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Conservatives must listen to their base on immigration, not the left-wing media

It’s amusing that liberals obviously shouldn’t be trusted to have conservatives’ best interests at heart, and frightening because too many conservative politicians and consultants are naïve enough not to realize this.
Brad Betters Montreal, QC

Liberal columnists giving campaign advice to conservative politicians is generally equal-parts amusing and equal-parts frightening.

It’s amusing that liberals obviously shouldn’t be trusted to have conservatives’ best interests at heart, and frightening because too many conservative politicians and consultants are naïve enough not to realize this.

And so it was with amusement and fear that I read Globe and Mail writer John Ibbitson’s recent column in which he “advises” Andrew Scheer to ignore those within his base who feel current immigration rates are too high—just-released figures in fact show it’s the highest it’s been since 1913.

Scheer, Ibbitson says, has to “convince immigrant voters that conservatives understand and welcome them” and ensure that his party has “zero tolerance for those who seek to preserve the traditional past over the multicultural present and future.” No doubt the piece was widely shared among conservative political consultants.

Just like The Big Shift, Ibbitson’s 2013 book in which he argues Stephen Harper’s electoral success up to that point was all down to not addressing the immigration issue, his recent piece makes the crude assumption that a policy platform calling for a pause or reduction of immigration, no matter what the current level, will drive away foreign-born voters.

Moreover, according to Ibbitson, most Canadians (at least the ones he knows) already take an “enlightened” approach to the issue, so it’d be futile to go out, for instance, mimicking Maxime Bernier’s “nativist tropes.”

New data from political science professor and Vancouver-native, Eric Kaufman, however, seems to say both assumptions are incorrect.

In his recently published book, Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities, Kaufman shows in an Ipsos-Mori survey he led that a majority of 14,000 respondents spread out over 18 countries, including Mexico, Korea, and South Africa, disagreed that it was racist to call for reduced immigration rates.

It appears that foreign respondents value group identity and/or appreciate the reality of in-group interests; and not just for themselves, but for others as well. Hearing “nativist” conservatives call for reduced immigration, therefore, will likely not cut off the foreign-born-vote as Ibbitson predicts.

According to Kaufman, it’s only liberals who think reducing immigration is racist. According to US surveys of his, 73 per cent of Clinton voters thought that “a white American who wants to reduce immigration to maintain her group’s share of the population is being racist”—This may seem odd considering Hillary’s previous support for a border wall and other tougher stances while a New York senator, but there you are.

Among the same liberal demographic, however, only 18 percent said that “a Latino or Asian American who wants to increase immigration from Latin America or Asia to boost her group’s share of the population is being racist.”

Kaufman also shows that among Hispanics, Blacks and Asians in the US (the large majority of whom supported Clinton in 2016 and consistently vote Democratic), almost half failed to see those Americans who wanted to reduce immigration as inherently racist—Findings which he also discussed in the New York Times last week. Considering the daily barrage of racism accusations against conservatives in the US in general, from the institutional media, the Democratic party and the like, this is pretty surprising.

As for Canadians (who Kaufman didn’t survey as intensely), only 30 percent of those polled believed it was “racist to want to reduce immigration to maintain group share.” This appears to dovetail with recent polling results elsewhere which show a mere 6 percent of Canadians actually want to see immigration increased.

Where Ibbitson might be correct in the piece is his claim that immigrants are “natural conservatives” (and therefore just waiting to vote for Scheer lest he copy Bernier’s immigration plank). On Kaufman’s findings, Vancouver Sun columnist Douglas Todd saysthat “[i]t could be argued residents of these countries are like white conservatives in North America: They tend to think preserving one’s group is not racist… it’s what [Brookings Institute fellow Shadi] Hamid calls ‘racial self-interest.’”

In-group identity (versus hyper-individualism) is indeed a trait that separates conservatives from liberals, says renowned US social psychologist Jonathan Haidt.

Writing in the American Interest a couple years back, Haidt stated that “[n]ationalists see patriotism as a virtue… they think their country and its culture are unique and worth preserving.” It’s similar to marriage, he wrote: “you love your spouse because she or he is yours, not because you think your spouse is superior to all others.”

In other words, limiting immigration is a “real moral commitment” and not simply “a pose to cover up racist bigotry.”

It’s this key distinction which is lost on Ibbitson and similar rootless elites. From their perspective, any nationalist impulse or expressed wariness of multiculturalism is to be immediately pounced on for being backward, non-enlightened, even hateful.

By making it his default position, Ibbitson shows that he fails to understand, not only conservatives in Canada, but as Kaufman shows, foreigners abroad well; specifically, their acknowledgment of group self-interest.

Before the election gets into full-swing, it’s sincerely hoped Scheer grasps that calling for an immigration reduction isn’t the same as racism, that mass immigration isn’t inevitable like the tides, and that it’s best not to internalize liberal elites’ moral hectoring and nor follow their campaign advice.

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