Over at The Week, Damon Linker has written a widely read essay pushing back against the liberal conventional wisdom that “demography will come to their rescue.” In other words, just wait long enough for America to become a minority-white nation, and Democratic ascendancy is guaranteed. Linker says “don’t bet on it.” He rightly notes that non-white citizens hardly constitute a homogeneous demographic, and he rightly notes that ethnic categories may not remain stable over the decades, but the most important aspect of his essay is the warning in the latter half — that the effort to forge non-white solidarity will lead to “anti-white identity politics.”
In other words, the “emerging Democratic majority” may never come to pass:
Unless, that is, liberals can convince the non-white members of their current electoral coalition to begin thinking of themselves, first and foremost, as “people of color” united by their antipathy to, and in their oppression by, white America. If racism is defined, in part, by the tendency of whites to view everyone but themselves as “not white,” then this would be a form of counter-racism in which non-whites positively affirm as a politically potent identity what was once treated as a form of stigma.
Linker’s essay reminds me of a recent Remnant podcast with Jonah Goldberg and Michael Brendan Dougherty. I’m paraphrasing, but Michael made the point that the Left is simultaneously crowing about the decline of the white voter while scolding any white voter who racializes their politics. A message that essentially declares, “Ha! White people your time is over!” and “It’s racist for you to care” is unsustainable outside progressive academies or corporations.
The answer isn’t for politics to strive to ignore race. To ignore the role of race and racism in American history (or the American present) is to ignore reality. But I can think of few developments more destructive than doubling-down on racial identity as the defining strategy for coalition-building. Given the fact that American demographics are hardly changing at the same rate in every community, this is a recipe for Balkanization and division far more than it’s a recipe for Democratic dominance.
The more I look at each party’s long-term strategy for political dominance, the more I’m convinced that they’re not just fatally-flawed, they depend on assumptions of voter behavior and interests that will further polarize and destabilize our politics. Linker writes that “liberals risk actively antagonizing (and hence galvanizing against them) what will remain for some significant time to come the single-largest demographic group in the United States.”
He calls that foolish. I choose a stronger word. It’s dangerous for the continued health of a united, multi-ethnic republic.