April 7, 2021

The Fear That Is Shaping American Politics

By Thomas B. Edsall

2,452 words

It affects everyone from Joe Manchin to Joe Biden.

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Refreshed on April 13, 2021 at 3:49:40 pm

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April 13, 2021 at 3:49 pm CHANGED
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  Why is the Republican Party so determined to constrain the franchise?
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  One answer is provided by the changing demographics of the children in the nation’s public schools, a leading indicator of shifts in the racial and ethnic makeup of the country.
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- According to the National Center for Education Statistics,
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+ According to the National Center for Education Statistics:
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- The changing racial and ethnic makeup of the schools, something visible to parents and to anyone who walks by at recess, is a leading indicator of the day (in roughly 2045) when non-Hispanic whites of all ages will drop under 50 percent of the U.S. population, soon to be followed by the day when whites become a minority of the electorate (although that will depend on how voters self-identify — among other things, data suggests that many mixed race Americans identify as white).
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+ The changing racial and ethnic makeup of the schools, something visible to parents and to anyone who walks by at recess, is a leading indicator of the day (in roughly 2045) when non-Hispanic whites of all ages will drop under 50 percent of the U.S. population, soon to be followed by the day when whites become a minority of the electorate (although that will depend on how voters self-identify — among other things, data suggests that many mixed-race Americans identify as white).
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- Hispanics and Asian-Americans are driving the ascendance of America’s minority population, while the Black share of the population will increase by a small amount. Pew Research estimates that over the 50 year period from 2015 to 2065, the non-Hispanic white share of the population — as defined by the U.S. census — will drop from 62 to 46 percent, while the Hispanic share will grow from 18 to 24 percent and the Asian-American share from 6 to 14 percent. The Black share will go from 12 to 13 percent.
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+ Hispanics and Asian-Americans are driving the ascendance of America’s minority population, while the Black share of the population will increase by a small amount. Pew Research estimates that over the 50-year period from 2015 to 2065, the non-Hispanic white share of the population — as defined by the U.S. census — will drop to 46 percent from 62 percent, while the Hispanic share will grow to 24 percent from 18 percent, and the Asian-American share to 14 percent from 6 percent. The Black share will go to 13 percent from 12 percent.
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  Richard Alba, a sociologist at the City University of New York, and other experts have argued that predictions of a white minority in a little over 20 years have created a false narrative because it fails to account for the numerous second- and third-generation children of interethnic and interracial marriages, many of whom see themselves (and are seen by others) as white.
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- False or not, the white minority prediction has become a dominant political narrative — particularly insofar as Republicans exploit this characterization — and in the process this framing has become a central element in the worldview of many conservative whites.
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+ False or not, the white-minority prediction has become a dominant political narrative — particularly insofar as Republicans exploit this characterization — and in the process this framing has become a central element in the worldview of many conservative whites.
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  How does the expectation of a majority-minority America affect the thinking of white Americans?
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- Maureen Craig at N.Y.U. and Jennifer Richeson, at Yale, reported in their 2018 paper “Majority No More? The Influence of Neighborhood Racial Diversity and Salient National Population Changes on Whites’ Perceptions of Racial Discrimination” that
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+ Maureen Craig at N.Y.U. and Jennifer Richeson at Yale reported in their 2018 paper “Majority No More? The Influence of Neighborhood Racial Diversity and Salient National Population Changes on Whites’ Perceptions of Racial Discrimination”:
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- Biden, more than either of his three Democratic predecessors — Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — is putting this white reaction to the test.
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+ Biden, more than any of his three Democratic predecessors — Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — is putting this white reaction to the test.
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- Not only is Biden actively supporting voting rights reform designed to protect and strengthen Black and Hispanic political participation, but he has taken assertive stands on racial issues, both in terms of appointments and in supporting racially targeted provisions in his stimulus and infrastructure legislation.
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+ Not only is Biden actively supporting voting rights reform designed to protect and strengthen Black and Hispanic political participation; he has also taken assertive stands on racial issues, both in terms of appointments and in supporting racially targeted provisions in his stimulus and infrastructure legislation.
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- The question for Biden is whether a Democrat can firm up the party’s multiracial coalition with a double-edged strategy. First, winning over enough working class whites by disbursing substantial benefits in his stimulus and infrastructure legislation; and, second, by targeting generous programs to racial and ethnic minorities to reduce disparities in income and education.
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+ The question for Biden is whether a Democrat can firm up the party’s multiracial coalition with a double-edged strategy: first, winning over enough working-class whites by disbursing substantial benefits in his stimulus and infrastructure legislation; and second, by targeting generous programs to racial and ethnic minorities to reduce disparities in income and education.
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- The underlying question is whether more white voters will turn against Biden in the 2022 midterm elections as they turned against Clinton in 1994 and Obama in 2010.
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+ The underlying question is whether more white voters will turn against Biden in the 2022 midterm elections, as they turned against Clinton in 1994 and Obama in 2010.
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  A large number of white people already believe that they suffer higher levels of discrimination than Black people and other minorities do.
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  Craig and Richeson write:
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  In addition, many Republican and conservative-leaning whites are convinced that as minorities become more powerful, the left coalition will become increasingly antagonistic to them. Craig and Richeson write:
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  Nour Sami Kteily, a professor of management and organizations at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, emailed to say that he and Richeson have been conducting a study that asks whites how much they agree (7) or disagree (1) with statements like:
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- and
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+ and:
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- On average, whites fell at the midpoint but, Kteily wrote, there was
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+ On average, whites fell at the midpoint, but, Kteily wrote, there was:
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  In a December 2019 article, “Demographic change, political backlash, and challenges in the study of geography,” Ryan Enos, a political scientist at Harvard, wrote:
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- Thus, Enos continued,
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+ Thus, Enos continued:
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  The 2020 election of Biden combined with Democratic control of the House and Senate have contained, at least momentarily, the reactionary backlash, but a liberalized politics has not yet been secured. What are the prospects for Democrats seeking to maintain, if not strengthen, their fragile hold on power?
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  Looking toward the next two sets of elections, Brian Schaffner, a political scientist at Tufts, argued in an email that Biden will have to tread carefully if he wants to maintain winning margins for his party in 2022 and for himself in 2024:
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  I asked Griffin what the prospects are for Biden to build a stronger and more durable Democratic coalition. He is doubtful:
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  Biden, Griffin continued,
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- Based on his actions to date, Biden clearly disagrees, and remains intent on strengthening both the white and minority side of the Democratic multiracial coalition through legislative action.
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+ Based on his actions to date, Biden clearly disagrees and remains intent on strengthening both the white and minority side of the Democratic multiracial coalition through legislative action.
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  In one of the ironies of politics, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia — who personifies in the extreme the Democratic Party dilemma on race, ethnicity and immigration — has become a critical stumbling block to Biden’s ambition to enact a transformative agenda.
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- West Virginia is 92 percent white, the third highest percentage in the nation, exceeded only by Maine and Vermont. In a generation, it has undergone a virtually complete Republican realignment.
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+ West Virginia is 92 percent white, the third-highest percentage in the nation, exceeded only by Maine and Vermont. In a generation, it has undergone a virtually complete Republican realignment.
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- Just 25 years ago, in 1996, Bill Clinton won West Virginia, decisively beating Bob Dole 52-37, with 11 percent going to Ross Perot. By 2012, in contrast, Mitt Romney not only beat Barack Obama 62-35 in this once reliably Democratic state, but the Republican presidential nominee carried every one of West Virginia’s 55 counties, a pattern repeated in 2016 and 2020.
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+ Just 25 years ago, in 1996, Bill Clinton won West Virginia, decisively beating Bob Dole 52-37, with 11 percent going to Ross Perot. By 2012, in contrast, Mitt Romney not only beat Barack Obama 62-35 in this once reliably Democratic state, but he also carried every one of West Virginia’s 55 counties, a pattern repeated in 2016 and 2020.
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- Manchin stands out among his colleagues in the Senate as a Democrat who can win in what has become a deep red state, but the going is getting tougher. In 2012, he won by 25 points, 61 to 36 percent. In his most recent election in 2018, he won by 3.4 points, 49.6 to 46.2 percent.
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+ Manchin stands out among his colleagues in the Senate as a Democrat who can win in what has become a deep-red state, but the going is getting tougher. In 2012, he won by 25 points, 61 percent to 36 percent. In his most recent election in 2018, he won by 3.4 points, 49.6 percent to 46.2 percent.
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- In 2020, the state voted for Trump over Biden 68.6 to 29.7 percent. Trump’s margin of victory in West Virginia was higher than it was in all the other states except Wyoming, 43.7 points, 70.4 to 26.7.
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+ In 2020, the state voted for Trump over Biden 68.6 percent to 29.7 percent. Trump’s margin of victory in West Virginia was higher than it was in all the other states except Wyoming, 43.7 points, 70.4 to 26.7.
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- Not only are West Virginia voters conservative and Republican, they overwhelmingly fit the demographic and ideological portrait of those most threatened and angered by the prospect of whites becoming a minority. The 2020 poll of West Virginia voters by NORC at the University of Chicago showed that they were 95 percent white (higher than the state’s residents); 69 percent without college degrees; 74 percent small town or rural; 71 percent in favor of building a wall on the border with Mexico; 70 percent with an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party; and 63 percent with a favorable view of the Republican Party.
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+ West Virginia voters are not only conservative and Republican but also overwhelmingly fit the demographic and ideological portrait of those most threatened and angered by the prospect of whites becoming a minority. The 2020 poll of West Virginia voters by NORC at the University of Chicago showed that they were 95 percent white (higher than the state’s residents); 69 percent without college degrees; 74 percent small-town or rural; 71 percent in favor of building a wall on the border with Mexico; 70 percent with an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party; and 63 percent with a favorable view of the Republican Party.
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  In light of these facts, it is little wonder that Manchin has emerged as the key Democratic holdout in the Senate, demanding the near impossible — that at least some Republicans support a top Biden agenda item, voting rights reform. In addition, Manchin has declared his opposition to killing the legislative instrument currently used to protect the interests of whites, the filibuster — delighting his West Virginia constituents but angering many of his Democratic colleagues.
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  There are good, some would say persuasive, arguments for both the elimination of the filibuster and for enactment of the voting rights legislation currently before the Senate.
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  Jessica Bulman-Pozen and David Pozen, of Columbia Law School, developed an apt description of the contemporary use of the filibuster in their 2015 law review article “Uncivil Obedience,” arguing that while civil disobedience “violates the law in a bid to highlight its illegitimacy and motivate reform,” there is a “less heralded form of social action that involves nearly the opposite approach.” Dissenters, they write, may attempt “to disrupt legal regimes through hyperbolic, literalistic, or otherwise unanticipated adherence to their formal rules,” i.e., through uncivil obedience.
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  In an email, Jessica Bulman-Pozen wrote:
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- Those making use of the filibuster to delay or kill legislation “cast themselves as meticulous law-followers while they subvert representative democracy.”
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+ Those making use of the filibuster to delay or kill legislation “cast themselves as meticulous law-followers while they subvert representative democracy,” she wrote.
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  Alexander Theodoridis, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, expanded on the argument that polarization has weaponized the filibuster:
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- In the case of the voting rights bill, Theodoridis argued,
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+ In the case of the voting rights bill, Theodoridis argued:
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- Along parallel lines, Nate Persily, a law professor at Stanford, emailed his view that
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+ Along parallel lines, Nate Persily, a law professor at Stanford, said in an email:
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- Inaction by the federal government “will necessarily lead to greater divergence among the states Persily continued:
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+ Inaction by the federal government “will necessarily lead to greater divergence among the states,” Persily continued:
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- Despite the logic of these claims, and the possibility that Manchin — who has held statewide office in West Virginia for the past 20 years and is also the last Democrat to hold statewide office at all — could emerge, at least momentarily, as a hero to fellow liberals across the county. But joining forces with fellow Democrats has the earmarks of political suicide.
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+ Despite the logic of these claims, Manchin — who has held statewide office in West Virginia for the past 20 years and is also the last Democrat to hold statewide office there at all — could emerge, at least momentarily, as a hero to fellow liberals across the country. But joining forces with fellow Democrats has the earmarks of political suicide.
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  Manchin has repeated his demand for bipartisanship and his support of the filibuster, but he did take one stand that could signal his openness to negotiation, voting twice to convict Trump on impeachment charges filed by the House.
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  Those votes were not cast by a politician calculating his best chances for re-election.

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  • The Fear That Is Shaping American Politics

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  • Biden, Joseph R Jr
  • Democratic Party
  • Discrimination
  • Manchin, Joe III
  • Midterm Elections (2022)
  • Minorities
  • Presidential Election of 2020
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Republican Party
  • United States Politics and Government
  • Whites