Conservatives vs. Conservation: How the GOP Drives Off White Voters


Environmental historian William
Cronon writes that [Newt Gingrich`s Contract with
America] "came to grief in good measure because
most Americans continue to believe that protecting the
environment is a good thing." Newt now thinks so,
too, and has admitted that Republicans are "malpositioned" on the
environment. … Wirthlin Worldwide, a polling firm
associated with Republican
causes, reports that "2 out of 3 Americans say we
need to protect the
environment no matter what it costs." In 1999,
Zogby International, another pollster heavily used by
the GOP, surveyed probable Republican
primary voters in five key states and found about
as much support for  "protect
environment" (92.8%) as for "encourage family
values" (93.4%). … [I]f I were running the party,
I don`t think I would tie myself closely to the
losing side of a broad national argument.

estimable John Leo

U.S. News & World Report,

things I`ve written in
have proven more controversial than my
pointing out that if Bush had won 57% of the
white vote, instead of only 54%, he would have had a
landslide in the Electoral College – and that therefore
the GOP should look for issues to shore up its
demographic base. 

other critics: Free
proprietor Jim
, who pulled it from his chat site on the curious grounds
that doing arithmetic was “promoting racism.” I criticized this silly
decision, apparently irritating Robinson to the point
where he has now banned VDARE altogether. Boo hoo.

critics objected because they believed me to be saying
that white people`s votes are worth more than nonwhites`
votes. Others, who had read my essay more closely, were
incensed for the opposite reason: because I had clearly
presumed that everybody`s vote is of equal worth. These
multi-culturally sensitive folks felt that, while this
might technically be true, everybody who is anybody
knows that some votes (i.e. nonwhites`) are more morally
equal than others (i.e. whites`).

reality, I was simply noting that Republicans are much
more likely to find the votes that they need to win by
increasing their white share marginally
than by trying to increase their minority share enormously. Note, for example, that Bush`s paltry popular vote total
would have benefited more by his winning
merely three percentage
points more white votes than by tripling his share of
black votes
. After all,
whites cast 81% of all votes in 2000 and more than 90%
of Bush`s votes.

other critics chided me for speaking frankly about
"white voters" in the blunt manner that
campaign managers use with their candidates, rather than
in those arcane euphemisms they use with the press
("middle Americans," "the suburban
vote," "soccer moms"). These delicate
souls felt that political journalism ought to avoid
frank discussions of race. Instead, it should stick to
talking about proxies for race, like income and
education level.

the plain fact is that you can`t think intelligently
about American voters without thinking about race.
Class, while useful, is hardly a substitute for descent.

example, Jewish-Americans and Japanese-Americans tend to
be highly affluent and educated. But for decades they
have voted for Democrats as solid ethnic blocs.
Similarly, middle class blacks are slightly more likely
to vote Republican than underclass blacks – but hardly
enough to matter to any political strategist.

is race so important in politics? Because the only
usable definition of a racial group is: "an
extremely extended
family that inbreeds to some degree
In other words, race starts at home, in the family. And
cultural attitudes and their accompanying political
preferences start at home, too. Since people generally
vote like their relatives, racial groups – which are
networks of relatives – tend to vote together as well. 
That`s why the cultural predilections that are
inculcated in children tend to follow racial lines among

example, whether or not you grow up to have an active
love of the outdoors generally depends upon whether your
parents dragged you out hiking and camping when you were
a kid. In the U.S. today, class has less to do with this
than race.

first noticed this twenty years ago in California. 
A Swiss-American who had been hiking since
toddlerhood, I tried to drag a Taiwanese-American
girlfriend to beautiful Malibu Creek for a three-mile
walk. We came from nearly identical economic classes.
Both our fathers were aerospace engineers, although
while I grew up on the flatlands of the San Fernando
Valley, her house on the Palos Verdes peninsula enjoyed
a spectacular view of Catalina Island. Yet she was
profoundly disturbed that I wanted her to try an
activity where she couldn`t wear high heels.

little later, I had a conversation with a San Francisco
cousin. He was making a bundle buying Victorian houses
from little old ladies and selling them to Hong Kong
families who always paid with suitcases full of cash. He
mentioned that the one thing his buyers always insisted
as a precondition of purchase was to take the home`s
lovely backyard garden and pave it over with asphalt.

East Asians are far more likely at least to pretend to
care about conservation than are blacks and Hispanics.

I can`t imagine that there is anything genetic about
these racial differences in attitude toward nature. I`m
sure they depend simply upon your upbringing. Nor will I
argue over which kind of upbringing is objectively
better. All I want to do is to point out three things:

On average white people in America currently care far
more deeply about protecting the environment than
nonwhites (with the exception of American Indians). For
example, the Sierra Club is 93% white, even though its
home state of California is less than half white. Only
1% of visitors to Yellowstone National Park are
Hispanic. You can test this for yourself. The next time
you go for a hike, just the look at who you pass on the

The GOP is alienating white voters by positioning itself
on the unpopular side of conservation issues that matter
emotionally to its core vote. (See the John Leo quote

There is no evidence that Republican
anti-environmentalism picks up nonwhite votes to
compensate for the votes it loses among whites. As far
as anybody can tell, minorities tend to be apathetic
toward environmentalism – not hostile. To the extent
that we do succeed in assimilating immigrants into the
dominant white culture, they will eventually also become
environmental enthusiasts.  

conservation ought to be a major issue for
conservatives. It`s a fine way to shore up the
demographic base of the Republican Party without
alienating minorities.

the Bush Administration appears to be trying to drive
away its natural constituency. No doubt, there are
strong scientific arguments in favor of each unpopular
step it has taken. But George W. Bush lacks the
outstanding communication skills necessary to turn these
technical arguments into something that could connect
emotionally with voters.

conservatives of The Wall
Street Journal
Editorial Page stripe offer numerous
justifications for their politically-damaging stands.
They argue that environmentalism is an obsession of
affluent, college-educated whites. There`s something
elitist, even racist, they imply, about catering to
well-to-do, well-educated white people when the issue is
of no interest to, say, immigrant factory workers.

But keep in mind that the people who vote are a lot more
white, well-to-do, and well-educated than the general

the white electorate is becoming ever more wealthy and
well-educated. And this trend won`t stop. In exit polls,
74% of voters of all races claimed to have attended
college for at least awhile. A surprising 18% said they
had a graduate degree – and only 44% of those people
voted for Bush. A full 15% of voters said they made over
$100,000 per year – and Bush took only 54% of their
votes. In other words, Bush only broke even among what
ought to be his rock solid base: the upper-middle class.

does not mean that the GOP should simply adopt a policy
of me-too-ism toward every knuckleheaded environmental
scheme the Democrats dream up. There`s a repulsive
element of misanthropy in much of mainstream
environmentalism that the GOP can profitably confront.

a future column, I`ll outline a novel pro-family
conservation philosophy that could revitalize the
Republican Party`s appeal to white voters.

[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

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April 16,