Countries divided by race and/or ethnicity tend to have a rough go of it, as any look around the world or at history would confirm. Democracies handle such divides better, as they do most other big societal disputes. But, the trick is to avoid having a nation’s major political parties each dominated by a different racial/ethnic group(s). This can turn politics itself into just another vehicle for interethnic competition.
Are we heading in this direction? Kind of. We are fast becoming a “minority-majority” country, and roughly 80% of minorities vote Democratic. Within a few election cycles, at most, more than one-half of Democratic voters will be people of color. GOP voters, in contrast, are very predominantly non-Hispanic White. and especially southern, older, and white. What would happen if present trends continue for a few decades, and we have one white and one non-white major party?
Fortunately, the future is not written and demography does not have to be destiny in a democracy. I think there’s hope, for a few reasons.
- Latinos and other new ethnic groups (Asians, mixed-race people) are still up for grabs. The GOP may decide to moderate itself to attract them, as it’s kind of trying to do now (at least rhetorically, at least some of the time);
- Society’s definition of race is malleable, as is the power of ethnicity and race as driving factors in people’s social and political opinions. In 20 years, American Latinos and Asians may consider themselves a part of the majority, as did other immigrant groups before them.
- Other societal divisions will still matter, too, and may come to outweigh the passions of racial and ethnic competition. Sure, some of these also will make our politics meaner (like surging class inequality); but, others might make our politics less bitter (maybe an ebbing religious/secular divide).
- Racism continues its long, slow decline, despite the ugly spectacles we’ve witnessed over our first Black president. Millennials are much better about this stuff, although subtle racist attitudes run very deep in human beings, whether people have the self-awareness to see it in themselves or not.
I’m really looking forward to this one. One caution, though: I would like to keep Monday’s discussion as future oriented as possible. What will happen in the next 20 years to improve or worsen our racial/ethnic politics, and what can the parties do about it? We all know the history of how we got here, and rehashing civil rights and southern strategy history I will limit unless the speaker can quickly relate it to our potential future.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- Are our two major political parties really sorting out by race and color, or is this exaggerated?
- If this continues to happen, how will our politics change – especially if we are entering a decade or so of declining economic growth, growing inequality, and intensified socio-economic competition?
- What could happen to stop the trend towards party alignment by white and non-white? How could the Democrats attract more working class white people? How could the GOP attract more people of color?
- The two parties are in the process of dividing into a White GOP and a non-White Democratic party. I recommend.
- This could cause other cleavages; e.g., The browning of America may lead to a huge political divide between an older, whiter America and a younger, mainly non-White America.
- For the moment, Latinos pretty much hate the Republican Party.
- But, not so fast – Demographics do NOT ensure Democratic dominance in the future. More here. I recommended.
- Shorter, for you busy liberals: A liberally biased but interesting quick review of the basic issues.