There is a growing movement of conservatives who have only one strong policy opinion: They embrace whatever positions make liberals, progressives, and Democrats mad. Colloquially, this is known as “owning the libs” and conservatives who embrace it express it through trolling and the adoption of possibly earnest beliefs merely in opposition to those held by left‐wingers. It is a far cry from the other intellectual movements of conservatism inspired by Russell Kirk, Edmund Burke, Michael Oakeshott, and the fusionism of the mid‐to‐late 20th century that blended portions of libertarianism, traditionalism, anti‐communism, and neo‐conservatism. To be clear, not all conservatives ascribe to the “own the libs” ideology, but it certainly appears to be more common than it used to be.
According to a recent Cato survey, 47 percent of Democrats want to increase immigration while only 11 percent of Republicans want to. Bumping up Republican approval would have a big effect on overall support for immigration liberalization that stands around 30 percent. If “owning the libs” is the number one policy concern of many American conservatives, pro‐immigration policy analysts could use that insight to help convince some of them to be more supportive of freer immigration policies. The following is a tongue‐in‐cheek blog post about how liberalizing immigration would “own the libs” in several ways that would appeal to this cohort of conservatives.
The first is by showing them that demographics are not destiny. For decades, liberals have been operating under the assumption that long‐term demographic trends would give the Democratic Party a huge structural political advantage and something like a permanent majority as the country becomes increasing diverse due to immigration. Tucker Carlson embraced this theory recently and Ann Coulter has been crowing about it for years. In 2020, President Trump improved his showing amongst Hispanics by 4 percentage points and Asians by 7 percentage points relative to 2016. Trump’s support was a lot less than the 40 percent of Hispanic votes that George W. Bush earned in 2004, but the improvement was noticeable. Evidence of the continued assimilation of immigrants and their descendants through ethnic attrition and other means shows up in some surprising places. For instance, Hispanic voters whose parents were both born in the United States favor Republicans by a 10‐point margin (47 percent to 37 percent). Showing liberals that non‐white voters can support Republicans in increasing numbers will certainly “own” some lefties.
Immigrants will also diminish the power of American unions. There is a strong negative relationship between immigration and union density over American history (Figure 1). Further undermining American unionization through immigration liberalization will really put “the libs” in a bind. Potentially related to unionization, the growth in federal outlays also slows when immigration is liberalized partly because Americans don’t want immigrants to receive welfare. There’s even evidence that more diversity reduces support for welfare. It would be hard for liberals to choose between a larger welfare state and freer immigration, but many would choose welfare. Hard choices would probably result in some shedding of some progressive tears.
Immigrants are more socially conservative than native‐born Americans on most measures, more anti‐abortion or pro‐life, and there’s a real sense that immigrants are skeptical of modern social justice movements that revolve around ethnic and racial identity. Even worse for left‐wingers, immigrants are at least as patriotic as native‐born Americans and more patriotic than self‐described liberals. The top three reasons given by immigrants for coming to the United States are for economic opportunity, freedom, and to be with their families – all values more identified with conservatives. In addition, immigrants consume less welfare, economically assimilate well into American society, and are more entrepreneurial than native‐born Americans.
This blog post is meant as a tongue‐in‐cheek to appeal to a certain cohort of modern conservatives who oppose immigration merely because liberals support it. However, liberalizing immigration would likely undermine or slow the attainment of many left‐wing political, economic, and social goals. Immigrants and their children assimilate to American norms quite rapidly so any way in which immigrants might differ from Americans will likely be short lived, but probably not short lived enough to cause some liberal tears to flow.