By Nicole Fauteux
ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition attendees look forward to each year’s Political Spotlight for its entertainment value as well as for enlightenment, and this year’s presenter did not disappoint. Tucker Carlson, political correspondent and conservative commentator on the Fox News Channel, drew laughs throughout a serious talk that he himself characterized as “depressing” at points. He set the tone by describing his own political views: “I work for Fox stockpiling weapons and food so I’m not on the liberal side.” He then promised to set those views aside and present a nonpartisan take on the current political landscape.
“Unless you have spent some time looking through the 2010 census data,” he informed the audience, “you might not have a full appreciation of how quickly and profoundly the country has changed in its composition. It’s a much more Democratic country than it has ever been.”
What are the drivers of this change? The most obvious is immigration. According to Mr. Carlson, the overwhelming majority of first-time immigrants vote Democratic, and immigration appears to be at its highest point in the last 100 years. While political strategists have focused heavily on Hispanic voters, Mr. Carlson expressed greater interest in another demographic group: Asian American voters. They make up the nation’s fastest growing demographic group, and as Mr. Carlson put it, they “destroyed” the Republicans in the 2012 elections.
To understand why, he referred the audience to the words of a past Political Spotlight speaker, political strategist James Carville: “If people think you hate them, they don’t like it.”
During the question and answer period, Mr. Carlson elaborated further on the issue of immigration. He expressed support for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s proposal to staple a green card to the diploma of any foreigner who receives an advanced degree in the United States.
“This is the answer,” he asserted. “We may be in decline, but we still have the pick of the smartest, most impressive, the best people in the whole world. Why wouldn’t we have an immigration policy that thoughtfully, not randomly by lottery, gives away immigration documents?”
Mr. Carlson drew applause when he concluded with this sentiment: “We do not have any obligation to take people just because they are poor and want to come here. I’m sorry, we don’t. We have an obligation to the people who already live here to do what’s best for America.”
Mr. Carlson also spoke about demographic shifts among native-born Americans, stating that the rates of marriage and especially churchgoing (traditional predictors of Republican voting) are “falling off a cliff.”
“The Republican Party, it’s no pleasure to tell you, is in really tough shape,” he said. “The truth about the Republican Party is, I think they may have lost any sense of why voters vote for them in the first place. There’s only one reason to vote for Republicans, and that’s because Republicans are sober stewards of your money.”
Despite these trends, Mr. Carlson sees an opportunity for Republicans should President Obama, like his predecessors, face a foreign policy crisis and/or overreach in his second term. But he added this caveat:
“No matter how far Obama overreaches, no matter how profound the foreign policy crisis, you still need a capable opposition to take advantage of that.”
Perhaps most troubling to some in the audience was Mr. Carlson’s assessment of the new Netflix political drama House of Cards. The series follows the machinations of a powerful congressman who uses a reporter and fellow members of Congress as pawns in an effort to exact revenge on his former political allies. Although Mr. Carlson hasn’t seen the show, he says it stands alone among the pack of Washington-based dramas that have little to do with political realities.
“Five former White House staffers have said to me, that show was totally accurate,” Mr. Carlson said to an audience hoping for a more upbeat assessment of how Washington works.
On a more positive note, Mr. Carlson responded to a question from a student about the interest rates on federal student loans by saying he anticipates federal action on this because “too many lives of people under 30 are circumscribed by student debt.”