Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Brown Is The New Black
I've been waiting for some right winger to point this out as if it means something since I read the Democracy Corps poll the other day, and right on time, here comes David Frum:
Maybe you've heard about the recent polls showing a huge Democratic advantage among young voters. The latest , conducted by Stanley Greenberg for the Democracy Project, shows (among other dismal tidings) a 19-point party identification lead for Democrats among voters younger than 30.
Read the report in full, however, and you come across an interesting nugget on page 6: White young people continue to favor Republicans by a thin but real margin of 2 points. The Democrats owe their advantage among youth to a huge lead among young African-Americans (78 points) - and a very large lead (43 points) among Hispanics.
In the past, Republicans could win elections despite their unpopularity among ethnic minorities. But with the huge surge of immigration since 1980 - and especially since 2000 - the voting map of the United States has been redrawn in ways inherently deeply unfavorable to the GOP.
... the legacy that will damage his party is the legacy of immigration non-enforcement. This has imported a large new community of people who are both economically struggling (and thus open to Democratic arguments) but who lack deep attachment to the American nation (and who are thus immune to the most potent of Republican appeals). It is these voters who will sway elections in future. And thanks to this president's immigration policies, there are going to be a lot more of them than there might otherwise have been.
Illegal immigrants can't vote and weren't polled. So in this poll we are talking about young legal citizens between the ages of 18-29, the vast, vast majority of whom were born in this country. Most of them have never been to Mexico except on vacation, many of them don't speak Spanish and they have all been educated in American schools and raised on MTV and fast food. In other words, these young people are Americans with all the same attachments to country that all young Americans have. I have no idea how he explains the fact that 78% of young African Americans also loathe Republicans --- perhaps they've never established any attachment to America either. (I don't suppose the fact that Republicans are the party of racists has anything to do with it.)
Frum is just carrying on the long tradition of stupid commentators and Republican shills who constantly point out that Republicans would win in a landslide if only white people voted (although in this case, they don't win decisively among young whites either) as if that's some sort of meaningful metric. I even heard someone break down the poll numbers for Clinton by saying that she wouldn't stand a chance if women couldn't vote. I have never heard anyone note the opposite ---- that if white males couldn't vote, no Republican could ever get elected to any office in the land.
But aside from the racist assumptions about these young Americans, Frum is actually laying the groundwork for the right's attack against any expansion of the safety net. This is one of those recurring themes in American politics.
Here's a post I did long ago, and have reprised a time or two, about how our history of slavery and racism have shaped American ideas about public welfare and why we simply can't seem to get past the legacy of race hatred to create a sense of the common good. It's a rather ugly argument, but it is persuasive to me. When I see it rear its ugly head once again with people people like Frum pulling the old xenophobe card about young American born citizens of "certain" descent not having any ties to the culture, it's hard to argue that the old impulse has completely died out.
Here's a little piece of that post, (which was written in response to those who think we can convince southern white conservatives to vote for Democrats with populist appeals):
In this paper (pdf) Sociologist Nathan Glazer of Harvard, who has long been interested in America’s underdeveloped welfare state, answers a related question --- “Why Americans don’t care about income inequality” which may give us some clues. Citing a comprehensive study by economists Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser of Harvard and Bruce Sacerdote of Dartmouth called, "Why Doesn't the United States have a European-Style Welfare State?" (Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 2/2001) he shows that the reluctance of Americans to embrace an egalitarian economic philosophy goes back to the beginning of the republic. But what is interesting is that both he and the economists offer some pretty conclusive evidence that the main reason for American “exceptionalism” in this case is, quite simply, racism.
AGS [Alesina, Glazear and Sacerdote] report, using the World Values Survey, that "opinions and beliefs about the poor differ sharply between the United States and Europe. In Europe the poor are generally thought to be unfortunate, but not personally responsible for their own condition. For example, according to the World Values Survey, whereas 70 % of West Germans express the belief that people are poor because of imperfections in society, not their own laziness, 70 % of Americans hold the opposite view.... 71 % of Americans but only 40% of Europeans said ...poor people could work their way out of poverty."
"Racial fragmentation and the disproportionate representation of ethnic minorities among the poor played a major role in limiting redistribution.... Our bottom line is that Americans redistribute less than Europeans for three reasons: because the majority of Americans believe that redistribution favors racial minorities, because Americans believe that they live in an open and fair society, and that if someone is poor it is his or her own fault, and because the political system is geared toward preventing redistribution. In fact the political system is likely to be endogenous to these basic American beliefs."(p. 61)
"Endogenous" is economics-ese for saying we have the political system we do because we prefer the results it gives, such as limiting redistribution to the blacks. Thus the racial factor as well as a wider net of social beliefs play a key role in why Americans don't care about income inequality, and why, not caring, they have no great interest in expanding the welfare state.
Glazer goes on to point out how these attitudes may have come to pass historically by discussing the roles that the various immigrant support systems and the variety of religious institutions provided for the poor:
But initial uniformities were succeeded by a diversity which overwhelmed and replaced state functions by nonstate organizations, and it was within these that many of the services that are the mark of a fully developed welfare state were provided. Where do the blacks fit in? The situation of the blacks was indeed different. No religious or ethnic group had to face anything like the conditions of slavery or the fierce subsequent prejudice and segregation to which they were subjected. But the pre-existing conditions of fractionated social services affected them too. Like other groups, they established their own churches, which provided within the limits set by the prevailing poverty and absence of resources some services. Like other groups, too, they were dependant on pre-existing systems of social service that had been set up by religious and ethnic groups, primarily to serve their own, some of which reached out to serve blacks, as is the case with the religiously based (and now publicly funded) social service agencies of New York City. They were much more dependant, owing to their economic condition, on the poorly developed primitive public services, and they became in time the special ward of the expanded American welfare state's social services. Having become, to a greater extent than other groups, the clients of public services, they also affected, owing to the prevailing racism, the public image of these services.
This latest explosion of nativism has to do with new migration patterns of seasonal illegal immigrants, class anxiety among whites on the lower end, exploitation by media con men, among other things. But I believe that the result will be just as it was in the past: opportunistic politicians and wealthy interests will stoke these impulses in order to stymie the growing movement to expand the government safety net, particularly universal health care. They are already making a simple crude argument (couched in socially acceptable terms, of course) that your tax dollars are going to support a bunch of lazy Mexicans and you'll get nothing in return. That is the underlying theme of all these appeals and the result is the same as it ever was: because certain people would rather their own family suffer than contribute to the betterment of those whom they despise, the US government cannot be used as a vehicle for social welfare. The question is whether it will work this time.
The sheer numbers of non-whites are changing things, and that has the rightwingers working themselves into a full blown panic. The Bushies were right on this one. They needed to cool the racist ardor of their base, but they couldn't get it done. And now you see neocons like Frum trying to join the wingnut populist bandwagon with thinly veiled racist appeals to solidarity with the Pat Buchanan wing. (His conflation of "illegal immigrants" who allegedly have no stake in the country with the large numbers of young Hispanic Americans who were born here gives the game away.) But the numbers are just not on their side.
I suspect that this impending panic attack may even be at the root of Karl Rove's rather desperate US Attorney "voter fraud" gambit. They needed to cool the racist base, pass some kind of worker program as a sop to business AND suppress the vote in the west and southwest in order to keep winning 51% elections. Even a real genius would have had a hard time pulling that off. The whole thing fell apart --- and now we are on to them.
So, go ahead, Mr Canadian immigrant. Keep telling young Hispanic Americans that their parents shouldn't have been allowed to come into the country. Keep talking about blacks like they aren't real Americans. This isn't 1860 anymore. It isn't 1960 anymore. This is the new brown America and there's not a damned thing you can do about it. You can bash "illegals" and "welfare queens" and run your patented "law and order" campaigns all you want, but you have lost the war. There are way more of them (along with us white liberals from all over the country who also loathe and despise your racist fearmongering)than there are of you now.
So have at it. Every time you make one of these racist appeals to your dittohead base, another young Democratic voter gets her wings.
Update: Rick Perlstein asks Frum an uncomfortable question.
digby 8/01/2007 11:59:00 AM