Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Let's face it: We are starkly divided by race


Among white voters in Georgia, Donald Trump enjoys a massive 46-point advantage over Hillary Clinton, says the latest Monmouth University poll. Only one in five non-Hispanic white Georgians say they will vote for Clinton, and outside metro Atlanta the number falls into single digits.

Among everybody else in the state, Clinton enjoys a 70-point lead. Just 9 percent of non-white Georgians -- fewer than one in 10 -- say they will vote for Trump. In short, if you tell me your race, I can tell you how you'll vote with a depressing degree of accuracy. We are a people starkly divided, and that dividing line is race.

The consistency of it is striking: Every single minority group of the size needed to generate national polling data has decided to cast its lot with the Democratic Party. Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Muslim Americans, African Americans, and Jewish Americans are all voting overwhelming for the Democrat, and you can add gay Americans to the list as well. The single exception to that rule has been Cuban Americans, but even they are now abandoning the GOP.

And the question that must be asked is, why? Those groups are very different, each with its own unique American story. Some are relatively new arrivals, others have been here since the beginning. Some boast high levels of educational and economic success; others are still struggling to find a foothold. Yet they all have one thing in common: By overwhelming and growing margins, every single one has gravitated away from the Republican Party.

That does not happen by accident, not over and over and over again. It happens because when those groups look at the Republican Party, they see a white party that very much wants to remain the white party, as proved emphatically by its nomination of Trump.¹ So they go to the party that feels welcoming, whatever its other faults might be.

And because demography is destiny, we know where this is headed.  The changes that are transforming this country are irreversible no matter who gets elected president, and they can't be stopped by any wall. As of 2012, the majority of babies born in this country are being born to non-white parents, and that trend will accelerate. Non-Hispanic whites comprised 67 percent of the population in 2005 and 61 percent in 2015. They are projected to comprise just 47 percent by 2050.

And it's ironic. As far back as Benjamin Franklin's lament about "swarthy" German immigrants in 1751², our immigration debate has centered around questions of assimilation, about how quickly various ethnic groups are able and willing to abandon being the "other" and become "American." Today, you could argue, the ethnic group that is most stubbornly refusing assimilation into the modern United States and instead asserting its "otherness" are white Americans. It is white Americans who are retreating in substantial numbers into their own enclaves, politically and culturally as well as physically, reluctant to make peace with their new country.

The Republican Party is one such enclave. Fox News is another. The nation as a whole is still 61 percent white, but according to Nielsen the Fox News audience is 92 percent white, much higher than MSNBC (67 percent) and CNN (73 percent). Just 1 percent of the Fox audience is black, and I suspect that most of that 1 percent are black Americans eavesdropping to hear what those crazy white folk are talking about.

And as with any ethnic group, it is young white Americans who are most at ease in their new country. They are "native-born" to it in ways that their parents are not, having been raised and educated in a multicultural setting where diversity is so accepted that it isn't even noticed. That too shows up in the polling. Among Georgia voters 49 and younger, Clinton has an 10-point lead. Among those 50 and older, Trump has a 14-point lead.

These are not easy subjects to discuss respectfully and honestly, but they are real.  And you don't have to sympathize with Trump's message to recognize that there's a real sadness in so many people feeling alienated from the country of their birth, the country that had given them their identity and a great sense of pride. There's a lot of pain there, and in Trump a hope that they can "take it back" to how it used to be.

They can't. I don't know what the answer is, but he isn't it.

 

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¹ The lesson has been particularly disillusioning for conservative intellectuals who had thought they were building a movement based on principles of free markets and limited government, only to watch their party rally around a candidate opposed to those ideas. They have been dismayed to learn that no, what has really united the movement all along was racial identity.

² Franklin wrote:

"[W]hy should the [German} Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will  never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.... But perhaps I am partial to the Complexion of my Country, for such Kind of Partiality is natural to Mankind."

 

 

 


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.