Booming Red States, Liberal Elites, and Black Migration

I’ve always maintained that instead of saying President Barack Obama is half-White, half-Black,  he can more appropriately be described as half-Ivy League, half-South Side of Chicago. By that I mean he (Ivy League education, South Side Chicago ties) personifies and symbolizes what modern liberalism has become: a strange coalition of elitist and mostly out of touch planners, thinkers, and professional bureaucrats culled from management and professional schools and poor minorities in urban areas. Even more striking, these professional elites often condescendingly think they know what is best for members of the these poor minority communities in urban areas, and try to centrally plan their lives and environs.

This week, there were four significant stories that I think are important to read regarding demographics and election 2012 and beyond. I cite them below.  The first is a piece in the New York Times that notes how elitist colleges are not economically diverse at all. The second story is an analysis by Richard Florida of data from a Gallup Poll that notes that while America leans more conservative than liberal, that the strength of conservatism lies in poorer and less educated states. People who reside in these economically disadvantaged areas, per the story in the New York Times, do not get any advantages over students from more affluent backgrounds when their numbers are similar. The third story is a brilliant analysis by Walter Russell mead in The American Interest on how the failure of social planners in blue states has caused a massive defection of Blacks back to the the South and more conservative red states. As Mead noted, blacks may still vote blue in the voting booth but, like many others in America, are voting “red” with their feet. Lastly, Ronald Brownstein notes how America is changing demographically rapidly and its potential implication for future elections, particularly as it relates to the Hispanic and Asian vote.

I see two things of immediate concern. Republicans must to better with the Black vote, especially if more Blacks migrate back home to the South. Second, while it is tempting to try and court Asians and Hispanics by being Democrat-Lite, Republicans should keep in mind that they can court Asian and Hispanics with conservative policies, even tough policies and stances on immigration, so long as their rhetoric is not deemed racist or harsh. Conservative policies, including social conservatism, sells and unites so long as it is not packaged around silly rhetoric. America will remain conservative for the near future, but these solidly conservative states are going to see demographic changes. The challenge for the GOP going forward to ensure conservatism remains an enduring force will be to appeal to minorities without straying from the principles that have always made America a center-right nation. The GOP has two problems: many in the party still do not know how to comfortably talk to minorities while purported leaders of minority groups try to falsely speak on behalf of minorities and convince Republicans that the best way to court minorities is to adopt liberal policies, which could not be more wrong. Here are excerpts from the four articles:

1. In the New York Times, the lack of economic diversity among Ivy League schools, particulalry Harvard, is discussed:

Pell Grants are easily the country’s largest financial-aid program and, as a rule of thumb, they tend to go to students who come from the bottom half of nation’s income distribution.

In 2008, the most recent year in the Chronicle’s data, a mere 6.5 percent of Harvard students received Pell Grants. And Harvard wasn’t all that unusual among elite colleges. At Washington University in St. Louis, only 5.7 percent of students received Pell Grants. At the University of Pennsylvania, the share was 8.2 percent. At Duke and Northwestern, it was 8.3 percent. At Notre Dame, it was 8.4 percent. The numbers at Yale (8.9 percent), and Princeton (9.9 percent) were also fairly low. The share at Stanford was 12 percent.

I wouldn’t expect 50 percent of Harvard students — or even, say, 40 percent of Harvard students — to come from the bottom 50 percent of the income distribution. But 6.5 percent? To put it another way, do you believe that more than 93 percent of the students who are most deserving of attending the nation’s most prestigious, best financed college come from the top half of the income distribution?

2. Richard Florida notes in his analysis that American leans conservative and conservative states are more religious but also economically more disadvantaged that more liberal states, on the whole. His analysis, though I do not agree with everything, is compelling:

America is an increasingly conservative nation, by ideology and by political affiliation, according to polling results from the Gallup Organization.

Not surprisingly, states with more conservatives are considerably more religious than liberal-leaning states. The correlation between conservative political affiliation and religion (the share of state population for which religion is an important part of daily life) is considerable (.63).

Conservative states are also less well-educated than liberal ones.  The correlation between conservative affiliation and human capital (that is, the percent of adults who have graduated college) is substantially negative (-.53).

Conservative states are more blue-collar.  Conservative political affiliation is strongly positively correlated with the percentage of the workforce in blue-collar occupations (.73) and highly negatively correlated with the proportion of the workforce engaged in knowledge-based professional and creative work (-.61).

States with more conservatives are considerably poorer than those with more liberals. 

Conservatism, at least at the state level, appears to be growing stronger. Ironically, this trend is most pronounced in America’s least well-off, least educated, most blue collar, most economically hard-hit states. Conservatism, more and more, is the ideology of the economically left behind.  The current economic crisis only appears to have deepened conservatism’s hold on America’s states. This trend stands in sharp contrast to the Great Depression, when America embraced FDR and the New Deal.

3. According to Walter Russell Mead’s analysis, blacks are voting “red” with their feet due to a failure of liberal social policies in northern cities:

The failure of blue social policy to create an environment which works for Blacks is the most devastating possible indictment of the 20th century liberal enterprise in the United States.  Helping Blacks achieve the kind of equality and opportunity long denied them was more than one of many justifications for blue social policy: it was the defining moral task that has challenged and shaped American liberalism for the last fifty years.

The Census tells us that in the eyes of those who know best, these well intentioned efforts failed.  Instead of heaven, we have hell across America’s inner cities.  Blue economic policy has cut the creation of new private sector jobs to a trickle in our great cities, while the high costs of public union urban services (and policies that favor government employees over the citizenry at large) impose crippling taxes and contribute to the ruinously high costs that blight opportunity.  All the social welfare bureaucracies, diversity counselors and minority set-asides can’t make up for the colossal failure of blue social policy to create sustainable lower middle class prosperity in our cities.

Most Blacks of course still vote blue at the ballot box, but more and more of them are voting red with their feet.  They are betting in massive numbers that southern Republicans will do a better job of helping their kids get good educations, police their communities more fairly (see this article, where NYT columnist Charles Blow blames the Black flight from New York on the racist police), offer more affordable housing and create a better business climate.  Over time, this is going to affect the balance of power in Black politics and pull the Democratic Party (and the national consensus) to the right.  Reapportionment is already pulling political power toward the South; New York today has fewer electoral votes than it did at the start of the Civil War and it is going to lose two more House seats in the next division.

The prophets of an emerging Democratic majority driven by demographic growth among Blacks and Hispanics should probably reflect that both southern and ethnic northern whites were once solidly Democratic too. As those groups became a little more affluent and moved into the suburbs, their ideologies and allegiances shifted; will Blacks and Hispanics be any different?

Americans ultimately have to accept the reality that you can’t eliminate poverty by hiring professionals with postgraduate degrees and six figure incomes to sit in downtown offices and engineer policy solutions to urban ills.  Poverty in a society like ours is a human problem and it is solved one human being at a time, usually through person to person contact: above all the parent but also the teacher, the preacher, the mentor, the entrepreneur who helps the lost and the overcome find solid ground on which to stand and build a life.

As Blacks flee the citadels of blue thought, and as the paladins of blue like Bob Herbert move toward retirement, the problems of the inner cities and the underclass are still very much with us.  Top down solutions and bureaucratic interventions have at best a limited utility in this new environment; it is time for a national re-think and a national re-engagement on the problems of race, poverty and class.

4. Ronald Brownstein notes that though percentage of Hispanics and Asians who vote lag behind their population, they will soon be a huge force in coming elections and may put new states into play:

Minorities’ share of the vote, however, has always lagged their share of the population. That’s partly because of differentials in registration and turnout, but also because a substantial number of Hispanics are either in the U.S. illegally or have not gone through the process to become citizens. Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, a nonpartisan group that supports Hispanic political participation, estimates that 13 million Hispanics who are eligible to register to vote have not done so, a number equal to about 40 percent of the adult Hispanic population.

That large untapped pool helps explain why Hispanics, who are now 14 percent of the adult population, cast only 9 percent of the votes in the last presidential election. The proportion of Asians in the electorate also substantially trails their presence in the population: They represent almost 5 percent of adults, but cast only 2 percent of votes in 2008, according to exit polls. African-Americans actually punched above their weight in that election, casting 13 percent of ballots while representing just 11.6 percent of all adults, the new census results show.

Even though minorities haven’t maximized their potential impact in the electorate, the sheer weight of the underlying population change has been irresistible. Since 1992, exit polls have found that the percentage of nonwhite voters in presidential elections has more than doubled, from 12 percent when Bill Clinton first won the White House to 26 percent in 2008. Obama got four-fifths of that nonwhite vote, which helps explain how he won the largest share of the popular vote of any Democratic presidential nominee since Lyndon Johnson while winning only 43 percent of whites’ votes.

If the minority share of the vote increases in 2012 by the same rate it has grown in presidential elections since 1992, it will rise to about 28 percent nationally. By itself, that could substantially alter the political playing field from 2010, when the minority vote share sagged to just 22 percent. It means that if Obama can maintain, or even come close to, the four-fifths share of minority votes that he won in 2008, he could win a majority of the national popular vote with even less than the 43 percent of whites he attracted last time.