Pat Buchanan and Chuck D. Now that's a show I would pay to see.
In 1990's "Fear of a Black Planet," the third album from Chuck D's influential hip-hop group Public Enemy, the title-track lyrics asked: "What is pure? Who is pure? Is it European state of being? I'm not sure."
Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan would seem to have no such uncertainty. He counseled Republicans to score political points during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor by stoking white resentment. On Rachel Maddow's
show on MSNBC, he said: "This has been a country built basically by white folks, who were 90 percent of the nation in 1960, when I was growing up, and the other 10 percent were African-Americans who had been discriminated against."
Meanwhile, Republican senators are explaining their votes for and against Sotomayor, with one eye on their base and another on the changing demographic profiles of their districts. What's an embattled candidate to do?
The election of an African-American president was supposed to signal racial reconciliation among Americans who vote. Well, who said there wouldn't be bumps along the way? But when you take emotion out if it, what's left are the numbers. And the numbers in recent census findings and polls suggest a shift in demographics that could affect future elections. One way to predict what happens next is to examine how Barack Obama put together a winning coalition.
Was his a successful permanent strategy or a fluke based on one man and one economic collapse? Could a path to electoral victory be forged with racial division? Will all become clear with the 2010 census?
The fact is, if only whites had voted on Nov. 4, 2008, John McCain would be the president of the United States. In the 2008 presidential contest, McCain won 55 percent
of the white vote. (An exception was white voters between the ages of 18 and 29, who went 54 percent for Obama.)
It was nothing new. Democrats have fared badly
among that particular demographic. Obama actually made greater inroads than John Kerry and Al Gore.
It's the country that has changed and is continuing to change. In May
, the U.S. Census Bureau released national population estimates "showing that our nation is becoming older and more racially and ethnically diverse. The estimates found that nearly half (47 percent) of the nation's children younger than 5 were a minority in 2008, with 25 percent being Hispanic."
A recent census analysis titled "Data Show Significant Increases Among Hispanic, Black and Young Voters" was summarized in The New York Times. It found that while voter turnout in 2008 was about the same as in 2004 (64 percent of voting-age citizens), the makeup of the 131 million who voted changed:
"While the number of non-Hispanic white voters remained roughly the same, 2 million more blacks, 2 million more Latinos and 600,000 more Asians turned out. Compared with 2004, the voting rate for black, Asian and Hispanic voters increased by about four percentage points. The rate for whites declined by one percentage point."
The story said, "One of the biggest changes was the gap between black and white participation. In 2004, the rate of black voter registration was 10 percentage points below that of whites. Last year, it narrowed to four percentage points." Younger blacks and black women, in particular, turned out.
"The electorate in last year's presidential election was the most racially and ethnically diverse in U.S. history, with nearly one-in-four votes cast by non-whites," said an April report on the Pew Hispanic Center
Web site. This analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Research Center found that "the number of Latino eligible voters rose from 16.1 million in 2004 to 19.5 million in 2008, or 21.4 percent. In comparison, among the general population, the total number of eligible voters increased by just 4.6 percent."
The facts and figures add up to what Bobbi Bowman calls "The Next America." Bowman, a diversity consultant for the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), writes a column
by that name for the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. Obama's coalition of young and upper-income whites, blacks, Latinos and other minorities is that "next America," she said.
At ASNE, Bowman is putting together a Web site for editors to help them cover the 2010 census because "there is not a lot of institutional memory" in shrinking newsrooms, she said. The 2010 census "will make it very clear that we are going to be a majority-minority nation" in 20 to 25 years, well before the 2043 prediction of the 2000 census.
"That is historic and mind-bending," Bowman writes. New Mexico, Hawaii, Texas and California are already majority-minority states. In her column
, Bowman answers the question, "Why is the U.S. becoming majority-minority at breakneck speed?"
"In two words: immigration and aging. Young Spanish and Asian immigrants have flocked to these shores because their labor is needed for both high- and low-skilled jobs. At the same time, white people are aging and having fewer children. Non-Hispanic whites were 69 percent of the population in 2000. They're now 66 percent, and that percentage will continue to fall.
"Ninety years ago immigrants who were Italian, Polish, Jewish and Greek changed the face of the country. The 1920 census showed that for the first time in our history more U.S. residents lived in cities than on farms, because of the arrival of huge waves of European immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. Now in the infant years of the 21st century, immigrants from Mexico, India and Central America are again changing the country's face."
What does that mean for voting patterns? It gets tricky, Bowman said, because so much of the minority population is younger than 18. But the next America would not seem to bode well for Pat Buchanan's divide-and-conquer strategy. Politicians will find it increasingly difficult to categorize voters and their interests. In the next America, they might even have to craft a message of unity and shared goals.
It could happen.