A consoling theme among liberals since the Democrats lost the House last month is that the Democratic sweep in California, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's survival in Nevada, shows that their grand strategy (the government should elect a new people) is on track.
For example, in The New Republic this week, Peter Schrag exults in California Here We Come: Why the Golden State is still the future of American politics (December 6, 2010):
"California, and indeed much of the West, is far ahead of the country, as it often has been—demographically, economically, politically, socially—and it points to a future in which the whole nation will look much like California does now: multi-ethnic, increasingly tolerant of gays and other minorities, more global in outlook, and more environmentally conscious."
Schrag, author of Not Fit for Our Society: Immigration and Nativism in America and The Decline of the Wasp, goes on to offer the GOP the usual please-don't-throw-me-in-the-briar-patch advice—it always boils down to: Latinos hate you and the only way you can ever make it up to them is by giving millions of illegal immigrants the vote … right now! Trust me!! Would I lie to you!!!?
Let's take a more sophisticated look at long-term voting trends.
First: yes, massive immigration has hurt the Republican Party in California, a state that was carried by the GOP Presidential candidate in nine of ten elections from 1952-1988, but never since then.
Why? The main reason is obvious: immigration increases the nonwhite share of the vote.
And, all else being equal, immigration is similarly hurting the GOP nationwide.
Second: however, there's a crucial question about analogizing from California to the whole country that is routinely misunderstood: Will immigration work against Republicans as quickly in the country as in California? Are Republicans instantly doomed if they do anything about immigration?
The answer: No. Immigration changes the demographic balance more slowly in the whole country than in one state.
How come? Because immigration has tended to hurt Republicans in California in two fundamental ways:
Note that GOP gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman didn't win a majority of whites. She got exactly half the white vote. California whites have become a self-selected, and pretty weird, or at least atypical, group.
However, at the national, as opposed to the state level, the second tendency isn't operative. Conservatives may leave a state—but they seldom leave the country. They just move to another state and then vote there.
So the change in California is faster than it is nationally. And thus the Main Stream Media continually deludes itself about how fast the California example will translate into the national example.
Rather than promote diversity, immigration is actually causing America to divide itself up—in what has been called "the Big Sort".
Throughout much of 2010, the MSM was in an uproar of concern trolling about how Republicans in Arizona were shooting themselves in the foot by taking a hard line on illegal immigration. (Concern trolling has been defined as "offering a poisoned apple in the form of advice to political opponents that, if taken, would harm the recipient") But on Election Day, Republicans triumphed in Arizona. So, seamlessly, Nevada has taken Arizona's place in the endless storyline.
It's worth looking in more detail into what has been happening in Nevada and Arizona. Both are California spillover states, but they have begun moving in opposed relative directions: Nevada toward the left, Arizona toward the right.
Keep in mind, though, that it's easy to exaggerate how far Nevada has moved into the Democratic column. While Harry Reid won re-election to his post as Bacon Bringer-in-Chief, his son Rory Reid lost last month in his race for governor.
Sharron Angle went down to defeat to the elder Reid, we've been told over and over again, because she only got 30 percent of the Latino vote in Nevada.
Yet, she might not have won even if no Hispanic had voted in Nevada—because she only drew 52 percent of the white vote. That's hardly enough in modern Nevada.
Moreover, the little-discussed gubernatorial race in Nevada adds an important perspective. The GOP ran a Hispanic, Brian Sandoval, for governor against Harry Reid's son. And Sandoval won easily.
Because of the Hispanic tidal wave of voters surging to the vote for their compadre, right?
Wrong! Sandoval (R-NV) drew only 33 percent of the Hispanic vote—just three points better than Angle. The reason Sandoval won easily: he did ten points better than Angle among non-Hispanic whites—winning 62 percent of their vote.
So the national MSM's depiction of the Nevada elections as illustrating the Wrath of Latinos on the Evil White Angle is largely a fable—the Republicans ran a Spanish-surnamed fellow for governor and Nevada Hispanics voted overwhelmingly against him, too.
Why did Nevada's Hispanics vote that way? Because, quite rationally, they prefer the broad policies of the Democrats, such as tax-and-spend and Affirmative Action. Outside of Cuban districts, Hispanics have consistently voted that way since the 1960s. Perhaps the MSM will eventually notice?
Arizona's elections, in contrast, have disappeared down the MSM Memory Hole because SB1070 supporter Governor Jan Brewer won. Furthermore, the dynamic Russell Pearce, sponsor of SB1070, became the head of the state senate.
Why has Arizona moved to right, while Nevada split the white vote?
One key reason: interstate migration, especially from California. According to a recent Pew study, in the years 2005-2007 alone, a net of 673,000 people exited California for other states. [Map: U.S. Migration Flows, December 17, 2008](These Pew figures ignore the effects of immigration from abroad.) Interestingly, whites only made up 47 percent of the net outflow from California during the housing bubble, with Hispanics accounting for 44 percent, and blacks for nine percent.
According to Pew, Arizona and Nevada were the second and third fastest growing states due to internal migration, much of it out of California. Arizona grew from interstate migration by 288,000 people, while Nevada added a net of 91,000.
In Nevada, only 11 percent of the net inflow from other states were whites, versus 58 percent white in Arizona.
Why are these two desert states attracting different kinds of newcomers who push the states in different political directions?
In turn, the two states have been branding themselves differently on the political map, thus further attracting different kinds of people.
Las Vegas, with its huge hospitality industry, has become a political stronghold of the liberal Service Employees Union International, the so-called Hispanic union (although it never seems to be headed by a Hispanic).
The national MSM's demonization of white Arizonans has been constant for the last half-dozen years. But that actually attracts Americans from other states looking to relocate to a state where some local politicians, such as Pearce, have the guts to stand up for their constituents against the press onslaught.
And that just drives the national MSM crazy with hate. For example, the New York Times Editorial Board, led by Adam Cohen (formerly of the Southern Poverty Law Center), has been enraged by Arizona's display of independence. Examples:
In the southern march of Arizona, there's also paradox that I noted when I visited the state's border with Mexico in 2003. Due to the sizable presence of Border Patrol agents within a few dozen miles of Mexico, the huge number of illegal aliens who pass through the border area seldom settle there.
This provides a remarkable Alternative History view of what the overall U.S. Southwest would look like if immigration laws had been enforced. Just north of the border, for example, the town of Sierra Vista resembled, in 2003, a 1950s liberal's dream of the pleasantly integrated American small town of the 21st Century. The population is a relatively stable 73 percent white, 16 percent Hispanic, and 11 percent black. As in most military towns (Sierra Vista is home to Fort Huachuca), the races appeared to be on a more equal and friendly footing than in many big cities.
Strikingly, Sierra Vista even had jobs for unskilled U.S. citizens. The maids in the motel where I stayed—ten miles north of the international boundary!—were mostly white and black American women, a situation unimaginable in the SEIU's Las Vegas. American-born Hispanics in Sierra Vista often work for the Border Patrol.
Can Arizona's semi-conscious strategy to attract conservative American voters outrun all the forces arrayed against it?
Perhaps, perhaps not. But it seems to be working better than anything else the Republicans have going for them in the Southwest.