Sunday, November 18, 2012

50 Shades of Brown

When I returned to teaching college English, I helped select a textbook of essays for students to read and then discuss.  We selected a text with a wonderful variety of engaging essays on a wide array of topics.  One of the essays, written in 1998 by Luis Urea and titled “Nobody’s Son”, included the observation that by the year 2050 “Latinos will be the majority population of the world. Not only will America be ‘brown,’ but it will also be the home of the new Democrats.”

I posed the question to the class—what do you think will happen in the U.S. when the majority population is brown?  Well, swaggered one student, it won’t matter because whites will still hold the power.  And, I swear, he snickered at his brilliance.  Maybe this year, that former student voted for Romney—and like Romney must have been stunned when Romney didn’t win.
Welcome to the new normal, as they say.  Or, as they say—this is not your father’s Oldsmobile.

There have been many analyses of the reasons why the 2012 presidential election turned out the way it did.  I can’t compete with all that greater wisdom, but I find it noteworthy that, as far back as 1998, someone such as Luis Urea anticipated the impact of a political party’s stance on issues would have on voting response.  He wrote: “most Mexican immigrants—both ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’—would vote Republican if given a chance, except the Republicans scare them.”
This wisdom was something that Bill O’Reilly and Karl Rove seemed unable to fathom.  Karl Rove’s meltdown on Fox News was particularly embarrassing, excruciating, and delicious to watch.  Perhaps—like too many Republicans, he has ignored facts for so long that, when faced with indisputable statistical evidence, he simply couldn’t believe that the skewed polls the Romney campaign had been relying on toward the end of the campaign could have been wrong.  But wrong they were, and wrong Rove was. 

When it came to Romney’s explanation as to why he lost, he also ignored the numbers, focusing instead on a variation on his 47% theme.  Obama—according to Romney—simply gave too many gifts to too many groups of people and Romney couldn’t compete with that.  Gifts?  Oh, right—such as forgiveness of college loan interest, or health care, or amnesty for children born in the U.S. or brought here as infants by parents who were illegal immigrants.  Sounds rather like Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus.”
I found it fascinating if not troubling that Romney saw those things as gifts—with a clear implication that the recipients were not worthy to receive—but did not see his own plans as gifts.  What about more tax breaks for the rich?  What about privatizing some of the essential elements of government so investors could reap the profits?  Romney also didn’t seem to realize that he himself benefits from “gifts”—a tax structure that grants him a far lesser tax burden than it does most of the people he disparaged.

But I digress.
If you want to delve into the numbers a bit more, here’s a fascinating graphic that looks at where Obama’s strength was, and where Romney’s was. Note that the trends that have continued to move in Obama’s favor are voters of Hispanic background. 

We are now two weeks past the election—and Romney has had his say.  Amazingly, other leaders in the Republican Party are distancing themselves from the “too many gifts” approach.  And, some of these leaders are even beginning to recognize that, if the Republican Party is going to survive into the future, it has to begin to reckon with the new normal.  Whites are now becoming a minority—as Bill O’Reilly observed, with a touch of amazement—and now there are fifty shades of brown. 

P.S. Karl Rove's new job (thanks to



NCmountainwoman said...

I have looked at the statistical maps showing the great divide(s) in our country. We absolutely must find some common ground.

Unknown said...

As always, I'm so impressed by the way you put things. I, too, hope that common ground is reached but I find myself one of those liberals who doesn't think it should be by my compromise. Short-sided, perhaps. I try to err on the side of kindness and optimism. I'm not willing to compromise on health care, social safety nets, education, women's health and rights, and many other things. And, yes, I'm willing to pay more taxes in trade off.

I wonder when my gifts are going to arrive though. I voted for Obama but I haven't gotten a goody bag from him. Doesn't seem fair! :)

Anvilcloud said...

The Republicans are paying the price of embracing the fringe and also running a slate of less than stellar candidates.

troutbirder said...

Good summary as always. Thanks! :)

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I believe that the United States will become "brown" as you put it, I think it will also become bilingual with Spanish being the second language. The Hispanic population is not like other immigrant groups. They have very large numbers and seem to want to maintain much of their rich culture. They will be loath to given up their language (for language is culture) as happened to the French Canadians in New England. With a whole Latin continent and large part of ours adjacent to the US, Hispanic culture (s) will continually be refreshed. It would be the progressive thing to do to adapt to this reality and accept Spanish as another official language in many American States, thus broadening and enriching the American culture.

Long ago, I read a book on FDR. It pointed out how he was a traitor to his class (New England establishment people were Republicans). He believed that immigrant groups would come to share in the American values he cherished if they were given a chance to be a real part of America. He became a Democrat and formed the great coalition of immigrants, workers, the poor, and progressive that shaped America for so many years. Hopefully, Obama Democrats will hold together a similar coalition.

Ginnie said...

Beautifully written. I just can't watch Fox news but my middle son (who is just as liberal as I am) watches all the shows to get the varying opinions. Election night he called me and said "Mom, you've got to hear what Karl Rove is saying on Fox. Absolutely incredible."
I fail to see how anyone with their eyes open could miss seeing that there are huge changes going on and I, for one, prefer to welcome the changes and grow from it ... rather than be left behind.

Climenheise said...

I note that Canadian conservatives got the message some years ago, part of why they now govern Canada -- they decided to try to appeal to immigrants. Not with complete success, but with some success. Guliani was insightful after the election, calling the Republican Party to embrace fiscal conservatism and to push for local control of value issues.

Although I was a registered Democrat in Indiana, I want to see a responsible and strong Republican Party. Same for the Democratic Party. We need to strong and sensible parties -- not what we have now in which both parties would love to eradicate the other. I've blogged about this myself, so no more here. We'll see if Rove et al learned anything.