There are lots of different theories about immigration and its impact on US politics, specifically on how it will affect the power balance between Democrats and Republicans. I am largely agnostic, though I doubt the validity of tipping point arguments. Logically, I can make out four broad positions one can stake on immigration and US politics. I’m curious to hear from readers and co-bloggers about the relative merits of the positions:
- Immigration good for Democrats, bad for Republicans regardless of either party’s position on immigration. In other words, even if the Republicans took a pro-immigration stance, more immigration would still hurt them. The electing a new people argument offered by Peter Brimelow of VDARE has this structure. Mark Krikorian of CIS also makes similar arguments. This argument naturally appeals to:
- Those trying to sell restrictionism to the Republican Party.
- Those trying to sell pro-immigration policies to the Democratic Party.
- Immigration good for Republicans, bad for Democrats regardless of either party’s position on immigration. I don’t know anybody who has taken this position, but I’m adding it for logical completeness. This argument naturally appeals to:
- Those trying to sell pro-immigration policies to the Republican Party.
- Those trying to sell restrictionism to the Democratic Party.
- Immigration good for whichever party adopts a more pro-immigration stance: In this view, both parties need to compete to be more pro-immigration, and whichever party manages to be more pro-immigration will benefit more from immigration. This seems to be the view of many open borders advocates and other pro-immigration forces, such as my co-blogger Nathan here and here. This argument naturally appeals to pro-immigration forces trying to simultaneously make inroads into both parties, setting up a “race to open borders” between both parties.
- Immigration bad for whichever party adopts a more pro-immigration stance: In this view, both parties gain from adopting a more restrictionist stance. Restrictionists who are trying to make a broad-based appeal to both parties would find this argument appealing. In this view, the vote of people with restrictionist sympathies matters a lot more than the votes of potential immigrants and their apologists. Thus, whichever party adopts a more pro-immigration stance will lose a lot more in terms of restrictionist votes, even if they gain a few immigrant votes. Such an argument, if believed, would lead to a “race to closed borders” between both parties. Some restrictionists have made these types of arguments, though they’ve largely focused on (1).
There are a lot of complications that can be added:
- The story may be different for different subsets of immigrants based on ethnic group, skill level, country of origin, time within the US, etc.
- It is possible to be pro-immigrant while being anti-immigration. It is also possible to appeal to the interests of immigrants qua ethnic group rather than qua immigrant.
- It is possible to combined restrictionist rhetoric with a quiet support for more immigration, thus appealing to restrictionists. If you are a pro-Democratic Party person who believes a mix of (1) and (4), you would be tempted to favor apparently restrictionist rhetoric from your Party while quietly allowing for more immigration and more citizenship/amnesty.
- Similarly, it is possible to combine pro-immigration rhetoric with a quiet support for less immigration, thus appealing to the vote of people who have solidarity with immigrants and favor a pro-immigration stance, while at the same time trying to curtail the growth of immigrant groups who may be hostile to your party. For instance, a pro-Republican Party person who believes a mix of (1) and (3) would be tempted to follow this strategy.
So, which of the stories (1)-(4) is most likely true? Please feel free to provide separate answers for different immigrant groups separated by whatever criteria you prefer, and feel free to incorporate the above complications or any others you can think of.