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Immigration as a status signal.

  • Mar. 20th, 2012 at 7:23 AM

More On Murray: Race, Class And the Sacralization of Ellis Island

Thus, back in 2000, the NYT itself was “nativist.” It was expressing concern about “native-born workers”—exactly as if their welfare should be of more concern to Americans than the welfare of foreign lawbreakers!

And this was a respectable liberal position back then. For example, Bill Clinton appointed a widely admired black lesbian, former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, to chair a Commission on Immigration Reform. She reported back that not only should the laws against illegal immigration be enforced, but that legal immigration should be tightened, too. In 1996, Clinton publicly endorsed Jordan’s findings—although, of course, nothing was done, largely because the Smith-Simpson bill that embodied them was sabotaged by Republican Treason Lobby operatives led by Senator Spencer Abraham.

The NYT’s concern about the impact of immigration on native-born workers was in sharp contrast to the Wall Street Journal’s chief editorialist Robert Bartley, who had been calling for a five-word Constitutional amendment reading “There shall be open borders” since 1984.

From the standpoint of traditional class politics, the split between the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal on immigration was hardly surprising. The WSJ was the mouthpiece of employers who wanted to make higher profits by paying lower wages. In contrast, the NYT saw itself as defending to the interests of the American workingman, along with the Democratic Party. This is hardly to say that NYT editorials back then were written by rough-handed sons of toil—just that being on the opposite side of the class struggle from the WSJ was part of their self-image.


Today, few are surprised that the NYT and the WSJ editorial boards are on the same side on immigration. In the 21st Century, high-class folks have increasingly put aside their differences to band together and denounce anybody who doubts the wonderfulness of mass immigration.

That raises the question: Whatever happened to class analysis on the Left? The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 may have finished off the prestige of class analysis outside of college English Departments. But there was always a modicum of insight that should not be wholly lost.

The Left used to have a ready-made set of class-based explanations for just about everything. For example, they said racial conflict in the Jim Crow South was stirred up by the landowning class to keep black and white sharecroppers from uniting against their oppressors. Similarly, the highly successful leader of the United Automobile Workers union, Walter Reuther (1907-1970), a pillar of the Democratic Party during its mid-Century dominance, preached black-white worker solidarity against management.

But of course, these days, Democrats are management. They are the moneyed establishment. So it makes sense to defend their station by playing the bottom against the middle. The upshot of this shift in liberalism is that the American middle class now has nobody in the press even pretending to speak for their interests. Not the press, and not the parties. Not even the unions. There is no populist party. Both political parties have been captured by the elites, who are trying to "elect a new people" to make sure they stay elite.