Feature 03.15.2022 4 minutes

Demographics Are Not Destiny

Raise your glasses for a toast.

The emerging multiethnic Right.

Since the early 2000s, Democrats have been banking on the idea that “demographics are destiny”: As America becomes less white, Democrats will become more powerful. No need to persuade, compromise, or slow the stampede further and further left. As more and more white people perish, America will be purified at last.

They may want to curb their enthusiasm.

Though minorities still overwhelmingly vote for Democrats and Democratic causes, race is becoming less and less predictive of politics. Donald Trump, “the most racist president in modern history” according to the Washington Post, did better among Hispanics, Asians, and blacks in 2020 than he did in 2016. Few expected that. Even fewer expected affirmative action would die in Democrat-dominated California in 2020—and that minorities would be the ones to kill it.

Claremont Review of Books senior editor William Voegeli examines this phenomenon in his most recent CRB essay. In 1996, California became the first state to ban affirmative action by passing Proposition 209. In 2020, Proposition 16 tried to reverse the ban, only to fail by an even larger margin. As the state became more diverse, support for affirmative action decreased. Analyzing public opinion surveys before and after the election, Voegeli concludes: “Prop. 16 lost because of non-white voters.”

2020 showed that demographics are not destiny after all. And the trend has continued.

A December 2021 Wall Street Journal poll found that Hispanic voters are now split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, a phenomenon reporter Jack Herrera deems an “extinction-level event” for Democrats. Take Virginia, for instance, where Republican Glenn Youngkin won the governorship with 55% of the Hispanic vote.

In addition, Donald Trump gained seven percentage points with Asian voters in 2020. This is particularly good news for the GOP; one survey found that Asians view Republicans in Congress much more favorably than they view the former president. As elite liberal institutions like Harvard continue to discriminate against Asians, Democrats scrap standardized tests (a move that hurts Asians), and progressives remain apathetic to Asians’ concerns, support for Republicans is likely to increase.

Black Americans are a different story. At first glance they appear to be ideologically split. In 2016, 45% of blacks identified as liberal and 43% as conservative. Those labels, however, don’t seem to mean much. In 2012, 44% of blacks said that Barack Obama was conservative, with a similar portion characterizing Mitt Romney as liberal. When you target individual issues, though, a slightly clearer picture emerges.

To hear BLM tell it, black people are overwhelmingly targeted by cops and should support cutting police budgets. But they don’t. Eighty-four percent believe spending on crime should increase. What about affirmative action? Here too, 51% oppose preferential treatment in hiring decisions. Welfare spending is a similar story—black respondents are about evenly split (31% to 28%) on whether spending should increase or decrease.

At the very least, polling data reveal that black opinion is not monolithic. Yet oftentimes voting is. Why?

Social scientists offer a few explanations. One is that voting for Democrats is perceived as equivalent to supporting black people in the aggregate. Brennan Center for Justice Senior Fellow Theodore R. Johnson explains: “most black voters view a Democratic vote as a heuristic for supporting strong federal civil rights protections and support for a Republican presidential candidate as a vote against group well-being.”

Of course, Republicans can demonstrate how group well-being improves for minorities under their policies. This isn’t hard to do in quality-of-life areas like crime and education. No one benefits more from lower crime rates than the victims of crime—disproportionately black people—or from school choice policies that offer opportunity for those trapped by their socioeconomic status.

But another explanation is the theory of social constraint: black voters feel social pressure to vote for Democrats. Researchers found evidence of this in interviews with black individuals. When the interviewer was black, respondents exhibited twice the level of partisanship compared to when the interviewer was white. But you didn’t need a study to tell you what you already knew. If you commit the heinous crime of being conservative while black, you will be labeled a race traitor, an Uncle Tom. You will lose relationships. If you believe anything outside of the circle of acceptable left-wing thoughts, you will pay with your reputation.

This leftist authoritarianism should be roundly condemned and mobilized against. Americans of every color should have the freedom to think for themselves without threat of social harm. But there’s something you can do right now, exactly where you are, to crack the social pressure: be a friend.

Friendship tends to moderate extreme views and can provide the antidote to the social ostracism that occurs when someone votes contrary to what their current social circles demand. You don’t even have to convince them of anything. Just lessen the social cost of deviating from groupthink.

Demographics are not destiny. Republicans have the chance to bring in new members—converts if you will—to the normal person party. The party that believes your race is not the most important thing about you. The party that puts victims before criminals and educational opportunities before teachers unions. And the party that stands with workers and families and parents against the forces trying to strip them of the cultural values they cherish.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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