Books lampooning U.S. President Barack Obama are displayed at the American Conservative Union's annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, February 9, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
As a Nation reader you’re probably a good proxy for the liberal mind. If someone asked what issues obsess liberals, what would you say? Economic inequality? Combating climate change? Whatever your answer, I doubt it’s “multiculturalism,” which—much like its cousin “political correctness”—is a term you probably last heard sometime around 1997.
It may surprise you to know that liberals “are obsessed with multiculturalism.” But Robert Vandervoort, the moderator of a panel Thursday afternoon at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), said that twice in two hours. He offered no evidence for this strange assertion.
Usually conservatives and Republicans try to frame their views on racial issues as being about something other than wanting to keep minorities out of their country or office. Opposition to affirmative action is perversely framed as a defense of equal opportunity and opposition to illegal immigration as a matter of border security.
But CPAC hosted a panel was sponsored by ProEnglish, a group pushing English as the official national language, called “The Failure of Multiculturalism: How the pursuit of diversity is weakening the American Identity.”
(For a sense of what ProEnglish does, they are currently boasting that they may successfully force a San Luis, Arizona, city council member out of her position for lacking sufficient English skills to comply with Arizona’s 2006 law establishing English as the official state language.)
Panel participants included Vandervoort and Rosalie Porter of ProEnglish, John Derbyshire of National Review and Serge Trifkovic of Chronicles magazine, a paleoconservative journal that says it has “defended Western Christian civilization” by “confronting Islam” and opposing immigration. The February issue of Chronicles, which was given out at the panel, includes a back-page essay by Taki Theodoracopulos called “Those Racist Police.” It leads by noting that a member of the NYPD was shot by “a black drug dealer” who had been “previously let loose by a black female judge.” Theodoracopulos uses this as an excuse, naturally, to bash the New York Times for editorializing against executing Mumia Abu-Jamal. “[The Times’s] pet hates look to me like normal, white, Christian Americans, while it fills its pages with announcements of same-sex couples getting married, profiles of rap ‘artists,’ and front-page coverage of Catholic priests’ abuses.”
Trifkovic could not make it to the panel, but Vandervoort read his prepared text. It was a long-winded, pretentious diatribe against “obsessive favoritism of allegedly disadvantaged groups hostile to European-descended societies…internalized by the political, academic and media elite…. They insist that countries do not belong to people who have inhabited them for generations but to whoever happens to be in their boundaries at any given time.”
“It is deemed racist to mention that Europeans and their transatlantic cousins are an endangered species,” he whined. Racist or not, the assertion is plainly false.
Luckily his seat was filled towards the end with a special guest appearance from Representative Steve King (R-IA). King is a popular figure on the American right. Vandervoort said King “certainly needs no introduction to CPACers.” King bragged of having passed a law in Iowa making English the official state language and having introduced similar legislation in Congress. King, you may recall, has repeatedly accused President Obama of favoring African-Americans over whites.
These are all figures that any civil rights advocate might find objectionable. But one participant drew condemnation from People for the American Way (PFAW) in advance of the event: Peter Brimelow. Brimelow is the author of several books, most famously Alien Nation: Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster, a 1995 screed against non-white immigrants. Writing in the New York Times, Nicholas Lemann described the book’s argument thusly: “He wants to keep the immigration flow not just limited, and not just higher-skilled, but also mostly white. A waiting room of the Immigration and Naturalization Service reminds him of the New York subway: he finds each to be ‘an underworld that is not just teeming but also is almost entirely colored.’ ” Brimelow is still working on “Freeing America From The Immigration Gulag,” as the sub-headline of an article he distributed at the panel reads.
More recently Brimelow—a former writer and editor for Forbes and National Review—founded VDARE, which Vandervoort offered the dubious praise of being “one of the most provocative web sites devoted to the immigration issue.” Named for Virginia Dare, the first child of English settlers in the New World, VDARE is described as a “white nationalist hate website” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. One of their writers, Marcus Epstein, who also worked for Pat Buchannan, pleaded guilty to randomly assaulting a black woman and calling her a racial epithet on the street in Washington, DC. A leaflet at the CPAC panel advertised a book available through the VDARE Foundation called America’s Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama’s “Story of Race and Inheritance”, by Steve Sailer, whom Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting refers to as “a well-known promoter of racist and anti-immigrant theories.”
The panel generally stuck to arguments that do not directly address race or ethnicity in favor of making English the national language. Bilingual education, they argued, disadvantages immigrant children who would have more opportunities as adults if they were forced to learn English and assimilate. National languages foster national unity. Governments should not be required, as they currently are under the Voting Rights Act, to produce election ballots in languages spoken a by a significant minority of residents, because it wastes money (seriously, they said that) and if you can’t read an English ballot you can’t be well-informed about politics.
The panel only got interesting near the end when Vandervoort asked his panel to speculate as to why liberals so love multiculturalism. They ascribed nefarious motives. “Multiculturalism is a tool of the left to subdivide our civilization and push us into enclaves,” said King. “Democrats have given up on winning the white working-class vote, so they use bilingualism to build up a client constituency in the polity,” explained Brimelow. “It’s treason. We hear about racism but the real issue is treason.”
PFAW issued a statement on Wednesday condemning CPAC’s decision to host this notorious bigot and asking the Republican presidential candidates speaking here tomorrow to disavow his message. “It’s shocking that the CPAC would provide a platform for someone like Brimelow,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “Responsible GOP leaders should speak out against the bigotry and hatred that Brimelow and VDARE push on a regular basis. That’s doubly true of anyone who aspires to the presidency of the United States. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum need to make it perfectly clear that they won’t be silent when they’re confronted with racism and anti-Semitism.”
I e-mailed all three campaigns and the American Conservative Union, sponsor of CPAC, for a response to Keegan’s comments, but no one answered. I did catch Representative King, though. He dismissed PFAW’s criticisms as “manufactured arguments by professional hyperventilators.” “The left is deliberately trying to undermine America,” said King. “I’d be for open borders if every time an immigrant came in we deported a liberal.” If he’d deport me to somewhere with good food, single-payer health insurance and no one like Peter Brimelow, I might be tempted.