Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Democrats' Ethnic Split

Never mind that Democrats are splitting between their left-wing progressive elitists and their more moderate wing. There's also trouble on the ethnic front, as the fighting Irishman, Pat Buchanan, observes. Sure, the Democrats are going to benefit from the minoritization of whites as non-whites become a larger and larger proportion of the electorate.

Yet, within the Barack Obama coalition -- over 60 percent of Asian-Americans, 68 percent of Hispanics, 78 percent of Jews, 95 percent of blacks -- fissures and fractures have become visible, not only along racial and ethnic lines, but along issue and ideological lines.

Asian Americans are fracturing over Affirmative Action; Jews are fracturing over support for Israel; blacks and Hispanics are dividing over patronage and turf.

Actually, I think that too much can be made of this. The key factor in splitting people off from the Democratic Party is the hyphen. When people stop thinking of themselves as hyphenated Americans, but just Americans, that's when they are ready to become Republicans.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this effect is starting in the black community. We've seen blacks calling themselves "Americans" at Tea Party rallies. We are also seeing black candidates running for Congress as Republicans. There's Allen West, who's a retired army colonel running in Florida's 22nd District. And today's poster boy is Ryan Frazier, running for Colorado's 7th District. According to his campaign site:

Ryan Frazier is a husband and father of three, a military veteran, a small businessman, an elected representative, and a co-founder of a pre-K through 8th grade public charter school.

They don't get more Republican than that.

The biggest reason that keeps ethnics in the Democratic Party is the feeling of being an embattled minority. When you feel like that you belong in the Democratic Party, because the Democrats provide an institutional framework for people that feel threatened by the larger society.

Sooner or later, the members of ethnic groups discover, one by one, that it's safe to go into the water. That's when they leave the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, it can't hurt, as Pat Buchanan point out, that the coming age of austerity makes it difficult for Democratic bosses to share out an expanding pie among their hungry clients.

When the pie is expanding, everyone can have a larger slice. The crisis of the Party of Government, however, is that we have entered an era where most Americans distrust government and many detest government. Second, with the national debt surging to 100 percent of gross domestic product and a third consecutive deficit running at 10 percent of GDP, we are entering a time of austerity, a time of shared sacrifice.

How will a period of austerity play out? Let's face it: nobody knows.

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