Tuesday, September 18, 2018

First Generation Americans and Political Leanings

I have often wondered how first generation immigrants who have lived in other countries process politics in the USA, and how their experiences in other countries affect how they view what happens in the USA?

Do recent immigrants come here super conservative?  Do they see America as the land of opportunity, where anybody who works hard and stays within the rails can make a good life for their children and grandchildren. Do first generation  immigrants favor candidates who talk about law and order, fiscal responsibility, and minimal government interference?  Have they been frustrated by lawless governments which perpetuate corruption, waste money, and get involved in every facet of life?  Do they come to this country viewing government as a tool of the people, which people get to direct for the benefit of themselves and all other citizens?

Or do they come to this country leaning more to the liberal side of political idealogy?  Do they view America as a fair and compassionate nation, where everybody is kind to their neighbors and even the poor have a pretty good standard of living.  Do first generation immigrants favor candidates who talk about support, services, and leveling the playing field?  Have they been frustrated by violent systems which perpetuate civil strife and strive to eliminate upward social mobility?  Do they come to this country thinking that government can be the defender of the people, when it is a fair and just government as they expect to find as they enter the USA?

According to Ilya Somin of the Washington Post (Immigrants' political views are a lot closer to those of natives than you might think; February 27, 2015), the answer is a clear one: first generation immigrants arrive in the USA decidedly leaning to the left.  They may not have as much political influence as second and third generation immigrants, but, as a group, they decidedly vote liberal democrat the majority of the time.

The interesting fact is that the second, third, and subsequent generations vote in a way that reflects the voting trends of the general population at large, of those whose families have grown up here for generations.  Why is this?  Why do recent immigrant families drift to the right within one generation?  What happens in their first 15-20 years of actually living in this country which causes them to shift to the right so quickly and decidedly?

Only one possibility sounds feasible: that the expereince of actually living here, observing and participating in American life, as opposed to anticipating what they think America will be like, causes recent immigrant families to drift to the right politically.

What exactly do they expereince when they arrive here?  Confusion mostly I suspect.  Immigrants come to this country expecting that great ideals such as compassion, freedom, and support are always well implemented, and that leaders who focus on them actually try to build them into social systems within a broader context of working hard and staying focused.  It would never occur to a recent immigrant that they could come to this country and be given whatever they want.  And yet that is exactly what they experience from the left.

Those who claim to want to be compassionate and supportive and inclusive actually just want to give stuff to everyone: health care, cell phones, college tuition.  And those who focus on lawful behavior, economic opportunity, and the American dream actually want to help these recent immigrants achieve a better life for their children and grand children.  So how do these recent immigrants respond to this observation?  They drift to the right.  They come to realize, like the rest of Americans who view citizenship as a privilege, that giving people stuff does not make life better for their families for generations to come.  That only comes from giving them an opportunity to work hard to achieve the dreams that drove them to come here in the first place.  So first generation immigrants do what you would expect them to do: they work hard for the benefit of future generations.  They are grateful for the freedom and opportunities they find here, and they pray that the land which provides these opportunities is preserved for the following generations to enjoy.   May we all realize what a blessing it is to live in the home of the American dream, the land of opportunity, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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