The left doesn’t own minority voters
Unless left-wing parties drop their woke dogmas, they’ll struggle in the increasingly diverse West.
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Demographic transitions present political opportunities, but do not protect politicians from their own folly. The shift in most Western countries to a more racially and ethnically diverse demographic has been widely seen by left-wingers as an opportunity to cement their ascendancy.
Yet after early successes with this strategy, the parties of the left have witnessed the departure of some minority voters – Hindus in Britain, Asians in Australia, and Asians and Hispanics in the United States. In some cases, minorities are opting out of the intersectional bandwagon, which includes certain cultural attitudes, imposed progressivism in schools, and an increasing tolerance of crime.
Sadly, racialism and constant campaigns to address ‘systemic racism’ have driven a certain element of working-class whites not only in Trumpian America, but also in France, Britain, Germany and even Scandinavia, towards nativist, even openly racist, politics. As Michael Lind among others suggest, the fashionable focus on ‘white privilege’ and assigning original sin based on someone sharing DNA with settlers and slave owners also doesn’t work with the majority of Americans, who come from families who came to America after the Civil War. Meanwhile, crowing about ‘the end of white America’ might be popular in ethnic-studies departments, but it does not translate into a better life for most minorities.
Racial minorities’ shift to the centre and the right represents a healthy step, as it undermines the racialist, us-versus-them rhetoric shared both by the nationalist right and the intersectional left. Once politicians begin addressing people as people, with their own interests, and not as artefacts of their own heritage, we can look to employ diversity not as a weapon, but as an asset.
When you ask them, most people of colour do not generally share the politics of the faculty-lounge racialists. Nor do most Americans. The overall PC agenda, built around identity politics, is rejected by 52 per cent of Americans, according to a recent NPR poll. Opposition to PC is even greater among Latinos. The vast majority of all races, noted a 2018 survey, reject the woke anti-racist meme, even as it is widely adopted by the billionaire class and corporate HR departments.
Critically, the vast majority of Americans – including millennials and minorities – do not favour defunding the police, even as these policies are pushed in their name. Most American voters – by wide margins – also reject the notion of teaching concepts derived from critical race theory in schools, even though this effort is supported by most Democrats, powerful teachers’ unions and the White House.
Given these dichotomies, minority pushback was inevitable. Last month New Yorkers, and particularly the African-American community, voted in a former cop, Eric Adams, as mayor. Minority voters also backed more conservative candidates in Buffalo and Seattle. Many Asian voters in New York did not find Adams conservative enough, and instead switched to the Republican, Curtis Sliwa. They also shifted towards Trump in 2020.
These are not isolated incidents. Minorities tilted more strongly to the GOP in the remarkable win in Virginia in November, which delivered a West Indian as lieutenant governor and a Cuban-American as attorney general. The most critical shift to the right is taking place among Latinos, the US’s largest minority, with support for Democratic house candidates down from over 60 per cent to 37 per cent in just a year. The shift is profound in the predominantly Latino, historically Democratic stronghold of South Texas. In part, this is a reaction to Joe Biden’s seeming abandonment of border defences, resulting in a five-fold increase in a year in ‘encounters’ between migrants and law enforcement.
At the heart of this shift lies a cultural chasm of historic proportions. The growing disconnect between minorities and progressives reflects how tone deaf progressives are to the diverse views and interests of racial minorities. This is particularly evident on social issues.
If you think most minorities share the progressive cultural ideology, you might want to think again. African-Americans and immigrants tend to be more religious than many upper-class whites. According to one recent survey, they are also twice as conservative in their social views as the general public.
The cultural gap between the woke and Hispanics is particularly evident, as epitomised by the asinine attempt by progressives to introduce the gender-neutral term Latinx, which few Hispanics use and many resent. Hispanics, who are primarily Catholic or increasingly Evangelical, also tend to be less ‘progressive’ on issues like sex education and the promotion of ‘non-binary’ behaviours. Most critically, Latinos are more likely to favour restrictions on abortion by a 10-point margin than other ethnic groups, notes Pew. As Ronald Reagan used to say: ‘Hispanics are conservative. They just don’t know it.’
Other minorities also tend towards cultural conservatism. Africans come to the developed world often with a more fundamentalist take on Christianity or Islam than usually found in the increasingly woke Western religions. New sex-education standards, which allow for some graphic representations of carnal acts of various kinds, have raised opposition among groups that represent recent immigrants, as well as people active in their faith from Asian, African-American and Muslim communities. These same issues have arisen in Australia, where progressive social policies appear to have eroded support for the leftist Labour Party and helped the right-leaning Liberal Party.
In Europe, the people who most strongly favour welcoming large numbers of immigrants may find most of those who arrive do not share their own secular, progressive values. Many immigrants and refugees from Muslim countries often hold very conservative or even reactionary views on things such as homosexuality and women’s rights. Some European politicians and other leaders, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury, have proposed that elements of Sharia law could be applied on top of existing national standards.
These attitudes suggest that Europe’s racial minorities may be more oriented towards a conservative worldview than expected. Gilles Kepel, one of France’s leading Arabists, observes that Muslims coming to Europe tend to possess ‘a keen sense’ of cultural identity rooted in religion, while the media and academia tend to promote the ‘erasing of identities’, at least for the native population.
Economics may prove even more toxic for the progressives. Racial minorities, particularly immigrants, are strongly inclined to own businesses, both in the US and across most of the high-income world. In the US, where 13.7 per cent of the population is foreign-born, immigrants represent 20.2 per cent of the self-employed workforce and 25 per cent of startup founders.
These minority entrepreneurs, and those working for them, are unlikely to share the view of progressive intellectuals who see crime as an expression of injustice and have excused looting. Many of the victims of ‘no justice, no peace’ are themselves minority business owners. The riots that followed George Floyd’s death simply made things worse for these people, who also face the greatest threat from renewed levels of violent crime in cities such as New York.
In addition to the crime surge, the lockdown policies have been particularly tough on immigrants and minorities. The Covid crisis, by some estimates, wiped out almost half of America’s black-owned small businesses. Mike Madrid, former CEO of the Latino Business Action Network, argues that the regulatory and pandemic restrictions in California have been a ‘man-made disaster’ for small-business owners.
Similar dynamics can be seen in Europe. Indians in Britain tend to be well-educated and often entrepreneurial, which, as the Guardian notes, makes them less sympathetic to the ‘socialist’ policies of Labour. The influx of new Asian immigrants, with conservative social views and concerns about crime, could further bolster the Tories.
So, what kind of policy environment works best for ethnic minorities? Clearly, what Walter Russell Mead calls in the US ‘the blue-state model’ is not working all that well for the Democrats at the grassroots level. Places like the north-east and California, which are rapidly de-industrialising, have become very difficult for working- and even middle-class families. As demonstrated in a recent report for the Urban Reform Institute, minorities have generally done much better – in terms of income and home ownership – in deep red states and regions than in the more ‘enlightened’ blue regions.
Minorities may still vote blue, but many are voting with their feet and moving to red states. African-American populations are stagnant or even declining in places like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland (whose city council is demanding reparations for the very people who are exiting the inner city). Meanwhile, African-American populations are rising in many red-state metros.
Minorities are also becoming suburbanites. In the 50 largest US metropolitan areas, 44 per cent of residents live in racially and ethnically diverse suburbs, ranging from 20 per cent to 60 per cent non-white. Nationwide, in the 53 metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 residents, more than three-quarters of blacks and Hispanics now live in suburban or exurban areas. More than a third of the 13.3million new suburbanites between 2000 and 2010 were Hispanic, with white non-Hispanics accounting for a mere fifth of suburban growth. Britain’s Asians also appear to be heading to the suburbs, which matches their aspirations for home ownership and family friendly space. Much the same can be seen in Australia, and in Canada as well.
Ultimately, the future of the West – locked in a deep demographic decline – lies not in exclusion, but in the successful integration of new populations. Newcomers, even those trying to arrive at great risk, could prove to be the salvation of our societies and economies, or could become agents of Western decline. How we integrate racial minorities will determine the future of our civilisation.
What working-class minorities, the group headed to the right, need is not more Maoist struggle sessions over intersectional issues, but pro-family and pro-growth policies. Indeed, this is how you appeal to the broad working class. Corporate mea culpas about racism, expressions of solidarity with Black Lives Matter and expanding minority corporate-board membership may blunt criticism, but they won’t do anything to help people. Minorities make up over 40 per cent of America’s working class and will constitute the majority by 2032. Appealing to their interests will determine future political success.
Education is likely to be a critical battlefield, as woke educators strive to turn schools into ‘post-colonial’ indoctrination centres and impose woke ideology even in maths and science, areas where many newcomers succeed. Minorities tend to have more children than whites, even though their birth rates, as we can see in California, are dropping. Efforts to dumb down schools by doing such things as eliminating calculus are essentially spitting in the eye of newcomers who are determined to see their children succeed. According to Pew, most minorities, including African-Americans, also overwhelmingly oppose racial quotas for higher education.
Minorities, unlike their political leaders, want useful alternatives, not sops. And so nationwide support for charter schools is strongest in African-American and Latino communities, the majority of whom favour them. Charters also earn far higher rates of satisfaction from parents than conventional public (that is, state) schools. Charters make up just 10 per cent of America’s public high schools, but according to US News they have produced three of the top public schools in the nation. More importantly, students from low-income charters are two to four times more likely to finish college than their peers.
None of this suggests that minorities are necessarily going to shift mostly to the right, as some populist conservatives now fervently hope. If left-wingers can somehow abandon their cultural and environmental dogmatism, and focus on basic economic concerns, they could do quite well in our diverse society. But politicians right and left need to recognise that, like other groups, minorities tend to identify with their own basic interests and those of their children. The parties that focus on addressing these primary concerns, rather than waving the bloody flag of racism, will be most likely rewarded.
Joel Kotkin is a spiked columnist, the presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Urban Reform Institute. His latest book, The Coming of Neo-Feudalism, is out now. Follow him on Twitter: @joelkotkin
Picture by: Getty.