Immerse yourself in the pro-immigration literature of Democratic Party thinkers, and you will notice a curious pattern of argument: High levels of immigration have awakened the racism and bigotry that have fueled the rise of right-wing populism, but it is nevertheless best to press forward with the policies that have ostensibly produced this fearsome reaction. Why? Because slowing the pace of immigration would be a callow surrender to bigotry. But also because, in the fullness of time, a united coalition of college-educated white liberals, African Americans, and working-class immigrants and their descendants will vanquish the aging rump of reactionary whites.
The dream of a so-called rainbow coalition has been part of the liberal imagination since at least the presidency of Richard Nixon, when the left envisioned it, albeit prematurely, as a counterpoint to his “southern strategy.” The term itself was coined in 1968 by the activist Fred Hampton, who hoped to build a multi-racial alliance devoted to revolutionary socialism, but it entered the mainstream in the 1980s, when Jesse Jackson endeavored to make racial justice a central tenet of the Democratic Party’s platform. Democrats have consistently been more supportive of social programs that benet low-income people of color, including immigrants, than have their Republican rivals, which has helped cement their minority support.
In recent years, meanwhile, the white working- class share of