Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Question about America's Political Future

Is demographics destiny?

Consider the suburbs of Atlanta, in the news because a Democrat has a chance to win a formerly deep red congressional seat:
At first blush, Johns Creek might be mistaken for the perfect example of a white-flight Sun Belt suburb. Just over a decade old, the city of 83,000 sits squarely in the congressional district once represented by Newt Gingrich, with excellent public schools and master-planned communities so pristine they could have been built by a model train aficionado. In 2015, the all-white City Council rejected the idea of expanding public transit out from the majority-black city of Atlanta, some 25 miles to the south, on the grounds that it “would increase high-density housing.”

But something has been happening in Johns Creek — and, indeed, across much of the vast archipelago of cul-de-sac communities north of Atlanta that served as the launchpad for Mr. Gingrich’s 1994 Republican revolution. The promise of a suburban idyll has been increasingly attracting all kinds of people — many of whom are not white, and not Republican. . . .

Ms. Enjeti, who moved to Georgia 10 years ago from Pennsylvania, is among the 24 percent of people in Johns Creek who are of Asian heritage. Today, Indian-Americans shop for saris at the Medlock Crossing strip mall and flock to the latest Bollywood hits at the multiplex. Chinese-Americans and food lovers of all stripes head to the Sichuan House, near the Target and Home Depot stores, for sliced pork ears in chili sauce and “tearfully spicy” mung bean noodles.

Indeed, the northern Atlanta suburbs, once considered bastions of Republicanism, are experiencing an identity crisis. . . .
So the question is, will the new Asian, Hispanic and black residents of these suburbs continue to vote their ethnicity, or will they change over time into more typical suburbanites?
Republicans here reject the idea that demography is political destiny. Instead, they envision a future in which the charms of suburban life, and the conservative politics that made it possible, will rub off on everyone. Instead of the newcomers changing the suburbs, they say, the suburbs will change the newcomers.

“You move to Cobb, you’ve got a good job and cheaper property taxes, and you say, ‘Hey, maybe this is a better way,’” said Michael Altman, 58, a former vice chairman of the Cobb County Republican Party.
In the short term ethnic identity will rule, as it usually does. But in the long haul I can see things playing out exactly as Altman suggests, especially for Asians. The danger that the Republicans face in embracing Trump's ethnic nationalism is that it will block that process and turn generations of Asians and Hispanics into loyal Democrats, ready to accept higher taxes and so on if that is what it takes to fight people who don't believe they belong.

3 comments:

David said...

I'm skeptical: in the first place, it's going to be hard for the Republicans to purge themselves of white nationalism--if they ever do. Witness how hard it's been for Marine Le Pen to move her party away from even extremely old-fashioned forms of European anti-Judaism--even when they're embracing enough anti-Islamism and xenophobia to satisfy the most hate-motivated.

Second, hostility to taxes and community interest does not necessarily follow from prosperity. According to the article, most of those new migrants are coming for the schools, and I suspect they'll keep voting for tax increases to pay for them. Ditto for things like infrastructure. So the Republicans would have to purge themselves not only of their Steve Bannon wing, but their Grover Norquist wing as well.

Note that I'm not predicting that the Democrats will make a national comeback any time soon. I'm just skeptical about the idea that upscale minority voters will turn ideologically Republican. I suspect they'll favor good-government types of either party--but right now, it's easier to be a good-government Democrat than a good-government Republican.

G. Verloren said...

Certainly people can switch their politics based on where they live and who they surround themselves with.

The classic example is the foreign-born immigrant who comes to America, who then turns around and demands we not let in some other immigrant coming in behind them.

Consider many Italian Americans and Irish Americans who hate and oppress modern day immigrants for being Muslims, when their very own ancestors were hated and oppressed for being Catholic in a Protestant nation. Or those who insist that it isn't about religion, but about the dangers of potentially letting in violent terrorists, all the while failing to recognize that the Irish and the Italian populations were themselves considered too violent and dangerous to risk allowing in, threatening to promote Anarchy, or Communism, or even possibly setting up a new Papal State in America - and if nothing else, they would bring drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, and flagrant criminality with them.

How quickly people forget. The country is full of wealthy and successful people whose families just a few generations ago were poor and desperate undesireables that other people were clamoring to keep out. What happened?

Well, their grandparents or great-grandparents came to this country, broke their backs to survive, faced monstrous persecution and hatred from the privileged locals, persisted anyway, and then had children. And those children went on to lead their own lives, and then they had children, and so on.

And in the course of a few generations of living in increasing comfort and societal acceptance, they came to forget the hardships and injustices of the past. And they surrounded themselves with other affluent people on the rise, and moved out to the suburbs, as was the American Dream. And then they cozied up to their new neighbors - the very people whose ancestors had proposed that their ancestors should be drowned like rats rather than be let into the country. And in doing so, they adopted the mannerisms and values of their former oppressors - the better to fit in and live comfortably among them.

Such is the path of assimilation. Suck up to the strong who abused you when you were weak, and then find other weak victims of your own to abuse yourself. It's the gift that keeps on giving, and the senseless injustice that never ends.

pootrsox said...

What I find interesting in Mr/Ms Verloren's summary is that while certainly the Jews assimilated (most of us are secular; many married out of the faith; etc etc etc) the great preponderance of American Jews still vote Democratic for the most part.

Perhaps it's because while the Irish and Italians were ultimately accepted as mainstream white Americans, Jews were not nearly so welcomed for a much longer time.

After all, the MS St. Louis was turned away not *all* that long ago....