L. A. Election Reveals Persisting Racial Divisions

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the
reaction to last week`s mayoral election in Los
Angeles was that almost no one seemed disturbed by the
ethnic and racial lines
that the voting
followed–while at the same time, almost no one even
bothered to deny that voting followed such lines. Nor
does it seem to occur to most commentators that what
happened in Los Angeles, as the model of the national
political future, carries some pretty heavy
implications for the practice of American democracy.

The election, of course, was between two liberal
Democrats, white City Attorney James Hahn, who won
with 54 percent of the vote, and Hispanic ex-Speaker
of the State Assembly, Antonio Villaraigosa, who lost.
Mr. Villaraigosa was the more leftish of the two, with
endorsements from labor, feminists, and
environmentalists, but the contest`s ideological
color is far less important than its ethno-political

Mr. Villaraigosa carried 82 percent of the Latino
vote in the city, a bloc that constituted nearly 24
percent of all votes cast this year but has increased
from 15 percent of the voters since only 1997. Mr.
Hahn, on the other hand, won 80 percent of the
city`s black voters, who make up 17 percent of all
voters, as well as a majority of whites, except Jewish
voters, who supported Mr. Villaraigosa. Generally,
ethnic minorities vote Democrat and whites vote
Republican, but the presence of two liberal Democrats
on the ticket meant that the racial-ethnic coalition
on which the Democrats depend was split.

Indeed, the separation of black and Hispanic voters
is significant in itself. Mr. Hahn`s father had
strong credentials among blacks as a civil rights
supporter, but the support of the two non-white voting
blocs for different candidates is due to more clearly
racial forces. A black supporter of the Hispanic
candidate told Newsweek
that there is “Bristling in the black community at
all the emphasis on the new Latino numbers.” Blacks
and Hispanics in Los Angeles don`t get along very
well, and the tension was clear in the voting results.

Indeed, you can`t much blame blacks. All of a
sudden, they`re not the nation`s (or at least the
city`s) largest minority anymore, and as mass
immigration from Latin America continues, they`ll be
less and less important. They know that, and so do
Hispanics, who like to crow about how much power
they`re soon going to be wielding.

“This election is going to be seen as the turning
point,” boasted Antonio
, president of the William
C. Velasquez Institute
Institute in Los
Angeles, “the first time that Latinos have contended
for power in modern Los Angeles history. … In the
Villaraigosa campaign in 2001, Latinos began to assert
their true leadership.” If you`re black or even
just not Latino, you might well start wondering
where exactly you were going to fit in the new racial
configuration of power. But for a racial identity that
has developed as much racial consciousness as blacks,
you would probably do more than wonder.

Latino voters may not have won the mayoralty simply
because there still aren`t quite enough of them to
overshadow black voters, but the Latino turnout was
about 34 percent, which is equal to the turnout as a
whole.   Moreover,
Mr. Villaraigosa won 70 percent of the voters who were
casting their first ballots in a California election.
Mr. Hahn, the black`s favored candidate, won this
time, but it`s clear to everyone that the political
future belongs to the Latinos.

Isn`t there something peculiar about that?
Aren`t elections, in the age of “color-blind”
laws and government, supposed to ignore race and
ethnicity? Weren`t the civil rights movement and the
immigration reforms of the 1960s supposed to put an
end to voting by racial and ethnic blocs, just as much
as they put an end to riding in the back of the bus
and determining the number of immigrants by ethnic

What the Los Angeles election tells us—it is not
the first election to tell us this, but simply one
more in a long series that confirms it—is that race
is real,
that race
, regardless of liberal
and lawbooks, and that human beings of
the same race and ethnicity, like birds of a feather,
will flock together.

There is in fact nothing whatsoever peculiar about
voters supporting candidates of the same race or
candidates seen as racial allies (as black voters saw
the white Mr. Hahn), except in the bizarre world of
liberalism itself, which is far less color blind than
it is simply near-sighted. Most people of most races
behave that way all the time, always have and always
will. The only people who still find it peculiar are
the white Americans dumb enough to let liberalism
convince them
that race isn`t real—and who are
now losing their country because of it.


14, 2001