The recent presidential election made clear some deep demographic fault lines: race/ethnicity and marriage. An interesting issue is whether the Republicans should have taken advantage of these fault lines by racializing the election. I should mention that there are many wonderful members of every demographic group and that this fact is irrelevant to this discussion.
Consider race and ethnicity. Citing a Reuters-Ipsos' exit poll Reuters, VDARE writer Steve Sailer points out that the racial and ethnic voting divisions were massive. Sailer noted that only 3 percent of blacks voted for Romney. In comparison 58 percent of whites voted for Mitt Romney (59 percent on the Edison exit poll). The same pattern is true for Hispanics. VDARE's Peter Brimelow, citing a CNN poll, noted that only 27 percent of Hispanics voted for Romney. This is roughly the same for Asians (26 percent voted for Romney).
Next, consider marriage. Sailer notes that 57 percent of married people voted for Romney versus 35 percent of single people. When we combine race and gender, the differences becomes starker. Sixty-two percent of married white women and 65 percent of married white men voted for Romney. Because whites were 72 percent of voters, the election might be stereotypically characterized as a competition between married white voters and everyone else.
This difference is noticeably larger than the gender gap found in CNN's exit polls. Women voted for Obama over Romney 55 to 44 percent. Men voted for Romney over Obama by 52 to 45 percent. These gaps are smaller than the marriage and race/ethnicity gaps.
The Republican establishment is currently pushing for amnesty. By amnesty, I mean making illegal aliens into citizens or legal residents. This clearly will not benefit Republicans. First, there are polling results suggesting that Hispanics don't care much about amnesty. Writing in National Review Online, Heather Mac Donald points out that in a 2011 poll of California Hispanics, more than four times as many Hispanics were opposed to Republican economic policies than their position on immigration (29 versus 7 percent).
Second, a significant number of Hispanics are poor and depend on welfare programs. Mac Donald notes that U.S. born Hispanic households use welfare programs at twice the rate of non-Hispanic U.S.-born households. In California, she notes, Hispanic children are poor at much higher rates than other children. For example 70 percent of the poor children in the state are Hispanic and one in three Hispanic children are poor versus one in six for non-Hispanic children. They also have a relatively high percentage of the population that is low-skilled and poorly educated relative to other groups. Hence, it makes sense that they might be suspicious of a party that wants to cut welfare programs in order to lower taxes on middle class and rich.
Third, Hispanics have made it clear that as a group, they dislike Republicans and that this does not depend on the amnesty issue. While they gave Romney 27 percent of their vote, they almost never give Republicans that much more. In recent history, the high-water mark occurred when George W. Bush got 40 percent of their vote. Sailer points out that even when the Republicans ran someone who sponsored an amnesty bill, Sen. John McCain, he only got 31 percent of the vote, which is close to Romney's 27 percent.
An interesting issue is whether the Republicans should have racialized the election, either by emphasizing issues that focus on racial differences or by making it clear that the issue is in part the groups whose preferences should be put in place.
White voters, especially blue-collar ones crucial to winning the Midwest and Great Lakes states, likely disapprove of amnesty and racial preferences. The Obama administration unilaterally imposed an amnesty (the executive order implementation of the Dream Act). It has also been quietly pushing race- and ethnicity-preferences (see its brief in Fisher v. University of Texas and some of its regulations). The Romney campaign should have trumpeted differences on these issues. It might also have challenged chain immigration. This policy, in effect, favors a flood of low-skilled-and-poor immigrants over a smaller flow of high-skilled-and-rich ones by making immigration depend largely on family relations. Mentioning these issues would likely have helped Romney attract more blue-collar white votes in states where he desperately needed them and would have done so on issues in which the Republicans are in the right.
One obvious objection to this strategy is that it is wrong to divide Americans by race or ethnicity. The objection rests on a false assumption. As long as the division focuses on legitimate policy differences, it is not wrong to bring these differences to the attention of voters, even when doing so has a divisive effect. This is especially true when the policies are unjust and inefficient. Even if it were wrong to divide people, this wrongness still has to be weighed against the wrongness of allowing the U.S. to sink under a sea of debt that is rising to dangerous levels.
A second objection is that such divisive policies wouldn't work because Americans don't care about immigration, race preferences, or a flood of low-skilled-and-poor immigrants. It is likely Americans don't care about the issues only because politicians are wise enough to leave in place the status quo. When in 2007, Congress tried to rush through an amnesty bill without much discussion in Congress or the American people, the public reacted with fury. Since then politicians in both parties have largely avoided the issue like the plague. Obama barely mentioned race preferences both before and during the election. It is obvious why.
Also, there is no obvious reason that the country should continue to approve of the displacement of some demographic groups (for example, those with European ancestry) by others. This displacement occurred and continues to occur as the result of various bills (for example, Ted Kennedy's 1965 Immigration Bill) that changed traditional U.S. immigration policy. Perhaps this is a good idea, but showing this takes an argument. Calling opponents of the displacement "racist" or "xenophobic" isn't an argument, merely name-calling. And given that the replacement groups support policies that further socialize the economy and ratchet up taxes, the voting pattern of non-European immigrants should be part of the discussion.
President Obama won the election in a vote that had clear demographic fault lines. Assuming racializing the campaign to draw attention to the fault lines might well have made a difference, it is hard to see why it shouldn't have been done.
Stephen Kershnar is a Fredonia State philosophy professor. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org