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Divide & Rule

Hidden away, secreted in the dusty stacks of the Machiavellian Library, is the definitive how-to guide, Winning Through Ethnic Manipulation. Observing the immigration and affirmative-action policies favored by the current administration, it’s one book that I am sure George W. Bush—or at least Karl Rove—has read.

Start with the chapter entitled “Divide and Conquer,” which instructs power-practitioners to dream up racial hierarchies aimed at keeping potentially powerful groups divided—too busy fighting over crumbs on the floor to notice those enjoying the lavish feast at the big table. An example is found in the history of the New World, where white slaveowners pitted light-skinned blacks against dark-skinned blacks. The house slave vs. field slave distinction, cruelly internalized by African Americans themselves, has ever since hobbled black political power. Score one for white Machiavels.

In other places, the racial Machiavellians found themselves in such a minority that they had to import new ethnicities to help control the restive majority. That was the situation in South Africa, where the British brought in Indians to bolster their own power. One cog in the imperial machine was Mohandas Gandhi. The young barrister, arriving in 1893, was eager to begin work as a colonizing functionary. Yet the Hindu, mistreated by white racists in his new land, soon began to think less than favorably about British rule over India. He evinced no sympathy for Africans, however, telling an audience of Indians in 1896, “Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir.” Demonstrating the racist disdain of a brown for a black, Gandhi characterized the Kaffir as one “whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.” To be fair, Gandhi’s views changed as he grew older—and after he left South Africa to return home.

So back to Bush and his crew. American blacks don’t vote Republican? The “Divide and Conquer” chapter provides a solution: bring in 10 or 20 million Hispanics and suddenly blacks are no longer the biggest racial minority. When those Hispanics arrive, praise their “strong family values” and get as many as possible into jobs that displace blacks. (As a side benefit, get those macho men into the military because Uncle Sam needs more forraje de canon —for wars such as Iraq—than native-stock mothers are willing to offer up.) Bush & Co. can hope that the Nuevos Americanos become Republicans—surely these proud working folk will shun Democrats as the party of lower-down blacks.

Which leads us to the next chapter, “Overwhelm and Defeat,” detailing techniques for routing one’s enemies by manipulating the immigration spigot. The 2002 movie “Gangs of New York,” set in the mid-19th century, ably recaptures the ethnic dynamics of that particular time and place. An American Protestant, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, watches the “harps” clambering down the gangplank from Ireland; he derides the immigrants for their willingness to “do a job for a nickel what a n—-r does for a dime and a white man used to get a quarter for.”

Of course, readers of Winning Through Ethnic Manipulation have all learned that one must deny that wages can be adversely affected by competition. So even a self-proclaimed free marketeer such as Bush must swear that the market does not, in fact, work—that there’s no income impact from immigration. The newcomers, the president stoutly insists, are merely “doing the jobs Americans won’t do.” It is therefore Bush’s immovable position that incentives don’t work, that wages couldn’t possibly rise high enough to persuade Americans to do grunt work—or, alternatively, to persuade employers to automate more.

César Chávez, not commonly thought of as a free-market fan, knew better 40 years ago: new workers undermine the wages of existing workers. That’s why Chávez, trying to build his United Farm Workers union, stood opposed to strikebreaking immigration. Yet Chávez’s stubborn awareness of the law of supply and demand was eventually crushed by the Left’s infatuation with multiculturalism.

So with the leadership of the Republican and Democratic Parties united on the issue of open borders—or at least guest workers—it’s been left to a few brave souls on the Left to recall Chávez’s plaintive appeal: you can’t have anything close to labor solidarity, or income solidity, if the border is kept open. Harold Meyerson, writing last year in LA Weekly, observed that Southern California firms engaging in “construction, building maintenance, and trucking” have an easy economic strategy, made possible by abundant labor: “Fire their workers and hire immigrants for a fraction of what they’d paid their previous employees.” Interestingly, Meyerson didn’t include agribusiness in his litany of salary-slashing employers. Why? Because the substitute-foreign-workers-for-domestic-workers phenomenon has spread far beyond the farm. There are plenty of “good jobs at good wages” in construction, building maintenance, and trucking—or at least there were.

One might wonder: how could native-born blacks and native-born Hispanics agree to support a loose immigration policy that so adversely affects them? To answer that question, we must turn to the next chapter in the book, “Play Favorites.” The newfangled term for calculated discrimination is, of course, “affirmative action.” That is, pluck a few winners from the ranks of the lower orders so as to have a few non-white faces agreeing docilely with the elite on core concerns.

It’s a time-tested approach. Empires have long sought to co-opt discontented minorities by singling leaders out and privileging them, even over the majority. For example, as the Hapsburg monarchy found itself losing dominion over a fractiously polyglot central European empire, the government in Vienna desperately tried to grease the squeakiest wheels to keep the whole contraption together. The biggest squeaks came from the Hungarians, hence it became the Austro-Hungarian Empire after 1867, although true power still resided in Vienna. But in the feverishly nationalistic decades that followed, the Hapsburgs had no choice but to dispense still more grease to still more squeakers. And so, paradoxical as it might sound, the least-favored group in the Hapsburg realm ended up being the ordinary German-speaking subjects—the Hapsburg base, one might call them.

The Viennese elite knew they had their own Mitbürger in their pocket; after all, where were those put-upon Germans going to go? So royal solicitude was directed at the myriad of other ethnic groups—Croatian, Serbian, Ukrainian, and on and on—all of whom hated the empire they lived in. It was a formula requiring vast cynicism and corruption, and ultimately it collapsed. But the Machiavellian book bought the Hapsburgs a few more decades in power.

Who gets the grease in America? It was an easy call for the neo-Hapsburgs in Washington to look past the white majority and heap co-opting offerings on targeted minorities. It was “social justice” for former slaves, but the basic injustice became apparent when affirmative action was extended to groups—from Portuguese-Americans to Orthodox Jews—who had suffered no particular oppression in the United States. Indeed, as the ethnic-preference system grew ever more baroque, even the original intended prime beneficiaries, the descendants of American slaves, found themselves increasingly pushed away from the pork barrel. In 2004, the New York Times got around to noticing that a majority of Harvard’s “African American” students were not native-stock black Americans at all but West Indian and African immigrants or their children.

Needless to say, the emerging black elite, with its roots overseas, has vigorously defended this mutated status quo, shushing ordinary blacks who get nothing out of the spoils system. That’s fine with the white elite, as long as there are no riots.

Bush is practicing a similar strategy with his pet minority, Hispanics. Exhibit A is Alberto Gonzales. Does anybody think that Gonzales would have ever landed a job at Main Justice, to say nothing of the attorney general’s office, were it not for his presidential patrón? Without Bush, Gonzales would be a public defender somewhere—and he must know it. So it’s little wonder that he is so willing to tout immigration and guest-worker policies designed to bring new Mexicans across the Rio Grande, even though they impoverish Mexican-Americans.

But wait a second. Isn’t it a little politically incorrect to use the term “Mexican-Americans”? Yes, indeed. According to the evolving precepts of PC, percolating out of the academy and the bureaucracy in the ’70s, those who hail from Cuba or Puerto Rico or Mexico—and two dozen more countries—are now all “Hispanic” or, to use a trendier term, “Latino.” Maybe somebody at the Ford Foundation, the limousine-liberal outfit that financed so many professional Hispanic activists, was poring over the big book, too—especially the chapter entitled “Unite to Win It All Back.”

The ethno-Anschluss plan worked. Suddenly 45 million Spanish-speaking Americans aren’t to be divided up into feisty little clans, each with a separate flag and tradition, but rather to be treated as one unified ethnic monolith. Moreover, those 45 million are increasingly to be seen as indivisible from the 500 million Hispanics who live south of the Mexifornia border.

It’s now not just the president of Mexico who speaks of a reconquista; it’s the entire population of Latin America. Maybe somebody south of the border has been reading Victoria Con La Manipulación Étnica. Poor Bush and Rove: they think they are the only ones reading the big book of ethnic manipulating and muscling. This White House thinks of itself as a citadel of political genius—because some talking-pointer dreamt up new ways to sneak amnesty provisions into the 2007 immigration bill while simultaneously pitching it to suspicious conservatives.

Specifically, Bush and Rove figure that if they can get the basic outlines of guest-worker and legalization procedures into law, they won’t have to worry about its absurd and unenforceable provisions. The courts, entropy—and the magnanimity of some future jefe—will surely erode the provisions that might require, for example, illegals to “touch back” to their home countries before gaining citizenship. This provision, complete with an escalating schedule of fines and penalties, is central to the White House strategy for getting “comprehensive immigration reform” through Congress. And if it has no chance of ever being enforced? Well, nothing in the Machiavellian Library instructs the reader to tell the truth.

But what if Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation is right when he estimates that the Bush plan could lead to another 100 million people streaming into the U.S.? Would the power-balance start to change if America was 30 or 40 or 50 percent Hispanic? Would the English-speaking readers of the big book, proud of their “strategery,” find themselves out-strategeried by others who read the same book in Spanish?

Winning Through Ethnic Manipulation is a powerful tool. But while it guarantees cynical illumination to its readers, it does not guarantee triumph. The Hapsburgs, as we have seen, used the book, and yet they still failed. And they were a lot smarter than these Machiavellis from Mayberry who are dipping into it now.

James P. Pinkerton is a columnist for Newsday and a fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C.

about the author

James P. Pinkerton is a contributor to the Fox News Channel and a regular panelist on the Fox “News Watch” show, the highest-rated media-critique show on television. He is a former columnist for Newsday, and is the editor of SeriousMedicineStrategy.org. He has written for publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, National Review, The New Republic, Foreign Affairs, Fortune, The Huffington Post, and The Jerusalem Post. He is the author of What Comes Next: The End of Big Government--and the New Paradigm Ahead (Hyperion: 1995). He worked in the White House domestic policy offices of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and in the 1980, 1984, 1988 and 1992 presidential campaigns. In 2008 he served as a senior adviser to the Mike Huckabee for President Campaign. Married to the former Elizabeth Dial, he is a graduate of Stanford University.

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