Fifty two weeks ago, I pointed out that the Democrats` winning 2008 strategy–positioning Barack Obama to blacks as the black candidate, to Asians and Hispanics as the minority candidate, and to whites as the postracial candidate–did not make for a long-term stable political strategy. To quote me: "A black-led four-race coalition is an inherently fragile thing." [Sailer Strategy Supplement: Rebrand Democrats As The Black Party, October 04, 2009]
Now I have to congratulate me. Subsequent electoral events in the heart of the political universe–the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia–are proving these inherent fragilities.
I was recently asked by a political savant: How could the Republicans survive in the future when the electorate is significantly more nonwhite? I replied: "How do they survive in the South today?" The answer, of course: by winning a larger share of the white vote–just as Democrats win a huge share of the black vote all across the country.
He briefly expressed surprise at this concept, then conceded that this, indeed, is how things work in the largest region of the country.
But how enthusiastic, he asked, will the growing number of non-black minority voters be about a Republican Party that wins a large fraction of white votes?
What we might laughingly call the Republican brain trust has been terrified that, in the competition for Asian and Hispanic votes, the GOP might be seen as the White Party. But the downside for the Democrats of being seen as the Black Party are less discussed, although they are potentially much worse. After all, immigrants had their reasons for moving to a white-run country like the U.S. rather than to a black-run country like Haiti.
No doubt immigrant ethnic elites will align with the Democrats. But that doesn`t mean their putative followers will vote the way they are told. With Asians and Hispanics, there`s always a high likelihood that they just won`t bother to vote.
Case in point: Political trends in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area–of special interest since it represents a Best Case Scenario for Obama Era Democrats.
As imperial and economic power has been consolidated in the federal government since the 1930s, the Washington metropolitan area, long reviled by foreign ambassadors as a humid, dull backwater, has grown vastly in wealth and talent. For example, the DC Metro Area now leads the country in percentage of residents with college degrees (47 percent), well ahead of Silicon Valley with 43 percent. (Riverside, CA is last in the U.S. with 19 percent.)
In theory, the region should be a Democratic electoral utopia. Almost everybody is either a government employee or the relative or neighbor of a government employee. There`s a large, politically sophisticated black population, including one of the country`s biggest black middle classes. Wealth has attracted a large number of immigrants from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Moreover, the economy has been relatively strong in the Washington area. (See the September 30, 2010, article in the Washington Business Journal, Washington job growth third-best in nation. by Jeff Clabaugh) So the Democrats` current all-purpose excuse that they are just experiencing a little in-flight turbulence is less applicable here.
And yet … things aren`t working out quite so well in the Washington area as Democratic strategists would figure.
The first regional symptom appeared in November 2009. The state of Virginia, which had given 53 percent of its vote to Obama the year before, suddenly elected Republican Bob McDonnell governor with 59 percent. The white share of votes went up from 70 percent in 2008 to 78 percent in 2009, and their devotion to the GOP increased from 60 percent to 67 percent. Non-black minorities dropped from 10 percent to 6 percent of the votes.
Well, okay, that`s Virginia, a traditionally Republican state. But what about enlightened Maryland?
A reader recently alerted me to trends in Montgomery County, Maryland, just north of D.C., home to Chevy Chase and other elegant suburbs. It`s the eighth wealthiest county in the country and perhaps the best educated: 29 percent of adults claim advanced degrees. Obama won 71.5 percent of the vote in 2008. By 2009, the population was down to 52 percent non-Hispanic white (It`s 18 percent black, 16 percent Hispanic, 14 percent Asian).
Montgomery County is Democratic Nirvana.
Or it ought to be–except that as it gets more diverse, it gets less engaged with public affairs. The reader pointed me to a September 16, 2010 post in the Maryland Political Watch blog, On Montgomery County`s Plummeting Turnout. Even in this extremely politicized locale, turnout in the September 14th Maryland primary dropped to a new record low of only 15 percent of voting age residents. Montgomery County Democrats just couldn`t be bothered to turn out and vote in 2010–especially in nonwhite districts.
Finally, there`s the District of Columbia itself, where the recent mayor`s race disillusioned many white liberals. And there sure are a lot of them in D.C. The 2008 exit poll had Obama winning 86-12 in Washington … among whites!
So Washington D.C. features the most liberal whites in captivity. Yet, as the acrimonious D.C. mayoral election of September 14th illustrated, the white-black political division within the city is rising to another peak.
First, some background: the Constitution makes Congress the ultimate authority in the District.
During the Kennedy Administration, Alabama governor George Wallace would taunt Jack and Bobby for demanding more black electoral power in Southern states than the Kennedys were willing to allow in D.C., where they lived. Wallace challenged JFK:
"I think the American people should have a right to look at the city of Washington bein` controlled by its local inhabitants, and therefore, because I would just like to see what would happen, I think you ought to have home rule."[Wallace, By Marshall Frady(1968) P. 167]
The federal leadership, which had to work in D.C., however, was in less of a hurry to carry out that experiment. Congress didn`t take Wallace up on his challenge until December 24, 1973 when it passed the District of Columbia Home Rule Act allowing for limited local governance. The first District of Columbia mayor was the aptly named Walter Washington, who took office on January 2, 1975.
Generally, the first generation of black mayors in black majority cities tended to be cautious, respectable souls, like Tom Bradley of Los Angeles (1973-1993). But they were soon followed by the "race men", most famously Marion Barry, who was elected mayor of D.C. in 1979.
Whether this notorious event could be considered a coup by the federal government to rid itself of a troublesome mayor is one of those questions that isn`t discussed in polite circles. D.C. voters, however, felt strongly enough about it to return Barry to the Mayor`s office in 1994.
The Feds put in place a financial control board in 1995 to keep Barry from running amok. Moreover, federal agencies have long been expanding their departmental police forces, especially after 9/11 in the name of fighting terrorism. The number of uniformed men with guns on the streets of D.C. increased and crime started to fall.
The crack wars have died down and the crime rate has dropped since Barry`s heyday. So the white share of the D.C. population began to rise again. Blacks with good government jobs had long been leaving for the suburbs. Immigrants, including Africans, whom hospitality employers found generally more amenable than African-Americans, increasingly squeezed out D.C.`s black underclass. (Compare the trajectories of Washington and Baltimore in recent years.)
By the last decade, D.C. was becoming among the most fashionable destinations for young white singles. But, once they stopped being single, who could afford to stay in D.C. rather than move to Montgomery or another suburban county?
The central complaint of young white liberals became D.C.`s schools, which were not only full of black students, but were administered by black bureaucrats for the benefit of black bureaucrats. D.C. whites compared the local black-run public school system to Chicago and New York, where Mayors Richie Daley and Michael Bloomberg had seized control of the schools and installed dynamic white administrators, Paul Vallas and Joel Klein, respectively, to shake up the systems. Publicly, nobody ever quite put it in terms quite that blunt—everybody hand-waved about "bad schools"—but it was hard to avoid thinking that way.
Let`s do the math. Say you are typical nice white engaged couple in D.C., one with a federal job, the other with a media job. You wouldn`t dream of sending your future kids to a mostly black school after puberty, but you think that public education ought to get them through K-5. If D.C., however, can`t provide even decent public elementary schools, though, that comes right out of your net worth. Now, Sidwell Friends, where the Obamas send their children, costs $31,000 per year. But, say, you could find a low end private school charging only $12,000 annually. Well, six years times two children times $12,000 equals $144,000.
Yet if D.C. public elementary schools improved enough so that lots of other nice white people like you become willing to send their kids to them, not only would you save $144,000 in private school tuition, but your property would appreciate in value–because now your condo comes with "good schools"!
Not surprisingly, the national press was excited in 2007 when new D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty, a yuppie black, appointed as school chancellor the energetic and ambitious Korean-American Michelle Rhee. (She`s the heroine of the current much-lauded documentary Waiting for "Superman.") If Rhee could actually clean out the Augean Stables of the D.C. schools, she could literally provide many in the national press with a financial windfall. So when she fired a large number of teachers for underperforming, the white press was ecstatic.
Black voters were not ecstatic with Rhee, however. According to Paul Schwarzman and Chris L. Jenkins of the Washington Post in How D.C. Mayor Fenty lost the black vote - and his job [September 18, 2010]:
"...blacks also see the school system as a primary employer, providing jobs to thousands of teachers, school bus drivers, administrators and secretaries. When Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee laid off hundreds of teachers, many blacks saw … an assault on economic opportunity."
So in the 2010 Democratic primary, Fenty was defeated by veteran black city councilman Vince Gray 54-44:
"Fenty won 53 of the city`s majority-white census tracts but only 10 of those that are predominantly black. Gray, in contrast, captured 108 majority-black census tracts and just five that are majority-white…"
"Rhee got her overrated fame. Now...scam!!! Scat!! …
"She`s a consultant, folks. Nothing more....she just happens to be Asian; something we haven`t seen before, and folks think that means she has created the "Suzuki Method" or something. It`s amazing how much credit a person can get for firing Black professionals. I mean...the chick fires Black folks and ends up on the cover of TIME magazine as courageous?"
This black-led four-race coalition idea … it`s still got a few kinks to work out, doesn`t it?
The Republicans should despair less over how they can survive and think more about how they deserve to survive.
[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA`S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA`S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]