Today's posting will entail a bit of risk, given the number of liberals who enjoy branding conservatives as "racist". But, I think some perspective is helpful in understanding what is going on in Arizona.
While there are many ways to categorize the electorate - geographic; religious; class; education; economic/social/security orientation - one of the most obvious is race. With the population being about 65% white, 13% African-American, 15% Hispanic, and 5% Asian, the Democratic Party calculation is that they need 40% of the white vote, 90 % of the African-American vote, and 60% of the other minority vote. (For perspective, Obama carried 43% of the white vote in 2008.)
- First, the Asians are evenly split, with the Koreans and Vietnamese tending Republican, the Japanese tending Democratic, and the Chinese split. The two politically prominent Indians, Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Nikki Haley in South Carolina, are both Republicans.
- The African-American vote remains a solid 85 to 90% Democratic, despite Bush Administration examples such as Colin Powell and Condi Rice. A typical day's complaints by the likes of Elijah Cummings (Blacks not getting their share of Gulf cleanup jobs), Jesse Jackson (Lebron not being treated fairly), and Michelle Obama/the NCAA (racist Tea Party epithets) serve to keep this base in line with a message of victim-hood.
- The Latinos are the swing group that needs to be energized if the Democrats are to have any hope of winning. While concentrated in the Southwest, they form meaningful blocs in Illinois, New York (Puerto Rican), Florida (Cuban), and many swing states, and, in the aggregate vote about 60% Democrat and 25% Republican. Although 15% of the population, they make up only 9% of the eligible voter due to legal status and a large portion of children.
So, how can they be turned into reliable, active Democrats for 2010 and beyond, as they were by Proposition 187 (no benefits for illegal immigrants) in California in 1994?
- The benign answer is that Obama and Holder do see events through a racial prism, and think that efforts to seal the border are inherently unfair. Obama's knee-jerk reaction to the Professor Gates incident in 2009 probably reflected his true perspective. And with the public favoring the Arizona governor's effort by a two to one majority, the Democratic governors have highlighted the political downside of Obama's lawsuit. He must be acting on principle, regardless of the consequences in this election, and doing what he thinks is right. (Right?)
- The more cynical answer is that Obama has a difficult balancing act - energizing the Hispanics, while not alienating the white working-class base by pushing for comprehensive immigration reform which would legitimize millions of low wage workers at a time of 10% unemployment. In 2007, he had it both ways by publicly supporting the Bush/McCain/Kennedy comprehensive immigration reform effort, then torpedoing it by advocating toxic amendments -elimination of the guest worker program; prioritizing family relationships over skills and education. Similarly, on behalf of white union leadership, his partisan Arizona lawsuit kills any chance of real immigration reform for now, while energizing the Hispanics, and perhaps helping his party in close Senate races in California, Colorado, and Nevada.
In the longer run, the question is how soon the Hispanics move up the economic and social ladder, as have past immigrant groups. Democratic demagoguery aside, there are many aspects of the Republican perspective that appeal to Hispanics - they tend to be socially conservative and religious; they have a disproportionate number of children in school and few in the teachers unions; they disproportionately start small businesses (not working for large corporations); they disproportionately volunteer for the armed services. And like past immigrant groups, these are the people who have left their family and friends at home in search of opportunity. Some of this will be reflected in California this year as Meg Whitman's millions help to support moderate Republican Abel Maldonado for lieutenant governor.
The long term challenge is, of course, for the Republicans to find a way to stem the flow of illegals while welcoming the contribution of those who accept our laws. We were not far away in 2007. In the long run, the Republicans have more to gain than the Democrats.
This week's video is eloquent Senate testimony by an Army veteran speaking about Elena Kagan's anti-recruitment policies at Harvard. With her replacing Judge Stevens, the Supreme Court will have no veterans and no Protestants. So much for "Red State America".
bill bowen - 7/16/10