votes. At this point, they’re not lacking in evidence! Trump didn’t build a wall of any kind; didn’t make immigration a legislative priority; and now claims he did build the wall after all — a lie that really does suggest he never really gave a shit. (The best person to read about Trump on immigration is Ann Coulter.) Boris, for his part, clearly never wanted to reduce legal immigration, and saw Brexit primarily as a way to become PM.
Or maybe we are living in a different age in which the mass movement of people from the global south to the north is just beginning, no government will be able to stop it, climate change will accelerate the process, and we’ll simply get used to millions of foreigners living among us. This is likely to be accompanied by a sharp demographic decline among white native Brits, as birth-rates continue to slide. And it’s possible that this kind of change won’t trigger a “Great Replacement” crisis among the left behind and condescended to, a revolt of the natives, and we’ll all just muddle along ok. Diversity is our strength! And all that.
This isn’t quite as fanciful a scenario as it might seem. We have, after all, already seen a huge ethnic and cultural change in the West during the last few decades and we haven’t fallen apart. However much Twitter and the MSM hype it, neither America nor Britain is in a race war. So maybe the worst won’t happen. This may not be the 1920s, when a similarly huge influx of newcomers prompted a near-end to immigration until 1965. (And in Britain, of course, this kind of demographic change is simply unprecedented — at least since the Norman invasion.) No need to panic yet.
Or, of course, we could be living on the precipice of something much worse — a reactionary lurch toward authoritarianism fueled by native replacement and resentment. That’s what my reading of history and human nature inclines me to think. Replacement and resentment were the inchoate forces behind 2016; and some of the factors that made it happen — elite estrangement and the torrid pace of mass immigration — have only worsened since 2016. In Britain, the Tories could lose what’s left of any trust they once had — leading a far-right party to gain a serious foothold. In the US, Trump could soon seem like the beginning of something much darker. This week he renewed his pledge to ban birthright citizenship and described migrants as “some of the toughest, meanest people you’ll ever see,” arriving from “mental institutions” and “jails.” And he continues to froth at the mouth on Truth Social: “TITLE 42 EXPIRES NEXT WEEK. This date will go down in infamy!!!”
Immigration remains his strong card. A Gallup poll in February showed that public satisfaction over immigration had fallen six points in a year, down to 28 percent — “the lowest reading in a decade.” An AP poll that month found that 44 percent of Americans want immigration reduced and only 20 percent want more. And Biden is under water: 58 percent of voters in seven key battleground states disapprove of how he’s handled the issue, and another recent poll showed just 26 percent approval.
And by a critical measure — official systemic discrimination in favor of non-whites and non-Asians across corporate America, government and academia, i.e. “equity” — things have gotten a lot worse from the perspective of the “deplorables.” Throw in truly bewildering cultural change — sex changes for children, abolishing all distinctions between men and women — and it’s as if the left is almost testing the conditions for a far-right revolt. Just read some Edsall, and you’ll get the picture.
This is the fear I’ve had since 2016 knocked me out of my complacency. And it’s a lot more intense today than it was a couple of years ago. Trump is a lot stronger, and Biden is somewhat weaker. Immigration is surging again. White nationalism is resurgent. Inflation still eats away at the ordinary American’s sense of security. The left elites are incorrigible — now targeting children for re-education in the core concepts of critical race, gender and queer theory. Target was selling girls’ swimsuits with a pocket for penis-tucking. Whose brilliant idea was that?
The result is a truly disturbing and metastasizing irrationalism on the right that only seems to get more unbounded over time — an irrationalism that really cannot be represented by anyone but the Great Orange Id of them all. That’s why he’s on the march again. That — and because his strongest issue keeps getting stronger.
(Note to readers: This is an excerpt of The Weekly Dish. If you’re already a subscriber, click here to read the full version. This week’s issue also includes: a chat with Ben Smith about the history of blogs and other new media; a shoutout to Biden’s legislative success; many reader dissents over Never Trumpers, DeSantis and trans politics; a few quotes for Pride that include an Yglesias Award for Ted Cruz; 21 links to other Substackers we enjoyed reading this week; a Mental Health Break of a Tina Turner impersonator; a window view of a Winston-Salem sunset; and, of course, the results of the View From Your Window contest — with a new challenge. Subscribe for the full Dish experience!)
A subscriber writes:
I have to say, after last week’s edition (including the extra page of debate over veganism), I continue to marvel at the amount of content that you and Chris sort through to make the Dish and VFYW happen. Take care!
Biden’s Legislative Success
A quick note on the president’s ability to pass major bipartisan legislation. I know readers think I never stop bashing him, but, in fact, I recently praised Biden’s shift toward the center, as well as his State of the Union address and his state of democracy speech on the eve of the midterms. For Biden’s last election I hoped for a massive landslide in his favor. I’m just skeptical of his chances of re-election — largely because of his age and his increasingly far-left party.
But he’s kept one promise: that he can land major legislation with GOP votes. David Ignatius has a comprehensive roundup; Peter Baker adds context here. The infrastructure bill, the CHIPS law and the debt-ceiling agreement are real feathers in his cap. He’ll give an address tonight. So no, I haven’t given up on him yet.
New On The Dishcast: Ben Smith
Ben is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Semafor, a global news company. He was an old-school blogger at Politico and others, the first editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News, and the media columnist for the NYT. His new book is Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral. I wrote what he called a “savage and delightful” review of his book, but we remain friends and went at it cordially.
Listen to the episode here. There you can find two clips of our convo — on the addictive power of blogging, and Ben’s tough call publishing the Steele dossier. That link also takes you to commentary on a variety of recent episodes, including Oberg on veganism and Biggar on colonialism.
Browse the Dishcast archive for another conversation you might enjoy (the first 102 episodes are free in their entirety — subscribe to get everything else). Coming up: Tabia Lee on her firing as a DEI director, Patrick Deneen on a post-liberal future, and David Grann on an 18th-century mutiny that’s a “parable for our own turbulent time.” Please send your guest recs and pod dissent to email@example.com.
Dissents Of The Week: A Party Trapped By Trump
On my piece last week on “Never Trumpers” who relentlessly trash DeSantis, a reader writes:
Oh c’mon, Andrew. I respect you — I’m even a paying subscriber — but do you actually read the Never Trumpers you criticize? They almost constantly reiterate that they’d vote for DeSantis over Trump in a primary, but it should surprise nobody that Never Trumpers would resist someone who’s made his career aping Trump. (Charlie Sykes addressed that last week in his response to similar criticism from Nate Silver.)
Furthermore, failing to criticize an obviously weak alternative to Trump isn’t anti-Trump; it just makes it more likely that a more viable (and ideally less Trumpy) option can’t gain traction in time. If DeSantis doesn’t have what it takes, everyone who sees Trump as a unique threat should be trying to replace him as the alternative as soon as possible.
They have done all they can to trash the most plausible alternative to Trump — long before his decline in the polling. Bill Kristol has no principles except his longing to be near the center of power, and a desire to destroy the current GOP.
Five more lengthy dissents, along with my replies, are over on the pod page. As always, keep the criticism coming: firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow more Dish discussion on the Notes site here (or the “Notes” tab in the Substack app).
(Posted on the paid Dish last week; we forgot to add it to the free Dish)
Almost two decades after we met, Aaron and I got a divorce last week. It hasn’t been easy, and my heart is still somewhat broken, but we are still close, and love and care deeply for each other, and always will, and this was a very amicable agreement. His dreams took him to the West Coast and we tried to make it work long-distance, but it didn’t work out. Sometimes the right thing to do is the saddest. Thanks for respecting his privacy. I’ll be 60 in a couple of months. Life begins again.
In The ‘Stacks
This is a feature in the paid version of the Dish spotlighting about 20 of our favorite pieces from other Substackers every week. This week’s selection covers subjects such as the debt-ceiling deal, the left-wing case against reparations, and right-wing tweakers. Below is one example, followed by a few new substacks:
For Shane Pennington, Biden’s new law on cannabis research is “way worse than I realized.”
Richard Dawkins starts a ‘stack. E Jean Carroll and Mary Trump are teaming up to serialize a romance novel. And welcome Monica Harris, a black lesbian censored by Medium for speaking biological truth.
You can also browse all the substacks we follow and read on a regular basis here — a combination of our favorite writers and new ones we’re checking out. It’s a blogroll of sorts. If you have any recommendations for “In the ‘Stacks,” especially ones from emerging writers, please let us know: email@example.com.
The View From Your Window Contest
Where do you think it’s located? (The images on the colored banners have been removed.) Email your guess to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put the location — city and/or state first, then country — in the subject line. Proximity counts if no one gets the exact spot. Bonus points for fun facts and stories. The deadline for entries is Wednesday night at midnight (PST). The winner gets the choice of a VFYW book or two annual Dish subscriptions. If you are not a subscriber, please indicate that status in your entry and we will give you a free month subscription if we select your entry for the contest results (example here if you’re new to the contest). Happy sleuthing!
The results for this week’s window are coming in a separate email to paid subscribers later today. One of them last week proposed a spin-off contest:
I feel like a View From Your Barstool contest would get some interesting entries. I’ve attached a pic from my last trip to Dublin in 2016:
See you next Friday.