Peter Beinart, theatlantic.com
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Trump['s] ... implicit message during the campaign was that if the government kept out Mexicans and Muslims, white, Christian Americans would not only grow richer and safer, they would also regain the sense of community that they identified with a bygone age. “At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America,” he declared in his inaugural address, “and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.”
Liberals must take seriously Americans’ yearning for social cohesion. To promote both mass immigration and greater economic redistribution, they must convince more native-born white Americans that immigrants will not weaken the bonds of national identity. This means dusting off a concept many on the left currently hate: assimilation.
Promoting assimilation need not mean expecting immigrants to abandon their culture. But it does mean breaking down the barriers that segregate them from the native-born. And it means celebrating America’s diversity less, and its unity more. ...[JB emphasis]
Democrats should put immigrants’ learning English at the center of their immigration agenda. If more immigrants speak English fluently, native-born whites may well feel a stronger connection to them, and be more likely to support government policies that help them. Promoting English will also give Democrats a greater chance of attracting those native-born whites who consider growing diversity a threat. According to a pre-election study by Adam Bonica, a Stanford political scientist, the single best predictor of whether a voter supported Trump was whether he or she agreed with the statement “People living in the U.S. should follow American customs and traditions.”
In her 2005 book, The Authoritarian Dynamic, which has been heralded for identifying the forces that powered Trump’s campaign, Karen Stenner, then a professor of politics at Princeton, wrote:
["]Exposure to difference, talking about difference, and applauding difference—the hallmarks of liberal democracy—are the surest ways to aggravate those who are innately intolerant, and to guarantee the increased expression of their predispositions in manifestly intolerant attitudes and behaviors. Paradoxically, then, it would seem that we can best limit intolerance of difference by parading, talking about, and applauding our sameness.["]
The next Democratic presidential nominee should commit those words to memory. There’s a reason Barack Obama’s declaration at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that “there is not a liberal America and a conservative America … There is not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America” is among his most famous lines. Americans know that liberals celebrate diversity. They’re less sure that liberals celebrate unity. And Obama’s ability to effectively do the latter probably contributed to the fact that he—a black man with a Muslim-sounding name—twice won a higher percentage of the white vote than did Hillary Clinton.
In 2014, the University of California listed melting pot as a term it considered a “microaggression.” What if Hillary Clinton had traveled to one of its campuses and called that absurd? What if she had challenged elite universities to celebrate not merely multiculturalism and globalization but Americanness? What if she had said more boldly that the slowing rate of English-language acquisition was a problem she was determined to solve? What if she had acknowledged the challenges that mass immigration brings, and then insisted that Americans could overcome those challenges by focusing not on what makes them different but on what makes them the same? ...