Riordanism Won`t Work – But Proves Hispanic Conservatism A Myth
We have been told for years by “conservative”
immigration enthusiasts that Hispanics are
natural cultural conservatives who will—Real
Soon Now—flock to the electoral aid of the
Republican Party in its culture war with
liberals. The current gubernatorial primary
campaign in California is providing more
evidence that this is w-r-o-n-g.
Former L.A. mayor Richard Riordan is trying to convince
Republicans to vote for him in the March 5th primary by
claiming he`d be the most "electable" Republican in
November. He`s simultaneously catering to two groups who
don`t participate much in Republican primaries: Latinos,
by promising to deliver lots of benefits to illegal
immigrants; and white liberals, by making common
cause with them on abortion, gay "civil unions," and
gun control. These, note, are stances that Hispanics
What`s interesting is the dog that hasn`t barked.
Neither Riordan nor Democratic Governor Gray Davis
(who`s clawing to position himself to the left of
Riordan on cultural issues) appear at all worried about
the theoretical contradiction in pursuing both East L.A.
and West Hollywood. They believe—with good reason, as we
shall see—that they can safely ignore the vaunted
cultural conservatism of Hispanics.
California, long viewed as the promised land of the
American middle class, has in recent decades been taking
on something of the
highly unequal social structure of neighboring
Mexico. It is attracting both
wealthy white liberals
and the poor immigrants
who serve them. Consequently, rising housing costs and
chaotic public schools have sent the middle class
fleeing to the inland West.
all states, California now has the lowest percentage of
its population with a midlevel education (i.e, a high
school diploma or some college). In contrast, California
now has two million graduate degree holders and also a
remarkable 2.2 million adults who have never seen the
inside of a high school.
Native Californian couples with three kids and one
income have been heading for Utah and
Colorado. They are being replaced by newcomer
couples from "back East" with one kid, two incomes, and
an immigrant servant or two.
The Republican Parties in nearby states have benefited
from this outflow of conservatives. But in California,
the GOP was in danger of sinking beneath the waves,
until Gov. Davis` dithering over the state`s energy
crisis gave Republicans new hope.
Still, the long run demographic trends look grim.
According to the
Census Bureau, Hispanics cast 13.9% of the votes in
the 2000 election in California, versus merely
4.4% in the rest of the country. George W. Bush won
only 29% of their votes. Meanwhile, California`s white
population is increasingly made up of people who believe
they are wealthy enough to insulate their few children,
and thus despise less-affluent conservatives who want
the government to help defend their children.
California`s whites, who once produced Richard Nixon and
Ronald Reagan, gave only 48% of their vote to Bush in
Some Republican poobahs look to Riordan as the man who
can fix both problems at once. The
L.A. Times reported,
"Much of the pressure on Riordan to enter the race came
from national party leaders who see him as a vehicle to
recast the party`s
anti-immigrant image in California."
And Riordan is also making a lot of non-Republican /
non-Californian hearts thump faster. They hope he`s
starting a trend. Riordan is their favorite type of
Republican: the kind that`s not so damn Republican.
For example, Peter Beinart, editor of The New
"Richard Riordan may be the [national] Republicans` last
chance… [O]n issues like abortion, gay rights, and
immigration, he would make [ultraliberal Minnesota
Senator] Paul Wellstone swoon… If Riordan wins, …the
most powerful Republican outside Washington will
disagree with core Republican principles. As governor of
America`s largest state, Riordan would have the
political platform that his ideological soulmate Rudy
Giuliani lacked. And he could conceivably launch the
first serious liberal Republican presidential bid in a
generation, a bid that would shake the GOP to its
This is grounded on four misconceptions.
- First, as Peter Brimelow and Ed Rubenstein have
pointing out since 1997, if there is no major
cutback in immigration, the long term national prospects
of the Republican Party are dire anyway. However, the
national GOP still has time to
save itself. Its collapse in California was the
result not just of Democrats moving in, but also of
Republicans moving out. On the national level, of
course, Republicans have nowhere to go.
- Second, Beinart`s dream that Riordan, a
grandfatherly septuagenarian, might stage a 1912 Teddy
Roosevelt-style liberal uprising against George W.
Bush in 2004 is not exactly the talk of the town in
Los Angeles. By L.A. standards, Riordan was a
decent mayor—at least nobody
burned down much of the city on his watch, as
happened under each of the last two mayors. He was
certainly a lot better than his opponents, who came from
the laughable left. Still, Riordan left office with
three regions of the city—the enormous San Fernando
Valley, the Harbor, and Hollywood—talking seriously
about seceding. Both the Republican businessman who
Riordan endorsed to succeed him in the 2001 mayoral
primary and also the leftist Hispanic Democrat he
endorsed in the subsequent general election went down in
- Third, How exactly could Riordan run to the left
of President Bush on immigration? I mean, what would
Riordan have to do to appear even more pro-illegal
Karl Rove`s candidate? Call for mass expulsions of
native-born citizens to make more room for illegals?
- Fourth, Beinart`s assumption that Riordan even has
a liberal soul is open to question. Over the years,
Riordan`s given money to almost as wide an array of
politicians as…Enron`s Ken Lay. You have to pay if you
want to play in L.A.`s inside games.
Still, Riordan may be an old codger, but he`s a
clear-eyed one. Because of his promiscuous financial
ties to politicians across the spectrum, he was free to
semi-plausibly position himself almost anywhere on any
issue when he decided to run for governor. So let`s pay
attention to how Riordan evaluated the Hispanics.
Riordan obviously feels he can freely pursue white
cultural liberals on abortion, gays, and gun control
without alienating Hispanics. Hispanics, he believes,
care far more about the bread and butter issues like
Gray Davis agrees. He`s not worrying about appeasing
delicate Hispanic sensibilities on abortion. Instead,
he`s spending big money to position himself to the left
of Riordan on abortion. Right now, even before the
the Governor is running anti-Riordan ads revealing
the shocking news that Riordan has in the past given
money to candidates who were pro-life. Riordan, Davis
inform us, has even expressed moral qualms about
Recent history supports these two expert politicians`
assumptions about the unimportance of
cultural issues to California Hispanics.
an important article in the liberal The American
Prospect (6/18/01) celebrating the rapidly growing
power of California`s Latino-labor-leftist alliance, the
former L.A. Weekly editor Harold Myerson
years the conventional wisdom about the future of
California politics was … that when Latinos finally got
around to voting, their cultural conservatism would
shift the state rightward … Their economic
progressivism, however, has consistently trumped their
In California`s myriad initiative elections,
Hispanics have indeed sometimes voted on the cultural
conservative side. But single-issue initiatives are
largely a sideshow outside California. The process
doesn`t exist in the U.S. Constitution. Overwhelmingly,
elections in America mean voting for people rather than
for laws. And Hispanics who want to make a career
getting elected overwhelmingly sign up as
Democrats—roughly, nine out of ten Hispanic
officeholders are Democrats. Thus, they overwhelmingly
join coalitions with cultural liberals.
Further, as Myerson notes:
as wedge issues splitting Latinos from other liberals,
these [culturally conservative initiative] measures were
utter failures. While voting to the right on cultural
questions, Latinos were voting to the left—well to the
left—on economic matters. Compared with African
Americans, they were more supportive of both a 1996
initiative to raise the minimum wage and a giant 1998
school bond measure. They were more decisive even than
union members in rejecting a 1998 initiative from Newt
Gingrich and Grover Norquist to curtail union
political-action programs (Latinos rejected the measure
by a 75-to-25-percent margin). On using the state and
unions to promote economic opportunity, Latinos are the
single most progressive voting bloc in California."
The economic situation of Hispanics has simply been too
dire for many to give votes to conservative candidates
just because they agree with them on culture war
issues…if they do.
the boom year of 1999, Californians at the 25th income
percentile were making 9 percent less than their
counterparts in the boom year of 1969 … The change is
most apparent in Los Angeles County, which grew by 7.4
percent during the 1990s while the number of Angelenos
in poverty rose by 64 percent.
Myerson never mentions the politically-incorrect reason
why, despite their hard work, California`s Hispanics
make unsatisfactory economic progress. To use a
Marxist phrase Myerson no doubt is familiar with,
Latino-American citizens` wages are held down by the
similarly-skilled "reserve army of the unemployed" that
keeps arriving from south of the border.
(The law of supply and demand is why United Farm Worker
Cesar Chavez hated illegal immigration from Mexico
so much that he`d volunteer his UFW staffers to the INS
as vigilante border guards.)
Message: If you want Hispanic-Americans to evolve
into Reagan Democrats prosperous enough to afford to
vote Republican, then enact the same reform that enabled
an economically comfortable white ethnic working class
to emerge in the middle of the last century: an
If, like Myerson, you want Hispanics to stay a
borderline-poor proletariat, ripe for the kind of
political radicalization going on in California,
then keep the floodgates open.
you want liberal Republicans to get control of the GOP,
mass immigration might be an excuse. Except that liberal
Republicans end up losing in the general election
anyway. Democrats prefer real Democrats. Real
Republicans stay home.
you`re a cultural conservative – well, you can console
yourself that the immigration-driven growth of
California`s Latino-labor-leftist alliance is even
worse news for libertarians.
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and
February 05, 2002