Bennett himself. The two neoconservativesrnhastened to California to haranguernthe masses with their insight that “thernAmerican national identity is not basedrnon ethnicity, or race, or national origin,rnor religion. The American nationalrnidentity is based on a creed, on a set ofrnprinciples and ideas.” Of course, that isrna common view of the American identity,rnone that has been repeatedly expressedrnthroughout our historv, butrnthere are at least two problems withrnit. hi the first place, it happens to bernuntrue. In the second place, it happensrnto be dangerous and even suicidal.rnIt is untrue because the major factrnabout American national identity isrnthat it is an identity created by Britishrnsettlers and later European immigrantsrnand therefore is almost exclusivelyrnthe achievement of white Europeans.rnWhatever pleasantries of universalismrnmay turn up in the patriotic oratory andrnpublic documents of American history,rnno one can claim that the Americanrnidentity is really the watery abstractionrnthe Kemp-Bennett statement purports itrnto be. Behind those pleasantries lie thernconcrete identity, experience, and aspirationsrnof a homogeneous people “of arncommon blood,” as Jefferson put it in hisrndraft of the Declaration of Independence,rnand to reduce that essentiallyrnracial as well as cultural heritage to thernbloodless “principles and ideas” thatrnKemp and Bennett tout is not only arnconfession of the most dismal ignorancernbut also a trumpeting of the most brazenrnbetrayal.rnMoreoN’er, the Kemp-Bennett claim isrndangerous because it fundamentallyrnmisrepresents the nature of a nation or ofrnany collective political identity otherrnthan a debating society. If indeed beingrnan American were “based on a creed, onrna set of principles and ideas,” then anyrnperson in the world who adhered to thatrncreed would be an American. Thatrnmight be fine with the open bordersrncrowd whom the Kemp-Bennett statementrnwas designed to please, but it alsornmeans that any person who docs not adherernto the creed is not an American,rnand in asserting the creedal identity ofrnthe United States, the Kemp-Bennettrnstatement comes close to formulatingrnthe grounds of a new totalitarianism.rnThe Soviet Union was “based on arncreed,” and Russians who dissented fromrnthe creed were punished severclv. Howrnelse could a state defining itself throughrna creed cohere? So far from opening thernnational gates to anyone who wants torncome here, defining American nationalrnidentity in terms of a creed actually guaranteesrna closed and perhaps brutally repressivernregime and implies nothingrnwhatsoever about what kind of welcomernwe might give to immigrants.rnIn the first place, if ou believe in therncreed, you can be a perfectly good Americanrnin the slums of Buenos Aires or thernjungles of Rwanda, just as you can be arnperfectly good Christian or a perfectlyrngood libertarian or a perfectly good communist,rnand there is no reason at all forrnyou to come here or go anywhere. In thernsecond place, if adhering to the creed isrnwhat makes you an American, then whyrnnot give creed tests to all immigrants, orrnindeed to native Americans, and if theyrndo not subscribe to the Gospel accordingrnto Jack and Bill, why not round ’emrnup and send ’em back? No one knowsrnwhat any of the immigrants to this country,rnlegal or illegal, past or present, believernor have believed, and there is nornreason for anyone to be examined orrntested as to what he believes before beingrnadmitted. The creedal basis of nationalrnidentity that Kemp and Bennettrnblather about may sound both highmindedrnand broad-minded, but uponrnexamination, it (like so much else ofrnwhat the)’ have to say) turns out to bernfalse and, if it were taken any morernseriously than most of the slogans andrnbumper-stickers that pass for high politicalrntheor- among neoconservatives, itrncould serve as the basis of a far morernrestrictive regime than any nativist hasrneer conceived.rnDespite the defection of white neoconservativesrnand the left, the emergencernof an overtly racial politics amongrnwhites in the ‘ote for 187 suggests thatrnin the future, race vill become a significantrnelement in what it means to be anrnAmerican, and that is hardly unprecedented.rnAs the late M.E. Bradford pointedrnout in an essay on immigration, thernvery first congressional naturalizationrnstatute in 1790 restricted American citizenshiprnto “any alien, being a free whiternperson,” and Bradford commented thatrn”all of the Framers cleariy expected thatrnit would be Europeans who presentedrnthemselves for ‘membership’ here.”rnStephen Douglas, in his opening shotrnin the Lincoln-Douglas debates, said tornthe cheers of his Illinois audience that “Irnbelieve this government was made onrnthe white basis. I believe it was made b)-rnwhite men for the benefit of white menrnand their posterity forever, and I am inrnfavor of confining the citizenship tornwhite men—men of European birth andrnEuropean descent, instead of conferringrnit upon Negroes and Indians, and otherrninferior races.” Douglas, of course, wonrnthe election, though his opponent did allrnhe could to persuade the voters that herndid not disagree on such points. As laternas 1965, the federal immigration codernrestricted immigration on the basis ofrn”national origin” (largely a circumlocutionrnfor race), and the repeal of the lawrnwas possible only because supporters ofrnrepeal denied it would alter the ethnicrnand racial composition of the nation.rnThe vote for Proposition 187 goes farrnto relegitimize the racial aspect of thernAmerican national identity, and thernoverwhelming white support for thernmeasure suggests that an overt racialrnidentity is now emerging as part of MiddlernAmerican political and cultural consciousness.rnIf other races and ethnicrngroups identify themselves and act inrnterms of their own racial identities, itrnshould hardly surprise them and theirrnwhite allies that yvhites themselves soonerrnor later will also begin to do so. Butrnthe larger meaning of the emergence ofrnracial politics in America is that it directl}-rnchallenges the myth of EconomicrnMan in wliich both the left and the rightrncloak themselves. Their own allegiancernto that myth is the real reason why Kemprnand Bennett denounced 187 so bitterlyrnand why the Republican Party as a wholernfinds immigration such a difficult issue.rnThe emergence of racial politics meansrnthat there is something besides materialrngain that drives human beings, andrnthose who adhere to the mythology ofrnEconomic Man have no room for thatrnsomething in their worldview. As racialrnconsciousness begins to mature amongrnwhite Americans as it has among nonwhites.rnEconomic Man and those elitesrnthat work for him are likely to find themselvesrnin the ranks of the permanentlyrnunemployed. crnFEBRUARY 1995/9rnrnrn