A wide-ranging conversation with Charles Murray took an awkward turn Tuesday night when Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol shared his view that white, working-class Americans should be replaced by immigrants.
The conversation took place at an American Enterprise Institute event called “It Came Apart: What’s Next for a Fractured Culture,” at which the pundits discussed how Donald Trump’s rise relates to the white working class’s record low levels of labor-force participation, religiosity, and family formation, which Dr. Murray described in his 2012 book Coming Apart: The State of White America.
At one point, Dr. Murray explained how, though he never warmed to Donald Trump, the 2016 election did lead him to adopt a restrictionist position on low-skilled immigration. Dr. Kristol replied that he’d “actually sort of gone the opposite way on immigration.” He explained:
Look, to be totally honest, if things are so bad as you say with the white working class, don’t you want to get new Americans in? Seriously, you can make the case—this is going on too long and this is too crazy, probably, and I hope this thing isn’t being videotaped or ever shown anywhere. Whatever tiny, pathetic future I have is going to totally collapse.
(As of this writing, AEI’s official video of the event is marked “unlisted” on YouTube—meaning it was not distributed to the channel’s subscribers and is invisible to internet searches. It can be found only through an embedded version on the event page, which is missing from the organization’s “past events” list. Similar AEI events from Tuesday are listed normally on the organization’s website and YouTube channel.)
After some awkward laughter from the audience, Dr. Kristol elaborated:
You can make a case that America has been great because every—I think John Adams said this—basically if you’re a free society, a capitalist society, after two or three generations of hard work everyone becomes kind of decadent, lazy, spoiled—whatever. Then, luckily, you have these waves of people coming in from Italy, Ireland, Russia, and now Mexico, who really want to work hard and really want to succeed and really want their kids to live better lives than them and aren’t sort of clipping coupons or hoping that they can hang on and meanwhile grew up as spoiled kids and so forth. In that respect, I don’t know how this moment is that different from the early 20th century.
Earlier in the conversation, Dr. Murray explained that his book “highlighted what surfaced last year in the election: a very strong disaffection by the white working class toward the new upper class, fueled in substantial part by the open contempt and disdain that the new upper class has for the working class and especially for the white working class.” Dr. Kristol’s comments are a good example.
By contrast, Dr. Murray was sympathetic to the white working class. Citing Robert Putnam’s research, Dr. Murray explained that racial diversity reduces social trust, and since immigrants concentrate in working-class areas, working-class Americans “bore the brunt of that kind of unasked-for ethnic heterogeneity” while American elites “live in neighborhoods that are exactly the way they want them to be.” This disparity was the source of a “great deal of the anger” in the 2016 election. His conclusion?
We as Americans owe an obligation to our fellow Americans . . . that should take priority over our obligation to the world’s population and globalization. So I’m in favor of limiting low-skilled immigration.
Dr. Kristol takes a different view, but fortunately his influence is waning. Since the Republican primaries, the Weekly Standard’s website has gone from a global rank of 10,000 to nearly 27,000 today. If it’s doing as poorly as the Alexa rankings suggest, maybe it should just be replaced.