The Sailer Strategy

Andrew Marantz writes in chapter ten of his new book, Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation:

A dozen years earlier, Steve Sailer, a prolific opinion columnist with a small but passionate online audience, had reached the opposite conclusion. Sailer, then a forty-one-year-old living in Southern California, had retired early from a successful career in marketing in order to write full time. When the venerable conservative magazines would publish his work, he wrote for them; when they wouldn’t, which was more often the case, he posted his columns on his own blog. On November 28, 2000, while the Bush and Gore campaigns were still arguing over hanging chads in Florida, Sailer wrote a blog post. Citing exit-poll data, he demonstrated that if Bush had increased his share of the white vote by just 3 percent—if 57 percent of white Americans had voted for him, rather than 54 percent—he would have won in a landslide. Sailer then expanded his hypothetical: what if, in order to win those additional white votes, Bush had embraced a platform so caustic, so openly hostile to racial minorities, that he lost every nonwhite vote? “Incredibly,” Sailer found, “he still would have won.”

By Sailer’s lights, this meant that Republicans should drop their disingenuous disingenuous platitudes and campaign openly as a white-identity party. Then, once they were in power, they could enact prowhite policies—deporting undocumented immigrants, reducing immigration quotas, retracting birthright citizenship—thus maintaining a white majority that could deliver future elections to the GOP. He knew the mainstream counterarguments, which all seemed to boil down to the same thing: White people shouldn’t organize in their own interest, because that would be racist, and racism is bad. That argument didn’t matter to Sailer. He maintained that a prowhite campaign strategy would work, and that it was the best way to save the country from ruin. By 2012, he had been making this argument so vociferously for so long that, in ultra-right-wing circles, it was called the Sailer Strategy.

The American dream is for everyone. This was the sort of gauzy logic that Sailerloved to tear apart. On the contrary, he argued, the American dream is only for Americans; moreover, politicians should enforce strict rules about who was allowed to become an American, revising those rules, if necessary, to privilege immigrants from certain regions over others. “An immigration policy, by its very nature, is about discriminating, about selecting whom we should admit and whom we should keep out,” he wrote. Without such policies, he strongly believed, the United States would cease to be an Anglo-Christian nation, which would lead to poverty, crime, and internecine struggle. “But intelligence is discrimination, so intelligence is racist,” he continued sarcastically. “In contrast, suicidal stupidity isn’t racist. So it’s better.” This was a worldview he called “citizenism,” distinguishing himself from the paleoconservatives, radical traditionalists, white nationalists, and white separatists with whom he had subtle doctrinal differences.

Many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not want them in the country. Well, Sailer felt no particular animus toward any individual, unless the individual had done something to earn it, and yet some minority groups—say, undocumented gang members—would be right to think that he didn’t want them in his country. Nor, frankly, did Sailer take for granted that all men were created equal, that European Americans and African Americans were born, on average, with identical levels of intelligence and work ethic and proclivity to violence. He didn’t take it on faith that racial groups differed intrinsically in these ways; he was just posing the question, following the facts wherever they happened to lead.

After the 2012 election, Sailer showed, again using exit-poll data, that Romney could have won without making any overtures to Hispanic voters, or to any other minority voting blocs. All he needed, again, was more white votes—specifically, more support among working-class white men in the Rust Belt. “The hidden story of the 2012 election just might come down to Romney not appealing to blue-collar white guys in this swing region,” Sailer wrote. How could Romney have appealed to them? Sailer suggested one way: a hard-line stance on border security. In states like Michigan and Wisconsin, he wrote, “Immigration should be the perfect issue for the GOP to use to split the rank and file from their Democratic bosses.”

Sailer still considered himself a conservative, although the arbiters of palatable conservative opinion, such as the editors of National Review and The Weekly Standard, had long ago stopped commissioning his work. Many of his
peers in dissident right-wing punditry—John Derbyshire, Peter Brimelow, Ann Coulter, Jared Taylor—had been cast out of the conservative establishment for similar intellectual heresies. A few of them embraced their outcast status, gaining attention through confrontational acts of televised sophistry. (Ann Coulter was especially adept at this tactic, tiptoeing just close enough to the you-can’t-say-that-on-television line to ensure that she would always be invited back on television.) The others kept blogging, biding their time.

Sailer felt confident that no part of the Sailer Strategy was unconstitutional or illegal. In more than a decade, no one had been able to point out any serious mistakes in his arithmetic or his logic. The real problem, as far as he could tell, was that his ideas made powerful people uncomfortable.

Conservatives often referred to the Overton window, or to political correctness. Sailer went a step further. Of all the malign forces that he perceived in the world, perhaps the most pernicious was what he called “the Narrative”—a nonnegotiable vocabulary that every member of polite society was required to learn. Political correctness was just a small part of it. Americans absorbed the Narrative every day—in their schools, in the media, through mass entertainment, through thousands of tiny social cues. The brainwashing was so total as to become invisible; people internalized the axioms so deeply that, after a while, they couldn’t think without them. Simply to point out the existence of the axioms, much less to call their truth into question, was to become a dangerous brute, a pariah.*

According to the Narrative, Islam is a religion of peace; therefore, the mullahs calling for bloodshed had to be ignored or explained away. According to the Narrative, race and gender are social constructs; therefore, newspaper articles and car commercials had to avoid depicting any meaningful difference between European Americans and African Americans, or between men and women. According to the Narrative, American citizenship is a civil right that is owed to every one of the world’s seven billion inhabitants—Sailer called this the Zeroth Amendment, because “it’s not in the Constitution, but it’s treated as if it were”—so anyone seeking high office had to speak about immigration in magnanimous platitudes. This, Sailer believed, was why the Sailer Strategy was never invoked in The Economist or The Wall Street Journal, or on CNN or Fox News, or in official GOP reports. It defied the Narrative.*

On his blog, he referred to his ideas as “crimethink”—the word George Orwell used, in 1984, for any thought that Big Brother didn’t want you to have. By that analogy, of course, Sailer was Winston Smith, a vigilante hero struggling against tyranny. He understood that the analogy was melodramatic. He had no reason to assume that anyone at the NSA was even aware of his blog, much less conspiring to censor it or arrest him for its contents. The tyrannical force in the twenty-first-century United States was not a Ministry of Truth but the pervasive reach of the Narrative. “It’s naive to imagine that a government would have to pay people to do this kind of thing,” Sailer wrote. “In the current year, we now know that plenty of people would join the Volunteer Auxiliary Thought Police for free.”

It seemed obvious that the marketplace of ideas was rigged against him. He was free to write what he wanted, but a small contrarian blog was no way to spark a national movement. Many normal American voters, Sailer thought, might consider his views quite unobjectionable, even obvious. But first normal Americans would have to be exposed to his ideas, and the guardians of the Narrative—the gatekeepers who controlled the movie studios, the ad firms, and the mainstream press—would never allow that to happen.

Steve Sailer responds.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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