Of late, our demographic soothsayers have been assuring us that by 2040 or thereabouts America will no longer be a Caucasian-majority country, and that with the eclipse of the white majority there will be, to belabor the obvious, no majority culture. For many this is cause for celebration. Among minorities, or at least those who are routinely paraded before the cyclopean eye of the television camera, the fading of the white majority seems to promise a number of benefits, including more diverse political representation at every level of government, as well as the dissolution of the assumption of racial superiority and privilege that, as we are ceaselessly informed, is so deeply embedded in the “social construction” of white identity. Moreover, in what is perhaps an historically unprecedented display of racial self-effacement, whites themselves—or, at least, most middle- and upper-middle-class whites—willingly embrace this New Advent of a postracial America. Having been persuaded that we are, after all, a “nation of immigrants,” they blithely assume that the disappearance of a majority culture will result in some miraculous new cultural unity, one in which whites will no longer have to carry an onus of guilt over their “genocidal” supremacist heritage. Oppositional voices are rare enough, and even more rarely do they break into mainstream discourse. Samuel Huntington’s Who Are We?, Patrick Buchanan’s Suicide of the West, and, more problematically, Michael Lind’s The Next American Nation have garnered the attention of reviewers across the spectrum, though more often to vilify than to praise. All three writers have made cogent arguments, not only against the dangers of illegal immigration, but against present levels of legal immigration. All three are deeply skeptical about multiculturalist promises of ethnic and racial harmony, and all to varying degrees call for a return to the pre-1965 assimilationist model. The underlying message these writers convey is that, while it is very late in the day, it is not yet too late. Where Lind differs most from Buchanan and Huntington is in his curious faith that a revivified welfare-state nationalism, along with a vigorous redistribution of wealth, will forestall the potential for balkanization that 40 years of virtually uncontrolled legal immigration has generated. In the work of Buchanan and Huntington there is at least an implied assumption that a Caucasian majority is desirable, not because the authors believe in white racial superiority, but because no substantive cultural or political unity is likely to be achieved without a dominant majority, and because the religious and political patrimony of America is emphatically European. Lind, on the other hand, while promoting drastically lowered levels of immigration, envisions a new Melting Pot scenario in which racial intermarriage will gradually create a new, shall we say, well-tanned majority.
With all due respect to these writers, one must wonder whether our majority culture, already in tatters, is worth saving. Granted, Buchanan and many of his sort recognize that the erosion of traditional moral, religious, and cultural standards is dangerously advanced. Nevertheless, such conservatives continue to assume that a restoration of the American nation is somehow possible. This is dubious, to say the least. This is not the place to rehash the old debate over whether America was ever a unitary nation (which many Southerners have reason to doubt). But let us ignore, for the sake of argument, that little bloodletting we call the Civil War and assume that America really was, once upon a time, an extended family (philosopher Johann Herder’s definition of a true nation). There is a scene in Owen Wister’s novel Lady Baltimore that expresses this sentiment memorably when Wister’s narrator, Augustus, a Philadelphia aristocrat, insists, as he converses with the novel’s hero, Charlestonian John Mayrant, that
[W]e were a family once, and a fine one, too! We knew each other, we visited each other, we wrote letters, sent presents, kept up relations; we . . . coherently joined hands from one generation to another; the fibers of the sons tingled with the current from their fathers, back and back to the old beginnings, to Plymouth and Roanoke and Rip Van Winkle!
Putting aside the nostalgic tone of this declaration, one might object that Augustus is merely voicing a sense of solidarity that belonged only to the ruling elite, yet perhaps there is some truth in the notion that a wider bond of kinship prevailed, as he states, “in every place that has been colonial”—that is, a kinship forged in part upon the common experience of building a nation in the New World, and upon the shared sacrifice of the Revolutionary era. Note, however, that Augustus is speaking in the past tense. He doubts whether that old family cohesion remains intact. Indeed, he laments, “It’s all gone . . . You have to be a small, well-knit country for that sort of exquisite personal unitedness. There’s nothing united about these States any more, except Standard Oil and discontent.” This novel was published in 1906, and the text is suffused with Wister’s own misgivings about the immediately preceding era, what we call the Gilded Age. “Standard Oil and discontent” refer figuratively to the emergence of corporate America and to a host of tensions (labor unrest, urbanization, social dislocation, the erosion of traditional religious piety, technological change) that threatened to rend the social fabric.
It is, of course, dangerous to make sweeping generalizations about an era as complex as late-19th-century America. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that the Gilded Age was an important transitional moment. During those tumultuous decades the extended family that was the old America was indeed transformed, or began to be transformed, into a capitalist enterprise in which the old familial and communal bonds were gradually dissolved and replaced by the imperatives of the marketplace. As Karl Polyani argued in The Great Transformation, traditional “communitarian” societies possessed markets, but such societies were never dominated by market transactions characterized by self-interested, rational economic calculation.
While parts of Polyani’s thesis have been contested, there is little doubt that, first in Europe, then in 19th-century America, the market economy began to penetrate virtually every nook and cranny of the social world, abetting the erosion and, often, disappearance of local customs and folkways. The transformation—one might even say “invention”—of Christmas as a national holiday is a striking example of this. During the Colonial era there were many local Christmas traditions (and in some areas, especially where the Puritan influence remained dominant, virtually no Christmas at all), but beginning in the 1850’s and particularly after the end of the war, those traditions were largely replaced by the holiday trappings so familiar today: Santa and his happy worker-elves, the Christmas trees, prettily wrapped gifts, cards, and so on. This “ecumenical” Christmas, stripped of most of its specific religious significance, was driven from the outset by Yankee entrepreneurs and spread rapidly across an expanding nation to become, eventually, the obscene travesty that we still celebrate, while openly acknowledging its central economic function in our consumerist economy. Yet the colonization of Christmas by market forces was simply a harbinger. Family life, marriage, sexual morality, male and female “roles,” sports, our conceptions of work and leisure, our concepts of identity—all of these and more have been profoundly shaped by an insatiable economic order whose vitality requires that it “incessantly revolutionize the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating the new one.” The words are Joseph Schumpeter’s, one of the founders of the Austrian school of economic thought, whose latter-day conservative acolytes continue to trumpet the virtues of such “creative destruction.”
Of course, a number of additional causal factors account for the destruction of the communal bonds that once provided substance to the claims of American nationality. Perhaps the most important has been the inexorable advance of egalitarian envy, encouraged by a political class eager to augment the power of centralized government control over an increasingly dependent client population. Let us be frank. Today, the American nation is, both literally and figuratively, a mongrel nation, one all too eager to be manipulated by overlords whose control over mass media and the education establishment at every level is all but absolute. Of course, we are still allowed a modicum of free speech and freedom of association, but genuinely dissenting voices are simply ignored or marginalized. Both major political parties are merely instruments of control, managed by elites who, as Charles Murray has recently shown, reside in the same gated enclaves as their corporate associates and send their children to the same prep schools and colleges, read the same books (when they do read), watch the same movies, eat in the same posh restaurants, and mingle in the same social milieu. Their distance from (and ignorance of) the American people has never been greater, and they have abdicated all responsibility for the spiritual and moral destiny of the nation.
And what of the people themselves? We have, for some time now, begun to exhibit the characteristics of an enslaved population. Over 35 percent of Americans are dependent on federal largesse in the form of “means tested” welfare benefits. Such payouts do not include Social Security, Medicare, or unemployment insurance. When those are added in the percentage rises to around 50 percent, including a large chunk of middle-class America. While our masters bail out corporations and banks that are “too big to fail,” we shake our heads and change the channel. While millions in France occupy the streets of Paris to protest the legalization of gay marriage, we shrug and watch with timid acquiescence as one by one each state, cowed by the courts, relinquishes control over the very cornerstone of family and community. Our brains addled by countless hours of television, internet surfing, and celebrity worship, we face the future with little or no understanding of our own history, only dimly aware (in our most lucid moments) of the degree of our debasement.
To return to our point of departure, even if the borders were sealed tomorrow and Caucasian women began to reproduce above replacement levels, thus ensuring a numerical majority for the foreseeable future, there is really no “dominant” national culture left, and very little prospect of its re-emergence in a form that would be compatible with the vision of the Founding Fathers. Moreover, it is questionable whether the size and diversity of present-day America, without massive authoritarian intervention, would allow the formation of such a culture, and especially any attempt to restore a Christian moral order. This is not to say that our situation is hopeless. However, those who call themselves conservatives, if they genuinely value our patrimony, must be prepared to take far more decisive steps than they have heretofore contemplated. A complete break, root and branch, with the Republican Party, or, for that matter, with the national party system, is essential. Formation of state-level, independent parties, especially secessionist parties, is a laudable aim, but the secessionist program must be far more than political. It must be involved in the formation of culture at every level—in the churches, in the nurturing of private schools and homeschooling networks, in the formation of community economic initiatives free of corporate sponsorship, in the revitalization of rural and small-town America, in promotion of local agriculture and cooperatives, in the care of the poor and jobless (eschewing all federal assistance), and in the formation of organizations that will provide the young with alternatives to the soul-destroying, pseudocounterculture propagated by the media. To be sure, much of this work is already under way, but our efforts must be redoubled. We no longer owe any allegiance to this imitation nation we call America. The vision of the founders was a noble one, but the betrayal of that vision is now complete.