How the Left Uses Group Identity to Undermine Self Government: The Case of Mexico’s American Diaspora
Surveying the political scene of 2016, we see some Americans taking offense at the phrase “All Lives Matter,” we see some students demanding that university presidents apologize for being white, we see a presidential candidate questioning whether a judge with a Mexican-sounding name can be impartial, and we see others finding it incomprehensible that political conservatives who oppose gay marriage could possibly be sincere in expressing condolences about shootings at a gay nightclub.
Dividing Americans into different identity groups doesn’t seem to be helping our discourse. Where did people learn to see themselves as members of a group first and as Americans second? When did politics become a zero-sum game of whose grievance rules?
Mike Gonzalez sheds some light on these questions with this look at how the Mexican government has worked to mobilize Mexican-Americans for its own political ends. Gonzalez finds that transnationalism—the belief that borders shouldn’t matter—has been the handmaiden of the ethnic-identity movement. If you think those two ideas are in tension, then you don’t understand the Church of the Left, which holds that victimhood is sainthood and the only victims are members of historically suppressed or marginalized groups. National borders matter or they don’t depending on how they affect those groups.
The drive to put Americans into groups and dispense their rights and privileges based on membership in those groups not only undermines our sense of who we are; it erodes the principles by which we govern ourselves, not least of which is the principle that we should govern ourselves. —Editor
THE PHENOMENAL GROWTH of the Mexican-American population presents a number of challenges for policymakers. In 2014, more than 35 million people of Mexican origin were living in the United States, including 11.7 million who were born in Mexico, accounting for 27.6 percent of all immigrants living in the United States. All told, the share of the total population made up of immigrants is 13.3 percent, approaching levels not seen since the turn of the last century.
But immigration has changed dramatically since the huddled masses of Europe landed in New York in the 19th and early-20th centuries, and in ways that should worry those concerned about preserving the American project for future generations. Whereas in previous migrations newcomers were encouraged by authorities to adopt American mores and habits, for more recent waves, assimilation is no longer the official goal. The transnational multicultural movement has succeeded at replacing established norms of citizenship, social cohesion, and national interests with new doctrines that are recasting, not preserving, the American experiment.
This new trend upends the centuries-old rule that, as Louis Brandeis put it, immigrants must first attain “complete harmony with our ideals and aspirations and cooperate with us for their attainment,” and then acquire political power. In the new social model, immigrants and their descendants are suborned with benefits to demand society’s accommodation of a separate status. Instead of encouraging adaptation among immigrants, in the words of political scientist Peter Skerry, “activists insist that the mainstream adapt itself to them. In essence, they argue that barrio values be brought into the public sphere unmediated.”
Conservatives who want to return to the assimilationist model must also contend with something else. An often-missing piece is the Mexican government’s own contribution to American multiculturalism, given that it now plays community organizer for millions of Mexican-Americans.
Mexican leaders have worked for more than a century to exert influence over immigrants and their descendants living north of the border. Their efforts offer just one example of how the ethnic-identity movement has taken root in this country since the 1960s. In this case, the Chicano construct can be used by third-party forces to generate conflicted loyalties. Mexico and its transnational supporters of course insist that there is no contradiction in having people remain loyal to Mexico while simultaneously engaging in the political and civic life of the United States. This is a claim we should examine.
In the new social model, immigrants and their descendants are suborned with benefits to demand society’s accommodation of a separate status. Instead of encouraging adaptation among immigrants, in the words of political scientist Peter Skerry, “activists insist that the mainstream adapt itself to them.”
What is unquestionable is that, for good or for ill, as the population of Mexican-Americans has grown over the past quarter-century, the Mexican government has created and nurtured a powerful web that seeks to exert influence over America’s increasingly dominant minority politics. For Mexican-Americans, the vibrant and distinct culture that lies just across the long and porous southern border is constantly reinforced through a vast, influential network of consulates and interest groups across the United States, including the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). As two leading (and sympathetic) Mexican-American scholars put it, “No other country has this diplomatic infrastructure within the borders of the most powerful nation in the world.”
The “Network of Networks”
Over the past several decades, Mexico has not just increased the number of its consulates in the United States—25 percent growth in just the past 15 years—but also the nature of their work. The consulates now coordinate heavily with the Institute for Mexicans Abroad (IME), which is the successor to a number of programs started by the Mexican government in the 1980s to mobilize the Mexican-American community on issues affecting Mexico.
The consulate network does not hesitate to take sides in politics. It played key supporting roles in both of President Obama’s most controversial domestic policies. With Obamacare, health navigators enrolled people inside Mexican consulates—technically foreign soil—and according to one official, it isn’t clear whether illegal immigrants may have actually been enrolled. The consulates also provided field muscle in the two key immigration policies of the Obama administration—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) of 2012, which gave temporary deportation relief to hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought illegally as children; and the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) of 2014.
The consulates have paid DACA processing fees for those who cannot pay, and went even further with DAPA. Within days, the Mexican consul in Sacramento announced a raft of helpful measures: free workshops on applying, one-on-one legal advice, and, again, financial support for fees. President Peña Nieto was at the White House within weeks to praise DAPA as “very intelligent and audacious,” and to announce, with Obama by his side, that Mexicans would henceforth be able to obtain birth certificates at the consulates, instead of having to travel to Mexico. This April, Peña Nieto replaced his ambassador to the United States with a veteran diplomat, Carlos Manuel Sada Solana, whose main mission is to lobby against presidential candidate Donald Trump’s rhetoric. Ambassador Sada Solana, who has headed consulates from New York to Los Angeles, told Bloomberg that he aimed to use the network to this end.
As eyebrow raising as it may be to have another country’s consulate network play such an active partisan role in divisive domestic politics, however, it is their role in creating a cadre of Mexican-American leaders that could have the more lasting impact. The IME has personnel embedded in the 50 consulates throughout the United States. They hold local elections so Mexican-Americans can select who will participate in the IME informative conferences. These Jornadas Informativas are a key way that the IME builds and nurtures a force of Mexican-American leaders. The consulates, the CCIME, and the conferences nurture leadership capital on the American side of the border by honing activists’ political skills. Former council members and conference attendees are encouraged to remain in contact, and indeed almost one-third of council members are conference alumni.
Fortifying bonds with Mexico—even for people naturalized or born in the United States—is always a priority. Last year the Los Angeles consulate, the biggest in this country, announced that Mexican-Americans would be able to reclaim land they or their ancestors had left. According to Consul Sada Solana, “This is important, given that we have 35 million Mexicans in the United States, of whom no fewer than 30 percent have some land issue in Mexico” (emphasis added).
But do ethnic organizations actually represent the Mexican-American grassroots? Political scientist Peter Skerry describes groups like NCLR and MALDEF as participating in “elite network politics.” The network has “weak community ties” but wins policy fights because it partakes in “a process of specialization and professionalization by which politics become more and more an insiders’ game … a politics increasingly turned in upon itself and insulated from the surrounding social flux.” Skerry singles out MALDEF as a group that “has no members whatsoever in the communities it represents, and therefore no real bonds of accountability to those communities. The organization gets most of its funding from a few corporations and large foundations—in particular the Ford Foundation.”
What these organizations lack in community accountability, they make up for in influence. MALDEF in particular has been highly influential for decades. In the 1970s, it played a crucial role in extending the Voting Rights Act to Hispanics on the spurious notion that English-language ballots were akin to poll taxes used in the Jim Crow South. More recently, one of President Obama’s first appointments in 2009 was that of MALDEF president John Trasviña to be assistant secretary at HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
La Raza is disconnected from the communities it purports to serve. Though it has more than 260 affiliates nationwide, the affiliates do not vote for the board that runs La Raza. Nor does La Raza rely on members for funding.
La Raza is similarly disconnected from the community it purports to serve. Though NCLR has more than 260 affiliates nationwide, the affiliates do not vote for the board that runs NCLR. Nor does NCLR rely on members for funding. Charitable groups like the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supply about one-third of its funding; another third comes from Fortune 500 corporations; and most of the rest comes from U.S. government grants. Instead, NCLR affiliates contribute to the cause in other, politically convenient ways. They are overwhelmingly devoted to training committed activists that will mobilize for open immigration, for the environment, for the “Black Lives Matter” movement, against inequality, and to get out the vote against candidates like Cory Gardner in Colorado and Rick Scott in Florida.
The Transnational Agenda
Helpful though they are, elite connections and funding alone cannot explain the success of Mexico’s efforts; for that, it is necessary to look to America’s leadership. In today’s American progressive globalists, Mexico has encountered strategic allies who have transcended hard-nosed, nationalist views about loyalty and patriotism and have no qualms about seeing the immigrant population as being shared. The transnational school of thought believes that borders are eroding—both because the information age frees people to contact cousins in remote villages from their basements in Queens or Leeds, and because supposed problems like climate change require global governance.
American champions of transnationalism cheer the IME’s advisory council as “a unique model of binational civic engagement,” as the left-leaning Migration Policy Institute put it in 2010. Adherents of transnationalism posit that having a political foot on each side of the border actually helps immigrants integrate further into the American political system. Professor Peter Schuck has proposed that by allowing immigrants to maintain dual loyalty, the U.S. government creates a welcoming environment that legitimizes its own authority. Likewise, a 2010 MPI paper praises the IME for taking on a “task traditionally reserved for receiving-country institutions. … Grounded in the belief that a better integrated immigrant benefits the individual migrant, the sending country, and the receiving country, IME’s integration work represents one of the most significant, if overlooked, factors in US immigrant integration policy.”
In today’s American progressive globalists, Mexico has encountered strategic allies who have transcended hard-nosed, nationalist views about loyalty and patriotism and have no qualms about seeing the immigrant population as being shared.
The apparent contradiction is explained away by transnationalism’s tenet that borders will become less meaningful over time. According to a 2001 binational panel organized by the Carnegie Endowment and supported by the Ford and MacArthur Foundations, “[O]ver the long term, it is possible to conceive of a North America with gradually disappearing border controls—in which each country takes responsibility for its people and their actions and is actively sensitive to the concerns of each partner on issues of national and economic security—and with permanent migration remaining at moderate levels.” The model is the European Union, said the panel, “particularly for the long term.”
The Obama administration fully subscribes to transnationalism, which may explain why Mexico has been so cooperative about the president’s most controversial policies. Obama’s “New Americans” initiatives—which started rolling out days after the November 2014 executive action on immigration—all rely heavily on the integrationist model.
The Strategic Action Plan released in April 2015 by President Obama’s “Task Force on New Americans” relies heavily on transnational thinking. It was co-authored by Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and former NCLR senior vice president, and does not mention assimilation, patriotism, or Americanization in 54 pages. Instead, it puts the onus on how “welcoming communities” must accommodate immigrants, calling for greater sanction of “diverse cultural practices” and maintaining “native language proficiency to preserve culture.” And, of course, it recommends greater political engagement for “New Americans.”
All too often transnational governance ends up in the hands of technocrats with no need to periodically seek the consent of those who pay their salaries and bear the brunt of their actions.
Another transnational gambit is the “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Awareness Campaign launched in September 2015. It urges streamlining the naturalization process for “eligible immigrants,” which would presumably include the millions to whom Obama wants to grant amnesty.
The Obama administration’s success in advancing the cause of transnationalism can also be measured in funding to favored groups and causes. A 2012 Judicial Watch investigation uncovered that, from her perch at the Domestic Policy Council, Muñoz had dispensed considerable largesse. NCLR “has benefitted handsomely from Muñoz’s quick rise in the Obama Administration.” Its funding “more than doubled the year Muñoz joined the White House, from $4.1 million to $11 million.” Most of the money (60 percent) came from the Department of Labor (then headed by Hilda Solis, a winner of the IME’s Ohtli Prize, who also has close ties to La Raza). NCLR affiliates also saw their haul of federal money skyrocket after Muñoz’s appointment. An NCLR offshoot, Chicanos Por La Causa, “saw its federal funding nearly double to $18.3 million following Muñoz’ [sic] appointment,” said Judicial Watch.
By enticing people to separate into groups with racial preferences, the American government has begotten a nation of racial and ethnic interest groups.
Natural Reactions and Conservative Responses
What makes many Americans uncomfortable with transnationalism is their intuition that the United States has a unique culture, including traits such as an inordinate attachment to (many foreigners say obsession with) the Constitution, a culture of volunteerism, and a widespread derivation of satisfaction from a hard day’s work—something not found everywhere. They sense that America’s ahistorical degree of freedom and prosperity is somehow connected to these virtues.
No laws have likely been broken by Mexico’s consulates or the Latino organizations. Columbia University professor Rodolfo de la Garza has remarked, however, that it is instructive that Mexican leaders always deny that they seek to create a Mexican-American pressure group “when they address non-Hispanic American audiences, but indicate that they seek such a relationship in meetings limited to or dominated by Mexican-Americans.” As the Hudson Institute’s John Fonte reminds us, we should remember that the last foreign leader to insist that immigrants and their children “to the seventh generation” retain loyalty to their ancestral land was Benito Mussolini.
While it may seem obvious, the argument against Mexico’s agenda and America’s complicity should start with the recognition that different nations will have different valid interests, and those interests may conflict. More specifically, for all the superficial appeal of transnationalism and global governance, they are the enemies of democracy and local accountability. Laws should reflect a country’s culture and character, and those who enact them should be answerable to an electorate small enough to agree on the important issues. As we have seen with the European Union, all too often transnational governance ends up in the hands of technocrats with no need to periodically seek the consent of those who pay their salaries and bear the brunt of their actions. Transnationalism becomes, in everything but name, a cover for an oligarchy unmoored from the electorate.
A conservative response must start with understanding that the multicultural, transnational social model, which they have allowed to grow unchecked, poses a real danger. Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, Mexican Consul General in Sacramento, describes clearly how it happened: “It is important to mention the recognition that the United States gives ethnicity as a basis for political organization. This legitimizes the ethnic mobilization of Mexican communities.” By enticing people to separate into groups with racial preferences, the American government has only begotten a nation of racial and ethnic interest groups. This approach has encouraged Mexican-Americans to see themselves as a single group, despite the fact that, as Skerry reminds us in his 1993 book, Mexican Americans: The Ambivalent Minority, “it is certainly not self-evident what interests recently arrived illegal Mexican immigrants share with third-generation Mexican-American college graduates.”
The group identity construct also encourages all Latinos to adopt the idea that “like blacks, Mexican-Americans comprise a racial minority group.” Skerry continues: “This abstraction poses no problems for the ideologically oriented Chicano activists who see the world in such terms. … Yet this race idea is somewhat at odds with the experience of Mexican-Americans, over half of whom designate themselves racially as white.” As Harvard’s Alberto Alesina and Arnaud Devleeschauwer put it in their 2003 paper on ethnic fractionalization—considered the gold standard on the subject—when people are made to “persistently identify with a particular group, they form potential interest groups that can be manipulated by political leaders.”
Conservatives must remember that the enemy is not Mexican-Americans; the enemy is the ethnic-identity movement. Discrimination against Mexican-Americans abets that enemy.
The fact that the American government “designed policies granting explicit preference to members of diverse social groups” also did something else, as González Gutiérrez himself explained—it gave “people of Mexican descent the necessary motivation to mobilize politically toward a common ethnic identity, which in a broad sense is defined as ‘Hispanic’ or ‘Latino.’” Why conservatives have blithely gone along with this reprogramming of America is baffling.
But conservatives must remember that the enemy is not Mexican-Americans; the enemy is the ethnic-identity movement. Discrimination against Mexican-Americans abets that enemy. Proposition 187, for example, which denied public services to people in the United States illegally, initially had strong support from Mexican-Americans. According to data from the Latino National Political Survey, 75.2 percent of Mexican-Americans even agreed with the statement “there are too many immigrants.” That was 1.4 percentage points higher than Anglos. And yet, when it came time to vote, a majority of Mexican-Americans voted against Proposition 187. The reason? “[H]ad it not been for the discriminatory fervor of the initiative’s sympathizers, Mexican-American voters would have approved Proposition 187 by an ample margin,” remembers González Gutiérrez. Conservatives must also be wary of autarkical temptations, and the purveyors of such enticements. They have always understood that only a sovereign nation whose citizens adhere to national civic virtues can be a confident international actor.
The adversaries to wage ideological war against are instead those in our society who preach multiculturalism: the professors who pine for Aztlan; the philanthropists who seek global governance; the groups that purport to represent Latinos but only seed activism and discourage patriotism.
As for the Mexican government, conservatives should point to the recent success of populist appeals as they explain how counterproductive it can be to insert meddling ambassadors into American politics. Mexico City should understand that much of the anxiety that so roils our national debates on immigration has to do with fear by a significant portion of Americans that today’s immigrants, the majority of whom are Hispanics (the majority of whom are of Mexican origin), are not assimilating as immigrants once did. By striving to ensure that Mexican-Americans do not assimilate culturally and patriotically, Mexico is not doing Mexican-Americans, or our domestic politics, any favors.
Mr. Gonzalez is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation. He is the author of A Race for the Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans (Crown Forum, 2014). A longer version of this article was first published in National Affairs, Summer 2016.
FOR A BRIEF MOMENT THIS SPRING it finally looked as if U.S. law enforcement had a handle on ISIS. After an average of four ISIS arrests per month, there were none in March and only one each in April and May. But then on June 12th Omar Matteen carried out his murderous rampage at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. In killing 49 people, he had executed the worst mass shooting in U.S. history and the worst terrorist attack since 9/11. Two more ISIS supporters were arrested in June and another two in the first 10 days of July. So it seems we are having little impact on ISIS’s ability to win recruits and supporters.
The Havoc So Far
In total, 107 ISIS supporters have been interdicted by U.S. law enforcement since the rise of ISIS in March 2014. (This includes five charged in absentia, seven killed, seven unnamed minors, and 88 arrests.) Of the 107, 41 plotted to carry out attacks on domestic soil, targeting Americans or American locations. For example, according to criminal charges filed last year but only made public recently, Munir Abdulkadir, 21, planned to abduct a member of the U.S. military and film his execution then launch an attack on a police station in southern Ohio with Molotov cocktails and firearms. It is alarming that so many of the U.S.-based ISIS supporters feel the best way to serve the caliphate is not to travel to Iraq or Syria but to stay right here in the United States and carry out attacks against Americans.
Who is the most vulnerable to attacks by ISIS? Average citizens have suffered the most casualties, with 13 killed in San Bernardino, California, and 49 killed in Orlando, Florida. But the most targeted have been police and law enforcement.
The fact that so many ISIS supporters wish to carry out attacks on Americans should be a concern to both citizens and law enforcement. Equally disturbing is the fact that nearly all are operating as “lone wolves.” In the case of both the San Bernardino and Orlando attacks, officials expressed relief in judging that these operations had not been planned or coordinated by ISIS central, as if this fact made them less deadly. But this is a false salve. ISIS has deliberately rejected the types of grand, centrally planned attacks that were a hallmark of Al Qaeda. Instead, they are urging supporters to carry out independent attacks, providing encouragement, instructions, even funds. This is bad news for us because these types of attacks are much harder to intercept.
What are domestic plotters targeting?
Other alarming trends in ISIS tactics include their targeting of youth and women. Sixty percent of the ISIS supporters caught by law enforcement have been 25 or younger, with some as young as 15, and 15 percent of those interdicted have been women. With our natural inclination to think that teens or young adults as well as women, especially mothers of young children, will not perpetrate acts of violence, we may overlook some threats. Indeed, ISIS is keenly aware of this potential strategic advantage and has been quick to exploit it. In the May 2015 raid by U.S. forces that killed senior ISIS financier Abu Sayyaf, Sayyaf’s wife was captured along with extensive data from cellphones and computers that revealed that ISIS leaders directed some of its communications through women because they suspected, rightly, that U.S. intelligence would not be paying attention to what the women were talking about.
ISIS Is a Theocratic Enterprise
Clearly ISIS is a threat to the United States and by all measures that threat is not abating. The question then is why are we not doing a better job of defeating it? How is it that people such as Omar Matteen are able to carry out such deadly attacks? In part, the answer has to do with what makes ISIS so effective at recruiting in the first place. Their use of the internet and social media has been much discussed, and in part we have slowed them down by restricting their access to social media platforms such as Twitter, but they have in response shifted at least some of their communications to more secure apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram. Thus while the platforms they use are important, it is the content that is more important. ISIS has been very successful in exploiting a religious narrative, which we have all but ignored.
While the platforms ISIS uses are important, it is the content that is more important. ISIS has been very successful in exploiting a religious narrative, which we have all but ignored. Where Al Qaeda was primarily a terrorist brand, ISIS presents itself first and foremost as a theocratic enterprise.
Where Al Qaeda was primarily a terrorist brand, ISIS presents itself first and foremost as a theocratic enterprise. Its goal is to reestablish the Caliphate and return all Muslims to a pure form of Islam as it was lived during the time of Mohammed. In his propaganda videos, Osama bin Laden typically appeared in a cave, wearing an M-65 field jacket, the U.S. Army’s combat jacket of the Cold War, with an AKS-74U—the weapon of the elite Russian forces, or Spetsnaz, who fought in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden, and his successor Ayman al-Zawahiri, presented themselves as military leaders, equipped with the spoils of their enemies, ready for battle.
In sharp contrast, when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the creation of the Caliphate, he did so from the Grand Mosque of Mosul, not from a cave and not in the dress of a military commander. He wore a black clerical robe and turban. He took out a miswak, a twig, before he spoke, and cleaned his teeth, a practice that was recommended by Mohammed.
A word cloud based on the speech of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, when he announced the reestablishment of the Caliphate on July 5, 2014, demonstrates clearly that the priorities for ISIS are Allah, the caliphate, and the ummah—the global community of Muslim believers. That means abolishing democracy, which they see as the rule of man over man, and establishing a strict form of Sharia law, law that is based on the Koran. ISIS has found unparalleled success in re-establishing the Caliphate and in evoking End Times. In the PBS Frontline documentary ISIS in Afghanistan, a former Taliban leader who has recently switched allegiance to ISIS explains his move this way:
Yes, we were fighting holy war as Taliban. Our holy war was just because there was no caliphate then. But God says when there is a caliphate, you must join the caliphate. There is a caliphate now, so we’ve left the Taliban. We’re fighting holy war under caliph’s leadership.
It is the key failing of U.S. efforts to fight terrorism that we have not understood the importance of this ideology: that every act by jihadists must be justified by radical clerics, jurists, or scholars. Indeed, one can argue that the ideologues are more important than individual operational leaders. Field commanders, as we have seen again and again, are replaceable, but ideas live on. They are far more difficult to defeat. Anwar Al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American imam who was killed by an American drone in 2011, one of the most important early ideologues linked to a number of terrorist attacks, continues today to inspire young Americans and others to weaponize their faith.
Today, others have taken Awlaki’s mantle. A study published by the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation found that there are “new spiritual authorities who foreign fighters in Syria look to for inspiration and guidance. … [T]heir statements and interactions can be seen as providing encouragement, justification, and religious legitimacy for fighting in the Syrian conflict, and—whether consciously or not—are playing an important role in radicalizing some individuals.” The study identifies three of the most important spiritual authorities:
Musa Cerantonio lives in Australia. Italian-Irish and raised Catholic, he converted to Islam. His writings have been particularly important in fleshing out the End Times theology that ISIS and its followers use to help justify their fight in Syria and Iraq.
Anjem Choudary, based in the United Kingdom, with 32,000 Twitter followers, has trained foreign fighters in the past and is currently perhaps the West’s most famous radical Muslim, thanks to his many TV appearances. He was arrested August 5, 2015, for supporting ISIS on social media and is currently on trial.
Ahmad Musa Jibril lives in Dearborn, Michigan, and is followed on Twitter by over 60 percent of the foreign fighters in Syria according to a survey of the fighters’ social media. His Facebook page had 242,000 likes. Jibril spent six and a half years in prison for money laundering, tax evasion, and insurance fraud.
It is the key failing of U.S. efforts to fight terrorism that we have not understood the importance of ISIS’s ideology: that every act by jihadists must be justified by radical clerics, jurists, or scholars.
ISIS is able to recruit by the tens of thousands, expand transnationally, and inspire terrorist attacks in foreign countries because of the ideologues who help to justify its existence and its tactics. These ideologues work constantly to reconcile the ISIS narrative with Islamic teaching and belief.
The United States can expect difficult times ahead, with more domestic attacks or attempted attacks likely. Based on the evidence available, the number of ISIS supporters in the United States measures in the thousands, rather than hundreds. Whether we will see another attack on the scale of Orlando remains to be seen, but it is clear that the United States is a primary target for ISIS and that ISIS has the necessary supporters in place and the financial means to carry out such an attack. The challenges of screening incoming refugees may further exacerbate the problem.
The intelligence and law enforcement communities could have a greater impact on the threat groups we face today if individual jihadists were not the only focus of their interdiction operations. The identification and prosecution of key ideological players, given their positions as promoters of the “jihadi brand” and the spread of their influence far beyond specific tasks, would have a far greater effect on the long-term security of the nation than just focusing on those who plan and execute attacks. The ideologues are hubs of jihadi activity and are force-multipliers for the propagation of the jihadi ideology. Neutralizing one of them can potentially stop tens if not hundreds of individuals from radicalizing. While the First Amendment protects much of their speech, if law enforcement were simply to pay closer attention they would be more likely to catch instances of actual incitement or other violations of the law. The problem right now is that we simply ignore them, leaving them free to spread their poison.
Ms. Gorka (@katharinegorka) is the President of the Council on Global Security. For more resources on ISIS, including a full list of ISIS recruits arrested in the United States, see www.threatknowledge.org.
IN 1978, AN ORGANIZATION CALLED the Kansas Agri-Women started placing billboards across the state proclaiming: “One Kansas farmer feeds 55 people + YOU.” The Agri-Women regularly had to update their billboards as farmers became more productive. Each year, one Kansas farmer could feed more people than he could the year before.
By 1999, the billboards advertised that one Kansas farmer feeds 128 people—plus you. Eventually, rather than continually updating the billboards as farmers kept getting better at their jobs, the group changed the text to read: “One Kansas farmer feeds more than 128 people.”
Fewer people feeding more and more people—most people probably agree that’s a good thing.
Something similar is going in in manufacturing. U.S. manufacturing output has never been higher than it is today. Manufacturing workers are more productive than ever, thanks in part due to U.S. trade agreements. Some people complain that there are fewer manufacturing jobs, but whether in agriculture or manufacturing, the ability of fewer people to produce more output is a good thing.
We know how to increase farm jobs—just outlaw tractors. And we know how to increase manufacturing jobs—just require everyone to work with one hand tied behind his back.
In fact, a recent Ball State University study found that if we somehow kept the productivity of manufacturing workers at 2000 levels, then in 2010 we would have had 20.1 million manufacturing jobs instead of just 12.1 million.
U.S. manufacturing output went up after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was approved, and it continued to increase after China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO). The same goes for agricultural output.
With respect to agriculture, here’s what a National Public Radio report said about trade: “Walk through the produce section of your supermarket and you’ll see things you’d never have seen years ago—like fresh raspberries or green beans in the dead of winter.”
Most Americans take these benefits for granted. Economists often talk about the benefits of lower prices, or a growing economy, but we also benefit from more choices than ever before.
Someone said NAFTA could have been called the North American Cancer Reduction Agreement, since it increased the year-round supply of fruits and vegetables for U.S. households.
Someone said NAFTA could have been called the North American Cancer Reduction Agreement, since it increased the year-round supply of fruits and vegetables for U.S. households.
The lesson here is that the standard account of trade issues that you find in the news is wrongheaded. That view identifies the national interest with increasing exports in order to create jobs, and holds that trade agreements that help other countries export more than our own country are bad trade deals. But a better measure is whether those agreements increase Americans’ freedom, regardless of what happens to exports and imports as a result.
Worrying about the balance of trade between nations is as arbitrary as worrying about the balance of trade between households and firms. You personally have a trade surplus with your employer. You export your labor outside your household by sending it to your employer. Your employer reciprocates not by exporting any goods and services back to you, but by drawing down its assets and sending you currency. At the same time, you have a trade deficit with many others. You run a trade deficit with the grocery store, and the hardware store, and the shoe store, and your dentist, and the kid next door who mows your lawn.
Nobody thinks the economy would be better if we tried to eliminate all these inter-firm/household trade deficits. That would be a barter economy! Trade that crosses national borders benefits people for the same reason as trade that crosses the street: It allows everyone to enjoy more and better stuff than they could produce themselves.
And low-income people benefit the most from lower prices, because necessities like food and clothing eat up a larger proportion of their paychecks.
But the benefits of imports aren’t limited to consumers. About half of all imports are inputs used by Americans to produce something else.
Fewer and fewer U.S. farmers are producing more and more food each year. Where is all this food going to go?
It’s going to help feed the world. There’s a limit to just how much food Americans can consume. U.S. farmers and ranchers increasingly rely on foreign markets. Agriculture exports are about $150 billion per year, up from just $70 billion in 1970.
Consider this: Farm subsidies cost taxpayers about $20 billion a year. If you are a U.S. agriculture producer, the ability to export to people in other countries is much more important to your success than the U.S. farm program.
Farm subsidies cost taxpayers about $20 billion a year. If you are a U.S. agriculture producer, the ability to export to people in other countries is much more important to your success than the U.S. farm program.
Many exports are subject to foreign trade barriers, and the most effective way to reduce those has been through free trade agreements. But U.S. trade barriers are a big problem too. Our high import taxes on foreign-made shoes and clothing, for example, leave foreigners with fewer dollars to spend on U.S. agricultural exports.
U.S. trade barriers weaken our negotiating position. When American trade negotiators ask a country like Japan to open its market to American rice exports, they can point to our sugar program, which doubles sugar prices for Americans. It’s hypocritical to demand other countries reduce their barriers while refusing to reduce ours.
By the way, you may remember hearing that production of Oreos cookies recently moved from Chicago to Mexico. What’s the number one ingredient in Oreos? Sugar. When the U.S. government adopts policies that double the price of sugar, it encourages candymakers and bakers to relocate in other countries. It’s a good example of why we need more free trade.
Another benefit of trade is the possibility of more peaceful international relations. According to one study, that’s because “there’s more to lose when trade is there.” President Ronald Reagan summed up these benefits in a 1983 radio address to the nation on international trade:
The winds and waters of commerce carry opportunities that help nations grow and bring citizens of the world closer together. Put simply, increased trade spells more jobs, higher earnings, better products, less inflation, and cooperation over confrontation. The freer the flow of world trade, the stronger the tides for economic progress and peace among nations.
Fundamentally, free trade is about rejecting favoritism and expanding economic opportunity for all. Free and open trade has fueled vibrant competition, innovation, and economies of scale, allowing individuals and businesses to take advantage of lower prices and increased choice. As a result, billions of people around the world have escaped the constraints of subsistence farming and extreme poverty that characterized the lives of most of humanity throughout history. It’s in America’s interest to continue to lead efforts to expand economic freedom, including free trade, in the United States and around the world.
Mr. Riley is the Jay Van Andel Senior Policy Analyst at The Heritage Foundation.
I have known former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for many years. He is unfailingly quirky and interesting, and many of his ideas have proved visionary. Newt came to national prominence as the architect of the “Republican Revolution” of 1994, the midterm election when House Republicans won a majority for the first time in decades.
I used to teach courses in management and leadership, and now I live those subjects every day at the helm of the American Enterprise Institute. So it probably will not surprise you that I harbor a long-standing fascination with seeking out the best leadership practices. Figuring there was nobody better to ask about herding cats in Washington, D.C., than Speaker Gingrich, I asked him what was the biggest challenge he faced as the new Speaker of the House.
He didn’t respond: “The press.” Nor did he reply: “A recalcitrant president from the opposite party.” No—Newt’s biggest challenge was his own Republican members. Not their character or their principles, but their mindset. Winning a majority and actually operating like a majority turned out to be very different things. Even though the numbers now said otherwise, Republicans were still thinking like a minority.
In a democratic system, the minority is by definition the opposition. Their de facto position is fighting against the ideas of the other side. Political minorities fight against something that’s more powerful than they are. And over time, their entire self-identity can become utterly reliant on acting like the principled underdog.
When conservatives fight against teachers’ unions, fight against Obamacare, fight against debt, spending, the expansion of government, we are not setting an agenda. We are reacting to an agenda. When this process is repeated over and over, conservatives start to forget that fighting against things is not our true goal, but merely one tactic for reaching larger goals. We let our temporary political fortunes ossify into a permanent minoritarian mindset.
This is an error. First of all, conservatives are not actually in the minority. According to Gallup, significantly more Americans identify as conservative (38 percent) than as moderate (34 percent) or liberal (24 percent). Liberals are the smallest ideological minority, yet they adroitly think and act like a majority. They claim incessantly that they’re fighting for the “99 percent.” That is inherently majoritarian language, and the public frequently rewards them with legislative majorities to match it. Paradoxically, though conservatives outnumber liberals, we have become accustomed to behaving like a minority and fighting against things.
Liberals are the smallest ideological minority, yet they adroitly think and act like a majority. They claim to represent the “99 percent.” That is inherently majoritarian language, and the public frequently rewards them with legislative majorities to match it.
Let’s return to the 1980s for a moment. Conservatives constantly invoke the memory of Ronald Reagan, an excellent president. Was it Reagan who led the conservative movement to fight against things?
The answer is no. On the contrary, Reagan understood better than anyone that a minority fights against things while a majority fights for people. He understood the dangers of limitless government, to be sure. But he always brought the conversation home to the people hurt by overreach. He didn’t pretend that most people regard the size of the government as an intrinsic philosophical evil.
Here are President Reagan’s own words, delivered at the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit as he made the case for his election:
Together, let us make this a new beginning. Let us make a commitment to care for the needy: to teach our children the values and the virtues handed down to us by our families …
Ours are not problems of abstract economic theory. [They] are problems of flesh and blood; problems that cause pain and destroy the moral fiber of real people who should not suffer the further indignity of being told by the government that it is all somehow their fault.
Work and family are at the center of our lives, the foundation of our dignity as a free people. When we deprive people of what they have earned, or take away their jobs, we destroy their dignity and undermine their families. … We have to move ahead, but we’re not going to leave anyone behind. Thanks to the economic policies of the Democratic Party, millions of Americans find themselves out of work. Millions more have never even had a fair chance to learn new skills, hold a decent job, or secure for themselves and their families a share in the prosperity of this nation. It is time to put America to work; to make our cities and towns resound with the confident voices of men and women of all races, nationalities, and faiths bringing home to their families a decent paycheck they can cash for honest money.
For those without skills, we’ll find a way to help them get skills. For those without job opportunities, we’ll stimulate new opportunities, particularly in the inner cities where they live. For those who have abandoned hope, we’ll restore hope and we’ll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again!
Notice how different this sounds from many of today’s angriest voices who scramble to claim Reagan’s mantle. His speech is strikingly positive in tenor. It is optimistic, aspirational, and resoundingly pro-people.
In this speech the word “government” shows up with prominence. That is to be expected in any policy speech. But “people” is Reagan’s most frequently repeated word. He mentions “people” 38 times in his speech. In fact, when you add in all the other times he talks about the kinds of people he is fighting for—“families,” “children,” “the needy,” “the elderly,” “immigrants,” “workers,” and so on—the number rises to 87.
Spending is mentioned just four times, “deficit” just twice, and “regulation” twice. Zero mentions of “debt.” The policy words mentioned most are “tax” (17 mentions) and “economic” (18).
When Ronald Reagan made his case to the American people, he didn’t spend a lot of time talking about what he was fighting against. He spent most of his speech talking about who he was fighting for. This is what conservatives too often forget. We spend much too much time explaining economic policy to people who just want to hear how we can improve their lives and the lives of the poor.
When Apple advertises their new devices, they don’t do it by extolling their great chips or processing speeds, or talking about the engineering problems they face. Instead, they show all the amazing things people can do with the device. Conservative communicators need to take the hint. We should stop selling chips and processors and start selling better lives.
Even when economics is not used to fight against things, explaining it generally distracts from our first-order goal. Economics runs quietly in the background, like your computer’s operating system. This is certainly important: You need to get it right or you’re in trouble.
But Republicans today have become like a bunch of computer geeks talking about “bits,” “algorithms,” and “binary values.” Most people don’t understand that stuff or much care about it. A hardworking parent isn’t interested in soldering. They just want their phones to work.
Even real-life engineers know this, by the way. When Apple advertises their new devices, they don’t do it by extolling their great chips or processing speeds, or talking about the engineering problems they face. Instead, they show all the amazing things people can do with the device. They illustrate in vivid colors how owning Apple products will make your life better. Conservative communicators need to take the hint. We should stop selling chips and processors and start selling better lives.
This lesson was a difficult pill for me to swallow. I have a Ph.D. in public policy. I’m the president of a think tank. I love to debunk myths with data and technical arguments. One of my favorite things to do on weekends is lean back in a comfy chair with a good academic study. My colleagues and I can and do spend hours carefully measuring the pros and cons of particular public policy proposals.
So if I can train myself to swap negative, technical arguments against things in exchange for positive arguments on behalf of people, anyone can.
Mr. Brooks is the President of the American Enterprise Institute. This article is excerpted from “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Conservatives: How to Talk So Americans Will Listen,” a chapter in Brooks’ book, The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America. © 2015 by the American Enterprise Institute.