Among the most interesting of the countless postmortems on Republican Scott Brown's victory over Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts Senate race was veteran Democratic journalist Thomas Edsall's Ghost Story in The New Republic on January 20, 2010.
Edsall's article is one of the more realistic (if inadvertent) works of political advice the GOP has received—outside of the pages of VDARE.com. From a tsk-tsking Democratic perspective, Edsall outlines the inexorable logic of what Peter Brimelow calls the Sailer Strategy: as the non-white percentage of the electorate increases, the Republicans must (and can) win a growing share of the white vote.
Of course, the Republican leadership (such as it is) will find Edsall's insights offensive rather than illuminating. They are less likely to comprehend them than to try to refute them, by more brilliant stratagems such as making Michael Steele head of the Republican National Committee.
"As everyone knows, the United States is undergoing a profound demographic transformation. Non-Hispanic whites are likely to become a minority by the year 2042. This shift underlies the theory of a Democratic realignment: Pro-Democratic groups are growing while the pro-Republican white population is declining."
Edsall goes on, however, to note that just twelve months of the Obama Administration demonstrated to many white voters even in liberal Massachusetts that they might not be happy with their ordained future. Over the course of 2009, he says, "White, middle-class voters ceased to think of Obama as a protector of their interests."
Over the years, Edsall has repeatedly tried warned liberals that the diabolically clever Republican leadership is going to attempt to please the white majority by acting as "a protector of their interests."
That would make sense. But I'll believe it when I see it.
Heretically, Edsall points out that these long-term demographic trends don't automatically require whites to continue to vote for their own despoiling:
"There is evidence, however, that trends that have recently boosted Democratic prospects may also be a key factor in undermining the capacity of the population for empathy, and, thus, its receptivity to programs like health care reform."
In fact, racial diversity is, by its nature, politically divisive. Edsall cites, as "painful to those committed to diversity and equality", the findings of Harvard political scientist Robert D. Putnam (whose work I repeatedly publicized when it was finally released several years ago). Putnam's survey of 30 communities found, in his words, that "in ethnically diverse neighborhoods residents of all races tend to 'hunker down.' Trust (even of one's own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer."
"Putnam's findings offer critical insight into the explosive growth of the Tea Party movement and the strikingly sudden collapse of support for the Democratic Party. They suggest that the populace, especially the white populace, is on a psychic hair trigger. The demographic transformation of the country and the birth of multicultural America have made this group extremely status anxious…" [VDARE.COM link]
Of course, Edsall's term "status anxious" trivializes the issue. Instead, we're watching a much more fundamental struggle—over resources. As Edsall himself admits:
"The harsh reality is many voters consider the health care bill a multibillion-dollar transfer of taxpayer money to the uninsured, a population disproportionately, although by no means exclusively, made up of the poor, African Americans, Latinos, single parents, and the long-term unemployed. Providing medical care to this population is an explicit goal of the legislation, and a worthy goal, but political suicide in the current environment."
Health care funding isn't about status or other frivolities; it's about death and taxes.
How does Edsall get away with even this level of frankness? After all, pointing out the arithmetic reality of the white vote got VDARE.COM banned from Free Republic, to say nothing of more respectable MSM venues.
First: he's a Democrat, so it's okay—his heart is in the right place. He's trying to expose the evil racist Republican plot.
Second: he uses scare quotes (such as in referring to "illegal immigrants" as "'illegal' immigrants") and other post-modern gimmicks to give the impression that there's no underlying reality, just Republican spin.
Similarly, in his 1992 book Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics Edsall claims:
"Taxes, in turn, have been used to drive home the cost to whites of federal programs that redistribute social and economic benefits to blacks and to other minorities."
Of course, it would have been simpler to write "Taxes, in turn, drive home …" The passive voice phrase "have been used to drive home" is merely an obfuscation to cater to the Democratic fantasy that voters wouldn't notice the burden of taxes if bad Republicans didn't mention it.
Third: like most Democrats, Edsall is relentlessly focused on the past—blaming everything on Barry Goldwater's Southern Strategy of 1964—rather than upon the future, where our children will have to live.
Edsall, who spent 25 years as one of the Washington Post's premiere political reporters and is now a Columbia Journalism School professor and a writer for the Huffington Post, is a nostalgist for the New Deal days—when politics (owing in large measure to the nationally unifying benefits of the 1920s immigration cut-off) revolved around class rather than race.
In Chain Reaction, Edsall informed the Democrats:
"The overlapping issues of race and taxes have permitted the Republican Party to adapt the principles of conservatism to break the underlying class basis of the Roosevelt-Democratic coalition …"
FDR's most popular reforms, such as Social Security and unemployment benefits, were politically successful because they provided the average voter with insurance against the randomness of life.
My father, for instance, is almost 93. When he retired three decades ago, he didn't particularly expect to live to such an age, but having old-fashioned "defined benefit" pensions from both Lockheed and Social Security has allowed him to live in modest comfort without worrying perpetually about living too long for his savings.
In contrast, many of the programs begun or expanded in LBJ's era, such as food stamps and welfare, functioned less as insurance than as redistributionary incentives for the kinds of anti-social behavior, such as having children out of wedlock, that some races were more prone to than others.
Edsall wrote in Chain Reaction:
"Together, the twin issues of race and taxes have created a new, ideologically coherent coalition by pitting taxpayers against tax recipients, by pitting the advocates of meritocracy against proponents of special preference, by pitting the private sector against the public sector, by pitting those in the labor force against the jobless, and by pitting those who bear many of the costs of federal intervention against those whose struggle for equality has been advanced by interventionist government policies. "
Personally, I've long felt that Edsall's alarums sounded like an awfully good strategy for the GOP—politically, but also morally. After all, what's the point of majority rule if not to benefit the majority?
Edsall went on in his 1992 book to point out how race and resources combine to be almost an Occam's Razor for understanding modern American politics:
"In a steady evolutionary process, race and taxes have come to intersect with an entire range of domestic issues, from welfare policy to civil-service testing, from drug enforcement to housing regulation, from minority set aside programs to the decline in urban manufacturing jobs, from prison construction to the globalization of economic competition, from college admissions standards to suburban zoning practices, from highway construction to Federal Communications Commission licensing procedures. "
In 2006, Edsall published a follow-up to Chain Reaction entitled Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive For Permanent Power, which contained more inadvertently good advice for the GOP on how to take advantage of the inherent weaknesses of the Democrats. Herbert Gintis, an unusually realistic leftist economist, explained in an Amazon review:
"Edsall characterizes the Democratic party as (a) an uneasy and unstable alliance of minorities and the poor, who have serious economic issues on the one hand, and liberal, affluent elites with interests in new age values and individual liberation on the other. … Liberal values, he argues, have led to the election of Republican mayors and governors, as for instance, noting that Dinkins in New York was so ineffective that he was followed by four successive Republican mayors."
Of course, the GOP didn't acquire "permanent power." In fact, it managed to get itself whomped in the 2006 and 2008 elections. (Thanks a lot, Karl Rove).
However, the problem with Edsall's analysis was not his logic, but the GOP's. Republicans controlled Congress and the White House in 2006. So, what Machiavellian scheme did the GOP brain trust throw its weight behind? The McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill!
And what did the Bush Administration do in 2007 to show white working class voters that it was on their side? Well, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales sued the Fire Department of New York, which had sacrificed 343 men on 9/11, for discrimination in the ludicrous Vulcan case.
A Clinton-appointed judge has now ordered the FDNY to implement a 60 percent minority hiring quota.
This would be a perfect issue for the Republicans to use to follow up the momentum they garnered among Northeastern white Catholics in Brown's election.
Except that the GOP—unlike in Edsall's nightmares—was, as so often, on the self-destructive side in Vulcan.
Edsall concludes his New Republic essay:
"And, so now a Democratic Party that seemed poised for electoral greatness has reverted back to the debilitating political condition that ailed it during the 1970s and 1980s. It is increasingly perceived as too liberal. It must convince the white working class that it will protect its interests—not just those of the very rich and very poor."
Personally, I think that Edsall may be too gloomy about his party's prospects. In reality, the Democrats don't have to convince whites that they'll good at protecting their interests in any absolute sense.
They just have to seem no more anti-white than the Republicans.How hard will that be?
[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA'S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA'S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]