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NumbersUSA’s Pluralistic Approach Stems from Founder Roy Beck’s Journalistic Work

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As a journalist, Roy Beck, Founder and President of immigration reduction advocacy organization NumbersUSA, covered major events all over the country. Later in his career as a journalist, he was based in Washington D.C. where he became immersed in the political events of the day. When explaining why NumbersUSA takes a pluralistic, nonpartisan approach to its advocacy efforts, Beck cites this background as helping him learn the value of hearing from people with a variety of different viewpoints. 

In an interview touching on the past, present and future of NumbersUSA, Beck stated: “Certainly, one of the things about being a journalist in the 20th century was that I just really learned to be comfortable with pluralism and the idea that everybody has a bias on every subject.” Because of this, he stressed that it’s important to be honest with yourself about your biases and to understand them. “If there’s ever a position a person has that is different than what mine is,” Beck said, “I would always try to bend over backward to figure out how to be fair.”

As a reporter, Beck dealt with this issue by trying to have sources that were on different sides of an issue. When putting together the board of directors and staff of NumbersUSA, he was deliberate in taking an inclusive approach. The value of this strategy can be seen today in the organization’s status as the largest grassroots immigrant reduction organization in the country. NumbersUSA has more than eight million participants including conservatives, liberals and moderates. Its members are encouraged to persuade public officials that reducing immigration numbers toward traditional levels will help current and future generations enjoy a standard of living that isn’t impeded by excessive immigration.

The biggest lack of diversity Beck sees in the country currently stems from political polarization. “It’s just people more and more cluster ideologically together,” Beck said. “As a result, they may not work with people that hold different views. That type of diversity is extremely important to me, so that’s why I’ve encouraged that at NumbersUSA, even though it can make life harder because you can’t come to agreements quickly and you’ve always got somebody on the other side of an issue.”

“I’ve been dealing with that for 26 years,” Beck added, “but we’ve held on to that approach even as everything’s gotten so polarized that some people said, a year ago, ‘maybe we ought to abandon this and just join a tribe and maybe we should split the organization into a left organization and right organization, so each can be a part of a tribe.’” 

After looking around and further discussing the issue, Beck said that they realized that while there are many people and groups who are part of ideological tribes, “there’s almost nobody trying to do what we’re trying to do.” This may keep NumbersUSA from bringing in as much money, or being as big as possible, “but “nobody else is trying to take this type of pluralistic approach on this issue.”

Beck reports that after the organization’s board went through an intense period of evaluating whether to change the group’s current pluralistic approach, the “board unanimously and enthusiastically said, ‘We’re going to keep doing this. We’re going to be this special thing and keep trying to be, in a sense, a force toward moderation at a time when the passionate edges of the spectrum are where most of the activity is.”

Beck emphasized that he is not against the passionate edges of the spectrum, but he doesn’t feel that a country like the United States does best when the ends are controlling things. “I think the ends of the spectrum are much better about adding spice, but I much prefer working on the spectrum between the 30-yard lines or at least between the 20-yard lines, for the most part.”

Learn more about Roy Beck here: https://today.csuchico.edu/distinguished-alumnus-roy-beck/

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