A recent event at the American Enterprise Institute featuring conservative commentator Bill Kristol saw him questioning whether “new Americans” are needed to replace pockets of “lazy” white people.
An wide-ranging interview with author Charles Murray posted to AEI’s YouTube channel on Tuesday featured analysis of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, free-trade, immigration and a host of other issues that President Trump will face in the years ahead. Mr. Kristol, The Weekly Standard’s editor-at-large, addressed white working-class families roughly 50 minutes into a presentation titled “It Came Apart: What’s Next for a Fractured Culture.”
“I don’t even see how you can talk yourself into thinking that an awful big influx of immigrants into southern Arizona and Texas and Southern California and pockets in North Carolina and other places really ruined your life,” Mr. Kristol said of voters in economically depressed areas of the U.S. “I don’t mean to minimize their anxiety or their unhappiness. I’m not saying they don’t think that, incidentally. I don’t think it’s a true analysis of the situation. And I’ve actually come the other way, which is honestly we need … immigrants do have more of the old-fashioned America virtues than lots of old-fashioned Americans.”
The conservative pundit then said data shows that immigration is a net positive for American civil society.
“Empirically, the case for pretty strong levels of immigration is — if you can select people a little better, make it a little less about family and a little more about work ethic somehow, and striving to succeed — I can make a case for a pretty strong liberal case, honestly, for immigration.”
Mr. Kristol then shifted to the idea, first reported by The Daily Caller, that many white Americans have become complacent and “lazy.”
“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?” Mr. Kristol said. “You can make a case that America has been great because every — I think John Adams said this — basically if you are in 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.”