The Corner

Politics & Policy

Maybe Change Your Presumptions?

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks at a Hispanic Heritage Month event in Kissimmee, Fla., September 15, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

There is nothing wrong with having political preferences and intellectual priors. But sometimes they can lead you down some odd roads. In the New York Times today, Thomas Edsall quotes some observations made by Ian Haney López and Tory Gavito about Hispanic voters. Among them are that:

Progressives commonly categorize Latinos as people of color, no doubt partly because progressive Latinos see the group that way and encourage others to do so as well. Certainly, we both once took that perspective for granted. Yet in our survey, only one in four Hispanics saw the group as people of color.

And that the majority of Hispanics

preferred to see Hispanics as a group integrating into the American mainstream, one not overly bound by racial constraints but instead able to get ahead through hard work.

Personally, I consider it good news that the fastest growing group in the country does not see itself as part of a cynical racial-slice-and-dice exercise, and even better news that it believes that it can get ahead through hard work in the same way as can anyone else. But, apparently, not everybody shares my delight. The fact is listed in Edsall’s “Five things Biden and his allies should be worried about,” while López and Gavito describe it as “sobering” for the candidate. What, I wonder, does that say about “Joe Biden and his allies”?

Later in the piece we are treated to some more López and Gavito investigations. Per Edsall, the pair asked:

eligible voters how “convincing” they found a dog-whistle message lifted from Republican talking points. Among other elements, the message condemned “illegal immigration from places overrun with drugs and criminal gangs” and called for “fully funding the police, so our communities are not threatened by people who refuse to follow our laws.”

The responses surprised them:

As they expected, “almost three out of five white respondents judged that message convincing.”

More disconcerting to López and Gavito, both liberals, was that “exactly the same percentage of African-Americans agreed, as did an even higher percentage of Latinos.”

And yet, as surprised as they apparently were, it does not seem to have occurred to them that maybe those messages aren’t “dog-whistles” after all, but real concerns that are shared by people of all colors and backgrounds.

The piece is worth reading, but at points it reminded me of that immortal South Park episode in which the residents complain that when homeless people start buying homes, everyone else ends up with “no idea who is homeless and who isn’t.”


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