City Journal Winter 2014

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Michael Anton
A Tribal American Future? « Back to Story

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Nativism is just name-calling, not an argument.

Even assumuing--which is far from self-evident--that California can eventually assimilate all these immigrants, can you explain how, exactly, the state BENEFITS from having them? The population is now close to 40 million, with a poverty rate that in many counties exceeds that of the poorest parts of the deep south. This in a state that once had the highest middle class standard of living in the nation. It now has arguably the worst, to the extent that it even has a middle class any more.

You have a monocausal view of the fall of California that ignores the main cause. Certainly liberalism has hurt the state a great deal but the population revolution has not only hurt it more, it has driven California's race to the left.

Once again, I point to Heather MacDonald's superb piece on California's Demographic Revolution in this very magazine.

And, by the way, to the extend that these immigrants do assimilate, they are assimilating downward, to the worst American behavior patterns, as Wolfe's book and Heather's article both show.
More thinly veiled nativism, Mr. Anton. Your knowledge of history seems to be rather myopic. America has always attracted poor immigrants from countries with different cultures (even when those countries were European). Certainly this makes for a long assimilation process, which undoubtedly produces bumps in the road and rarely happens over the course of one generation. As California has experienced a high amount of Hispanic immigration in the last two generations, one cannot reasonably expect the assimilation process to be complete for those immigrants coming from "poor countries with a vastly different culture."

As it relates to the causes of the anti-business climate in CA, it is well known that California had been spending like socialists and taxing like libertarians for some time. This structural gap meant that tax increases were imminent. Where was much of that money going? Schools and pensions - which both have little to do with the demographic change and everything to do with unions and their leadership. This is foremost among the reasons for the current anti-business climate.

Nativism has at its root, an insistence on ethnic immigration being the culprit for economic and social decline even when faced with a lack of evidence, and clear evidence to the contrary.
I cannot understand why the United States government does not represent the people's clear desire to end illegal immigration and curtail legal immigration in a time of unemployment nationwide. What is wrong with wanting your country to remain stable and to wish to conserve the culture under which you were educated and civilized? Don't the immigrants themselves come here because this country is different from their lives abroad? What is there to be afraid of in standing up for our own standards?
Leaving aside that you meant “reeks,” the comment below “reeks” of economic determinism and fails to understand the extent to which California’s troubles stem precisely from unchecked mass immigration from poor countries with a vastly different culture.

To stick for the moment with just one example. For the four decades or so following the Second World War, California had among the best public schools in the nation. Today they rank at or near the bottom. It’s fashionable to blame this all on the CTA—which does indeed deserve a great deal of blame. But a far greater cause has been the demographic revolution in the public school system. Put simply, the students today are much less achievement oriented, much more disruptive, require far more remediation, and are less likely to graduate or perform at grade level. See Heather MacDonald’s comprehensive piece in the Winter 2012 CJ.

Certainly California taxes like Caesar, spends like a drunken sailor and regulates like a commissar, but why is this so? Surely it has something to do with the total transformation of the California electorate over the past 20 years. It has become far more polarized by extremes of wealth and poverty and far less middle class as its former middle class has moved to other states (in part to get their children out of California’s failing public schools). California as recently as the late 1980s was reputed to have the best business climate in the nation; it now has one of the worst. It also has the largest number of people in poverty, on government services, or who favor—and vote for—expanded government services. This has become a self-reinforcing cycle. But the transformation of the electorate is the cause of the policy change, not the reverse.

People are not commodities. You can’t exchange one cohort for any other and reasonably expect the same result. California welcomed, or refused to try to limit, the influx of a new population even as it chased out the old one. The results are plain for all to see.
I generally find CJ's writings informative and refreshing, but this review wreaks of nativism. The reviewer may as well have said that an ethnically diverse America is doomed and this book illustrates why. It is not the ethnic diversity that is harming states like CA (rather it's anti-market, tax and spend policies), and it is lazy logic to argue that diversity = decline. A more astute review of the book would have pointed this out, as Putnam never actually argues that diversity = decline, but the reviewer seems to be suffering from a classic case of confirmation bias.
In the linked article from the researcher, I could not believe this mostly (it is the computer not the TV) dead-on description of life in Athens, GA : tend to "distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television."
In 2003, the United States soccer team played Argentina at the Orange Bowl. I was in the US fan section when some Argentine teenagers decided it would be funny to shout vaguely threatening remarks at me and my friends.

Now, I'm Indian, my friends are black and Jewish. None of the three of us are "White Americans".

The security guard chased them off and then turned to us and said "I'm the last white gringo left in South Florida, so I'm on your side." We still talk about that moment, 10 years later.
"has growth exponentially"

should be "grown"
The comments gives one an insight into the hurdles facing the Republican Party.
Charles Heatherly January 09, 2013 at 3:28 PM
Well done, Mr. Anton! As a refugee from California -- I had to flee TWICE-- and a Tom Wolfe fan of 30 years, I appreciate your fine elucidation of his newest work.
Well written review. Hopefully you're friends with Nicole Gelinas. She's the other writer here. A worker-bee about New Orleans, too.

“In Miami, everybody hates everybody” might have worked better as "distrusts." There's also a decades old local Q&A: "What the best thing about Miami? It's close to the United States."

If I get to the point where I think I understand Nir Rosen's "Aftermath" and can chart the action, then "Back to Blood" will get a place on the READ ME list. Thanks for the heads-up.
" Miami is California, and vice versa. America could soon be both."

Having spent time in both places it is incredible how much South Fl emulated Hotel California...I imagine the state as whole will eventually pay that price though everything in the US goes in slow mo.
I thought the Haitian professor was the most interesting character, but his storyline is for some reason dropped without notice.
WOW! Spell-bindingly interesting! Bravo!
I enjoyed the novel very much -- Wolfe so generously lays out such a lavish buffet, it seems churlish to cavil. My favorite character is the black chief of police, and I suspect he is Wolfe's favorite too.
No nation can absorb unrestricted immigration and maintain its original character. As much as intellectuals pooh-pooh comparisons with ancient Greece and Rome, this dynamic played out with a vengeance in both.

Now, as white America heads toward minority status, dead white males like Leibniz and Rousseau and Locke and Jefferson will play a progressively less influential role in the life of the nation, while a polyglot melange of lesser known icons from an assortment of cultures will slowly gain prominence in our history textbooks. This dynamic will be a very unsettling experience for whites, but the gradual sunset of a national volksgeist -- and the inevitable ensuing discord among the tribes -- will make what follows very unpleasant for everybody.


I started the book.. and then quit.. didn't seem to being anywhere.. at least nowhere that piqued my interest