The American experiment

Noah Smith says: “The Trump thesis is, basically, that the American experiment is over.”

What is this American experiment? Well, there are two. The first is the post-secession experiment in governance. This experiment ended in failure almost immediately, was replaced with a new one, and whatever else you might think about that government, it’s now one of the oldest on Earth.

The second, and the one Noah Smith is talking about, is the bizarre ideological innovation that the United States of America is a “nation of immigrants, where ideals and institutions matter more than race or religion.” Google Ngrams can tell you that this mutation is recent: the phrase “nation of immigrants” is essentially unused until the 20th century and only takes off in the ’60s.

In 1958, John F. Kennedy, then a senator, wrote a booklet called A Nation of Immigrants “for the One Na­tion Library series of the Anti­Defamation League of B’nai B’rith”. He “at­tacked the national origins quota system as discriminatory and called for a generous, fair and flexible policy”. Kennedy lobbied for mass immigration until Lee Harvey Oswald, a Communist active in pro-Castro groups, shot him dead, possibly over the issue of Cuba. Two years later, the 1965 Immigration Act was proposed by Emanuel Celler, a pro-mass immigration ideologue from New York, and Philip Hart, the son of a banker, and helped along by Ted Kennedy.

Before 1965, the American population was 85.4% non-Hispanic white and 10.5% black. Most of America’s white population came from Western and Central Europe, especially the Germanic countries. There were some Irishmen and Italians in addition to the Englishmen, Germans, and Scandinavians, but this was no rainbow nation, nor had it ever been one.

In the early 1960s, the successful efforts of people like Theodore Roosevelt to end hyphenated-Americanism had largely succeeded. (Was Theodore Roosevelt anti-American? Apparently. Who knew.) Hyphenation was especially dead among the Germans, the largest ethnic minority at the time, partially as a result of America’s two wars against Germany; and especially not dead among the Irish, many of whom passed the hat in the pubs for the IRA. Maybe a few wars against Ireland would’ve helped, but if they hadn’t assimilated enough not to fund foreign terrorist groups…

These days, a lot of people—especially the intelligentsia, who are used to thinking of themselves as a separate class, detached from and foreign to the population as a whole, living in bubbles believed to be impregnable to the disgusting outside world—seem to think America has always been a ‘nation of immigrants’, and that the memorial that the friends of a mediocre Zionist poet had erected in her memory somewhere in New York after she died may as well be part of the Constitution. Since these people are a phyle of their own, since they already see themselves as minorities in an essentially foreign country, they have no problem with the prospect of those who are phyletically American having their homeland taken from them and used as grist for the mill of their ideological fantasies, nor with the idea that our homeland was intended as such.

(By the way, Noah, you do know what’s up with the néo-réactionnaires, right? It turns out that multiculturalism isn’t so great for the Jews. At least not the French Jews, many of whom have fled to Israel. Oops.)

11 responses to “The American experiment

  1. Alrenous June 13, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    Wolves are considered cute and cuddly until one eats little Foofie, upon which they shriek for the men with guns.

    The same thing will happen to brown folk. The instant they breach one of these bubbles, they will become public enemy #1.

    • Frog Do June 14, 2016 at 12:52 am

      Won’t it just cycle? The lower class bubblers immediately lose their class status, a new set of ever-shrinking walls are built, and the lie is maintained?

  2. Aristocles Invictvs June 13, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    Very related to this post is the concept of “The Melting Pot”, which is almost synonymous with “Nation of Immigrants”. Guess who popularized this concept? If you guessed a member of the chosen tribe you would be correct. His name was Israel Zangwill, why must /pol/ always be right.

  3. Pingback: The American experiment | Reaction Times

  4. pithom June 14, 2016 at 2:13 am

    “nation of immigrants, where ideals and institutions matter more than race or religion.”

    -1790 Naturalization Act


    Indian Removal

    Chinese Exclusion Act

    1924 Immigration Act

    Noah is basically making up an “American experiment” that never existed before the 1940s (or, perhaps, the 1860s).

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  6. Bernie Sanders June 15, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Post needs a correction: (((Noah Smith)))

  7. John June 15, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    The idea that the US is a “nation of immigrants” or a “melting pot” is one of the most insidious lies told. It has been so thoroughly woven into the narrative that even Trump does not question it. It is a massive piece of the false-narrative constructed that we need to expose, attack, and tear down. I urge everyone to keep this issue at the forefront and refute the term whenever someone brings it up. The key to defeating the left is to attack the premise of their argument. If you engage with them on their premise, you are playing by their rules, and you will lose.

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  9. Pal June 22, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    I’m not totally sure where the history is coming from here.

    (1) I can find dozens of essays dating back to the late 19th, early 20th century highlighting the difference between Europe — strifed by nationalism and WWI — and a cosmopolitan America, where the descendants/immigrants of foreign (and often rival) nations are able to live together at a level of peace not attainable in Europe. Off the top of my head, remembering back to my years studying American History, I can think of essays by Ellison, Bourne, and Dewey all from around 1910-1930 arguing just this.

    (2) Even if the concept or vocabulary of a nation of immigrants doesn’t emerge until this time period (the turn of the century), that doesn’t mean an experiment wasn’t taking place. Google ngrams for a modern term is laughable evidence of anything historical. If a hundred years from now, America is a fully vegan society and has a term to refer to a “life of harmony with all species,” an ngram analysis of the term’s emergence doesn’t refute the fact that there have been increasingly progressive stances in this country on animal cruelty and how we raise our meat. From the first colonies, American history is one of European immigrants of different religions and ethnicities stepping beyond those differences. This isn’t some unchallengeable argument for modern mass immigration, since the dangers of contemporary immigration are very different than that of previous eras. But pretending a bunch of historians have been hijinked by the leftist intelligentsia based on an ngram search is sort of ridiculous, and a blemish upon the otherwise nuanced content this blog posts.

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