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Conservative pundit and Fox news TV star Tucker Carlson defended last week his rationale against immigration, not just illegal immigration by the way, just immigration in general. His argument is, in a nutshell, that immigrants tend to vote for Democrats, hence, accepting more immigrants would harm Republicans and dilute the power of native-born American citizens.
In his interview in “Fox News Primetime” he said the Democratic Party is trying to “replace the current American electorate with more obedient voters from the third world” and that every time “they import a new voter, I became disenfranchised as a current voter”. He made a weird analogy between immigration and parents adopting kids and treating them better than the other kids, implying that immigrants receive preferential treatment by the government and are there to replace the native (whatever that means) population.
Tucker Carlson argued that his opposition to immigration is not based on race, but that he’s just seeing the issue as one of the voting rights and protecting democracy, that in fact, the issue is one of “what kind of country you want to live in” and the political power of Americans. For Tucker, more immigration will reduce the power of Americans, or at least Tucker’s definition of Americans.
He might sell his argument as one of political self-survival for the Republican Party, the reality is that his argument is filled with flaws and ultimately, presents a liability to the Party.
Immigrants are not a monolith
This is the most obvious flaw in Carlson’s argument, even if he admits that first-generation immigrants come from different cultures, countries, and regions, he fails to take into account that reality when making his argument.
He constantly refers to immigrants as a single group, he decides not to engage in the different political and economic characteristics of the many immigrant populations that come to the U.S. Does he address the many difference within the Latino voter population? Does he talk about how Vietnamese Americans tend to be more Republican than other Asian-Americans?
Of course not, Tucker Carlson has no time for nuance. For him, immigrants from “third world countries” are more malleable and will inevitably vote for Democrats because it appears they don’t know better, facts be damned.
As said previously, there are significant differences within immigrant populations. For example, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center study, 36% of older, foreign-born Latinos classify themselves as conservative, with only 17% of them viewing themselves as liberals. In comparison, 24% of white Americans consider themselves to be liberal, meaning that Foreign-born immigrants -those who are a target of Tucker’s rants- are in fact less liberal than their fellow native-born citizens.
In fact, Hispanics who have been born and raised in the United States tend to be more liberal than those who were born outside of the country. If anything, immigrants are not turning America more liberal, but the other way around.
Latinos, Asian-Americans are not a lost battle for the GOP
If you only heard Tucker Carlson’s monologues over the last few weeks, you would think that Republicans aiming to gain ground on immigrant populations was a fool’s errand. That the ongoing demographic changes in America would destine the GOP to obscurity, which is a talking point often repeated in Democratic circles by the way.
The reality is far from that, as this piece by the New York Times reported, the Republican Party made huge advances within the Latino electorate in the 2016 election, with Trump managing to overperform his 2016 record with the Hispanic community all around the board, not only in Florida or South Texas. It appears, however, that Tucker Carlson either did not receive the memo or simply decided to ignore it.
In fact, the data in 2020 directly contradicts Tucker’s hypothesis, counties with a great concentration of foreign-born population shifted towards the Republican Party, while the suburban and urban areas that were predominantly white decided to vote more Democrat than in 2016.
Trump comfortably won Florida, especially because he gained tremendous support in Miami-Dade due to the support of Cuban-Americans and Venezuelan-Americans. This pattern went beyond Cubans and Venezuelans, as other Latino-dominated counties voted for the GOP in Houston, Chicago, and Orlando.
Even the Democratic strongholds of Los Angeles and New York City saw a substantial shift to the right, with Asian-American and Hispanic communities voting more Republican than four years ago. Sure, Democrats kept both cities by comfortable margins, but saying that immigrants would always vote for Democrats is just not sustained by the data.
Let us also remember that the last Republican who managed to actually win more votes than a Democrat (George W. Bush, almost 20 years ago) managed to get 44% of the Latino vote. Imagine how unbeatable would Republicans be if they managed to keep the core of their coalition while regaining the white suburban voters who abandoned Trump and continue improving their numbers with immigrant voters.
Republicans, in fact, should push for enfranchising more foreign-born Latino voters, such as Cuban and Venezuelan immigrants if they want to expand their coalition. Restoring the wet foot-dry foot policy and expanding it to Venezuelans, would give Republicans two constituencies who tend to vote more Republican than the rest of the country.
Carlson says that accepting more immigrants would deliver every election to the Democrats, well 2020 shows you the contrary: If it weren’t for the Latino surge towards the GOP, Democrats would have obliterated Trump.
Warped idea of citizenship
The most worrying thing about Tucker’s monologues is the way he defines Americans. He continues to refer to naturalized citizens as being substantially different from native-born, as foreign or imported. He constantly uses the word “replace”, as if naturalized citizens were some kind of invader who substituted the real Americans in the country, instead of what they truly are: American citizens.
Tucker appears to not take into account that immigrant communities tend to integrate with the host nation. America experienced an enormous amount of Irish, Italians, and German immigrants during the 19th century, however, they gradually but surely fully integrated into American culture. It would be nonsense to argue that Iowa, Wisconsin or Minnesota are less American today than in 1850 because they have a lot of citizens with german ancestry.
The same thing happens with the Latino population that is coming to the country, the longer the time they spend living in America, the less they identify themselves as Hispanic. According to the Pew Research Center, 97% of first-generation Hispanic-Americans consider themselves as Hispanic, while only 50% of fourth or higher generation say the same.
Furthermore, intermarriage rates within the Latino community in the United States are high, meaning that as cultural exchange and integration occur, the number of people who identify as Hispanic would decline, with more of them classifying themselves as Americans.
So immigrants are not a monolithic bloc, they are definitely not an impossible electorate for the GOP, and they have historically integrated into the country.
Finally, Tucker talks about restricting immigration only via a partisan political lens, he even accepts that most immigrants have been successful in America. Going beyond the fact that immigrants are far from a homogenous political bloc, should we define who becomes an American based only on their political preference? Should we change the citizenship test to a ballot and grant citizenship only to those who voted for the GOP? Is that ground to build a sound policy?
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.