Race and the Republican Party

According to the most recent census figures, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as “white, not Hispanic” is 63.4% of the population. The United States has about 314 million citizens, and therefore about 199 million white citizens.

Why do I bring this up? Because it puts in perspective Tea Party hysteria. In raw terms, whites are not a dying group in North America (even if we exclude Canada). There are more whites on this continent now than in 1960 (when the population of the entire United States was just 178 million).

And in 2050, let’s say that “white, non-Hispanic” Americans make up just 50% of the U.S. population (as opposed to the 63% of today). What will that mean?

Because the total population of the country is projected to be about 400 million in 2050, it will mean that there will still be about 200 million white Americans living in the United States.

The country, in other words, will have the ethnic look and feel of California (where the white population represents about 39% of the population). Politically, economically, and culturally, California is a terrific place to live, and that’s where the country as a whole is headed.

Republicans can adjust to this reality or get used to being, in every election cycle going forward, ever more slightly marginalized (as the Republican Party has in California since its notorious push for Proposition 187–an anti-immigrant ballot proposal–in the early 1990s).

So if I were a white Republican, I’d move to California and put my kids in public school there. I wouldn’t cloister them in home school or decide to raise them in a so-called “whitopia” like Idaho. And if I were a young Republican with political ambitions, I’d study California’s history and politics and ask myself a hard question: “How can my party avoid the fate of the Republican Party in California?” Because that fate is what looms over the national Republican Party.

And I’d stop doing two things immediately:

  • hating on Obama and Hillary
  • opposing immigration reform and The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

Why? Because by making these lightning rods, you’re branding your party for decades to come as one that doesn’t especially like non-whites or women reaching power and doesn’t like two key things Hispanics in polls overwhelmingly like: immigration reform and Obamacare. At some point, you’ve got to find solidarity with non-white and female voters.

Good luck walking that tightrope between the Tea Party and America’s changing demographics.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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13 Responses to Race and the Republican Party

  1. Staffan says:

    “The country, in other words, will have the ethnic look and feel of California (where the white population represents about 39% of the population). Politically, economically, and culturally, California is a terrific place to live, and that’s where the country as a whole is headed.”

    And Whites are fleeing the state which judging by NAEP scores is now as intelligent as Alabama and West Virginia – and still sinking due those glorious changing demographics. There is a clear correlation between national IQs and GDP per capita, a recent study claims that intelligence and personality can explain 70 percent of the GDP. You can already see the effects in job creation which is very low in California, in underemployment which is the lowest in the union and the rate of poverty which is the highest.

    Suddenly Idaho isn’t looking so bad. But there are plenty other Whitopias to choose from – Utah, Maine, Vermont and Oregon for instance. And like Idaho they all have less than half of California’s murder rate.

    Maybe the question the Republicans should ask themselves is how their states can avoid the fate of California? Because if the whole country is headed the way of California then you are in big trouble.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      As someone who lives in California, I can say that what you imagine California to be like and what it is like in reality are starkly different. And California’s economy is likely to be, over the next 35 years, something like twice as large as it is today (as will the GDP of the rest of the country). If the “browning” of America were the cataclysm a lot of people on the right imagine, then you would have an economy in decade over decade decline. We have recessions, but the terror of a permanently contracting economy is not what seems to loom over us.

      And the United States, including California, has had a bit better ride through the most recent recession than mostly white Europe. If racial diversity (and not economic policy) accounted for the kind of economic drag you imagine, you would think that Europe would weather economic storms and grow faster than the United States. But growth since WWII has been pretty similar on both continents (in a generally positive, if sometimes too slow, direction).

      Assuming that no global plague or nuclear exchange between, say, India and Pakistan, occur over the next 35 years, it’s hard not to see a lot of hope for California’s future (as well as the United States as a whole). Capitalism works. And so long as things remain peaceful, the economy will generally expand, making everyone better off.

      If you have the energy to point me to thoughtful web links that make a bleaker claim, I’m certainly willing to read them.

      Also, if you think that California’s condition is so horrible, and needs to be avoided by other states, what would you have the Republican Party and states controlled by the Republican Party do about it? How do you stop a demographic wave? Isn’t a demographic wave something you either ride or get drowned by?

      Maybe Republicans should learn how to surf.


      • Staffan says:

        The correlation between GDP and intelligence is not something I imagine, it’s a fact. (As are the NAEP scores, poverty rate etc.) There are some expceptions to this law, such as small countries with huge natural resources and intelligent but nonetheless corrupt countries like Italy. But the overall pattern is clear. There are no countries with average IQs of 90 that are doing well, and that’s where you are headed. If you count illegals – and they may soon be citizens with human rights – then you are already at an IQ of 92, assuming they are of average Mexican intelligence.

        It’s you who imagine things, when you assume that you will be an exception to this rule for no particular reason.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        California’s white population hasn’t been above 50% for a long time now and the state continues to grow. If the state was going south economically even as the rest of the country was going north, your thesis might have more weight. And Texas, despite having a white population also below 50%, grows faster than the national average. I also think of Brazil as an example of a fast growing economy. As it stands now, I think you are probably appealing to a correlation-causation fallacy (or to a very low-level effect on economic growth as a whole). In predicting California’s future, you also need to take into account such IQ factors as the Flynn effect.

        I would instead point to ideology, not race, as an obvious factor that can stall and reverse economic growth. Witness Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood, the 2009 recession brought on by deregulation ideology applied to the banking system, and communism in China under Mao and in Russia under Lenin.

        There are ways to tank contemporary economies that have nothing to do with immigration as such. Indeed, immigration tends to stimulate economic growth (the people who come tend to be young, enterprising, and eager to work).

        In the case of California, we’re talking about the immigration of Latinos that are overwhelmingly Catholic, Hindus from India, and Buddhists from Asia (Los Angeles has the largest Buddhist community in the world outside of Asia). Radical ideologies incompatible with capitalism and American democracy are not, in large numbers, being brought into the country via immigrants. And if anything, an open door policy to new immigrants has always been one of the country’s strengths. It’s Emersonian to grow.

  2. Amyclae says:

    Politically, economically, and culturally, California is a terrific place to live, and that’s where the country as a whole is headed.

    Um, what? Speaking as a Californian… How do you make that claim?

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      The weather is Mediterranean, the people are diverse and hard working. Many are highly educated. There are interesting things to do and places to go in every direction. If you get sick, hospitals in the major cities are among the best anywhere (Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, for example). There are few places in the world better to live. One in nine Americans lives here. It’s politically progressive, sensitive to ecology issues and gay and women’s equality. Nothing is perfect, but what don’t you like? Where do you think the grass is greener for you, and why aren’t you then moving there?


      • Amyclae says:

        Hm, the high price of enjoying those privileges. Taxes, housing, regulations…. Ect. I suppose it’s just whether the pros outweighs the cons.

  3. Staffan says:

    A growing economy is not a sign of growing prosperity if the population is growing. Remember that your poverty rate is rising too – is that a sign of prosperity?

    “As it stands now, I think you are probably appealing to a correlation-causation fallacy (or to a very low-level effect on economic growth as a whole). In predicting California’s future, you also need to take into account such IQ factors as the Flynn effect.”

    Intelligence is some 80 percent heritable and changes little over the lifespan so a correlation-causation fallacy appears logically impossible. But if I make that error how would you explain the correlation, keeping in mind that your IQ is dropping. If you mean that growth builds IQ then rich oil nations should have high IQs by now – none of them do. The only alternative left is some third factor causing both wealth and IQ. And it’s not natural resources.

    As for the Flynn Effect, that is irrelevant here since there is rank order stability. The scores may increase but the correlation remains the same. And the effect is large – 70 percent of differences in GDP can be explained by IQ and personality, around 60 percent of that is IQ. That is a huge effect.

    And you never answered why you would be the exception to the rule when the only exceptions are small oil nations. If you have the IQ of Alabama, you will have the economy of Alabama – that’s what your highest in the nation poverty rate is about. It’s happening right now.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      I doubt very much that I’m wrong about the fact that California’s per capita income is increasing decade over decade, not decreasing. In other words, the state’s population may be increasing, but economic growth is not merely a reflection of that.

      I’m guessing, though I haven’t gone in search of the data point yet, that the average person in California, even after adjusting for inflation, has a higher income than a decade ago.

      Also, just subjectively the state does not match (in my view) the conservative narrative of California. It may be because I have a job, but I don’t think I’m totally blocking out the bad things in my community. I don’t feel unsafe in CA and I see lots of tangible signs of growing prosperity in Los Angeles County.

      And your Saudi Arabia analogy doesn’t work. The Saudis can cover a multitude of sins with oil money. There’s no safety net of a similar sort in California propping up economic performance.

      My view is that people of just about any intelligence level can generally slot into a functioning capitalist economy, finding something to do. The problem is if you’re largely disfunctional (drug addicted, clinically depressed, have a broken back, too old to work, etc.). Otherwise, the economy when it is working properly can generally find something for you to do.

      I do agree that there are great bifurcations of wealth in California and that the growth in prosperity disproportionately accrues to the well-off. But if contemporary immigrants (on your thesis) take more piss-energy out of California than they put in, then it would suggest (at least to me) that the economy would be in decline and not growing at all. By your own thesis, immigration must (at worst) function as a drag on growth and not as a reverser of growth. My own opinion is that immigration is generally a promoter of growth and that contemporary immigrants to California put more into the system than they take out (as will their children).

      As to correlation-causation issues, your thesis doesn’t work with China does it? The Chinese have always scored high on IQ tests, but that has been swamped by economic policies. The Russians have also tested high on IQ, but in turn economic policies made them poor throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

      My argument is that correlation-causation issues are at work because the level of development and education in a country can definitely effect IQ testing (especially of minority groups or groups out of power).

      Now that capitalist free markets are largely winning the day everywhere, my guess is that economic growth can outstrip and persist against any drag that IQ differences among groups might place on economies. And the reality is that the Americas are not Europe. Of course, we will be “browner” than Europeans on average, but I don’t see European economies as a whole outperforming the economies of North and South America.

      People are what they are, and the racial makeup of the world is the racial makeup of the world. Focusing on economic policy as opposed to over-worrying about how “dark” or “white” your nation is seems to me a better idea. I’d much rather bet on a diverse state like California over the long term (easy to trade internationally in California) than on a country like Poland (where everyone looks like everyone else and shares the same religion). There is strength in diversity, though you appear not to especially think so.

      Evolution, in fact, is grounded in diversity, in trial and error applied to variations. There’s a reason Silicon Valley is in California and China has in jail one of its Nobel Prize winners. One is open to the world, the other is obviously deeply ambivalent about it.

      • Staffan says:

        It’s possible that we both suffer a bit from confirmation bias – I’m reading Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind so I’m trying to be less partisan : ). I will look into this using official statistics; I’ll probably write it up on my blog but give you a summary here. As far as per capita income it seems that you are right about the longer time perspective – it has risen significantly more than inflation, at least since 1990. But according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, it has decreased a little in the period 2007-2012 whereas the national average increased a little. More on that later.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        The Righteous Mind is an astonishing book, I agree. I read it perhaps a year or two back (I think when it first came out). The analysis of left-right psychology is dead-on and I’m sure I’ll return to that book several times in my life. It’s quite thought provoking.

        A quick anecdote about two students from last semester (who will go nameless and genderless). One person is about 22 and Hispanic. This person started a small business right out of high school and already owns a house. Now the person is taking classes toward a business degree. The other is an ambitious academic type heavily into academic reading who came up to me at the end of the semester asking for a reading list. “I want to know everything you know.” That person too is Hispanic.

        And an evolutionary issue I would raise is tribalism. It seems clear to me that human tribes throughout evolutionary history functioned in hierarchies and had divided labor. A person good at thinking came up with ideas that the group would then collectively benefit from and follow; a person especially skilled at bringing down big game or at warfare would also benefit his little tribe collectively. Even if we grant your premise that racial groups sort statistically by traits such as intelligence (Chinese are generally better at math than Europeans, etc.), it seems to me that so long as we treat one another as part of one big tribe (the human family) that we’ll all sort into job slots that benefit one another and all boats will rise with each innovation. It’s not a zero sum game when trading replaces warfare and suspicion.

        Put another way, if California has Silicon Valley and UC Berkeley driving innovation, research, and economic growth, and most people in California are slotted into jobs that make for dignified worth and the prospect of a half-way decent life, what exactly is the issue surrounding the racial makeup of the state as a whole? So long as an innovation threshold is reached and can function efficiently (and there’s no doubt that places like Silicon Valley and the research labs throughout California do), then we all get to go along for the ride provided by an elite few. So long as we think of one another as being on the same team, who cares if the math department at UC Irvine is, say, 60% Asian American?

        And let’s get real. Most people–whether white, black, Hispanic, or Asian–are not especially bright bulbs. And so long as the especially bright bulbs think of the rest of us as human and bring us on their ride, and don’t do an “Atlas shrugged” on us, why can’t the economy just keep on growing, with the right economic policies, slow and steady? It seems to me that there is no shortage of especially bright bulbs on the planet and they seem to be rapidly solving a lot of issues that would otherwise stall or reverse economic growth (such as issues surrounding energy and the environment). Let them. And watch us all benefit.

        Only in a zero sum game–or in a game in which we do not recognize one another as being on the same team–do we need to fret about immigration to the extent that the American right does. But it’s not a zero sum game, and we can all slot into roles on the same team.

        What would be demoralizing to everyone would be if you brought in immigrants who wouldn’t work, who simply sponged the federal or state system for benefits. But that’s not the case. There is danger in it, I admit. But most people who come to California and the United States tend to be young and ambitious, trying to do something with their lives. They’re not trying to overturn the efficient institutions that work in our country, they’re trying to participate in bolstering them and making them work for them as well (economically).


  4. Pingback: The Death of Enlightenment – or How Nebraska Beats California | Staffan's Personality Blog

  5. Staffan says:

    “Only in a zero sum game–or in a game in which we do not recognize one another as being on the same team–do we need to fret about immigration to the extent that the American right does. But it’s not a zero sum game, and we can all slot into roles on the same team.”

    Even with eternal economic growth it is still a zero sum game since most people are looking for social status. And that, as Steven Pinker pointed out, is not a zero sum game.

    And the thing about tribes is that they are made up by people who deliberately distinguish themselves from other tribes. The idea of us all belonging to one big tribe is a contradiction in terms and clearly it goes against empirical data. For instance, why do you think sports is so popular, and how would you arrange sports events on a one tribe basis?

    Besides, we see no tendency for California to turn into any of this. I compared California to Nebraska (in many ways its opposite) as well as the nation and California is not doing well on things like poverty, crime, well-being, education, job creation etc. On most of these measures it’s not just below Nebraska but also below the national average. And 7 percent are illegals – what team are they on?

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