Democrats and Demographics

The Washington Post has a message that Democrats need to pay attention to: You won’t have demographic dividends for long. And it’s coming from what you think will help you most (Mexicans).

If someone looked at state-by-state polls, there’s a wonderful positive correlation between the states that went Romney and those with the highest proportion of African-Americans. But wait! Didn’t basically all the African-American vote go to Obama, isn’t it the whites who broke Romney? Yes, but, importantly the state that was most fiercely liberal was Vermont, which, basically, has no blacks.

This article confirms something I’ve always suspected about the Northeast. It’s not less racist and not inherently more egalitarian vis-a-vis illegal immigrants. Randomly selected, liberal, New Englanders who were “treated” by a period of exposure to Spanish-speaking Latinos noted a significant shift to the right on immigration policies and deportation. 

So it’s not that the liberal city of Boston, where this study was conducted, is any more enlightened than Birmingham. It’s just richer, and more isolated. I’ve long argued that the negative effects of immigration (which are certainly outweighed by the positive effects) ought to be borne equally by those near Mexico, and those afar. Indeed, it almost seems easy sitting in Newton to disparage the nativists in Arizona.

I don’t support a regional visa program, because to prevent illegal domestic immigration, we’d need a police state (not like we don’t have the infrastructure, but still). I would argue that some of my argument is diminished by the fact that California, the Midwest, and New England basically fund the South. However, a deeply segregated United States will continue to result in the gridlocked politics that damn us today. Latinos too.

This project would be a shining example of a public-private partnership. While it seems pretty racist for the government to incentivize black and latino migration to the north, corporations have, for a long time, employed affirmative action to diversify their workforce. Affirmative action policies should be lowered in the South and Southwest, with a strong increase elsewhere, including paid relocations for interested workers (given a certain level of productivity, contract to work, etc.)

This might even result in a Red state or two in New England (because, as the Post notes, whites will become more racist), but will free the south from Richard Nixon’s curse.

  1. Of course the Northeast is not “less racist,” whatever that means, than the South. But while it turns out “history of treason in defense of slavery” is still a good predictor of modern-day voting patterns, not much else is.

    For example: if being “treated” with diversity made white people more right-wing, then wouldn’t our urban areas be hotbeds of right-wing sentiment? Washington, DC and New York City I know from experience have had plenty of inflows into the urban core and suburbs alike from Hispanic immigrants, many of whom are likely undocumented, and yet these places are Democratic strongholds.

    MLK famously said that Chicago had much to teach Mississippi about enforcing racism with state brutality, yet Illinois has been an increasingly blue state (it’s years of GOP voting were mostly in those when the nation swung most towards the GOP as a whole) and shows no sign of reversal.

    My point here, I suppose, is that “the South is different” really is a good heuristic for understanding American history. What made VA and NC swing blue (or nearly so) in the last two elections is a massive influx of educated, urban residents from elsewhere in the country.

    “Democratic presidential vote share has declined by almost 20 percentage points among southern whites without college degrees. Among non-southern whites without college degrees it has declined by one percentage point. That’s it. Fourteen elections, 52 years, one percentage point.”

    • arra95 said:

      I’m not denying that the south is different, but tell me, don’t you think that the vestiges of slavery (tons of blacks in the south) has some divisive impact on our politics today?

      • Certainly, but I don’t think the key variable is exposure of non-black people to black people. Tell me this – why does the effect only go in one direction? Black people seem to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats (and for Obama in the 2008 primary) regardless of how many Latinos or whites they live near or come into contact with.

    • arra95 said:

      It runs one way because whites perceive blacks to be poor, and in great exposure they very easily make the connection that they’re “sucking” government money, etc. Actually, you could say it goes the other way by the fact that blacks are, on average, so Democratic.

      • So exposure to blacks or Latinos makes whites Republican, exposure to blacks makes Latinos Republican, and exposure to whites or Latinos makes blacks Democratic? So exposure to whites must make Latinos Democratic, right? What explains Jews? Are they non-white in this scenario? What explains the increasing Democratic-ness of Asians?

        I think the best heuristic to use is to consider “Southern white” a distinct ethnicity from “white” in general:

        And once you do that intra-group preferences are mostly stable, especially when you control for cohort effects, the big exception being the recent trend of non-black non-white voters (mostly Latinos and Asians) towards the Democratic Party.

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