White threat in a browning America

White threat in a browning America by Ezra Klein

The government predicts that in 2030, immigration will overtake new births as the dominant driver of population growth. About 15 years after that, America will phase into majority-minority status — for the first time in the nation’s history, non-Hispanic whites will no longer make up a majority of the population.

That cross will come in part because America’s black, Hispanic, Asian, and mixed-race populations are expected to grow — indeed, the Hispanic and Asian populations are expected to roughly double, and the mixed-race population to triple. Meanwhile, the non-Hispanic white population is, uniquely, expected to fall, dipping from 199 million in 2020 to 179 million in 2060. The Census Bureau minces no words here: “The only group projected to shrink is the non-Hispanic White population,” they report.

My multi-ethnic children are part of the trend. But ... this is precisely why Donald Trump's base is scared.

Demographers can and do disagree over whether these projections will hold. Perhaps Hispanic whites will begin identifying simply as whites in the coming years, much as the Irish became white in the 20th century. Race is what we make of it, and what we make of it shifts and mutates.

Ha! That would be interesting but I think it would due to efforts of non-Hispanic whites to divide and conquer.

So here, then, is what we know: Even gentle, unconscious exposure to reminders that America is diversifying — and particularly to the idea that America is becoming a majority-minority nation — pushes whites toward more conservative policy opinions and more support of the Republican Party.

Ugh!

White voters who feel they are losing a historical hold on power are reacting to something real. For the bulk of American history, you couldn’t win the presidency without winning a majority — usually an overwhelming majority — of the white vote. Though this changed before Obama (Bill Clinton won slightly less of the white vote than his Republican challengers), the election of an African-American president leading a young, multiracial coalition made the transition stark and threatening.

This is the crucial context for Trump’s rise, and it’s why Tesler has little patience for those who treat Trump as an invader in the Republican Party. In a field of Republicans who were trying to change the party to appeal to a rising Hispanic electorate, Trump was alone in speaking to Republican voters who didn’t want the party to remake itself, who wanted to be told that a wall could be built and things could go back to the way they were.

“Trump met the party where it was rather than trying to change it,“ Tesler says. “He was hunting where the ducks were.”

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