Sunday, February 28, 2010
A House Divided?
As most Americans are aware, Obama's approval rating has fallen to 48% and his disapproval rating is 47%., but when we dig a little deeper and look carefully at the break down of the numbers, we encounter some fascinating information that reveals deep political and philosophical divisions among ethnic lines.
Obama's approval rating among African-Americans: 85%
Obama's approval rating among Hispanics: 76%
Obama's approval rating among Whites: 37%
Obama's disapproval rating among African-Americans: 12%
Obama's disapproval rating among Hispanics: 14%
Obama's disapproval rating among Whites: 58%
African-Americans who support Obama's health care reform: 67%
Hispanics who support Obama's health care reform: 62%
Whites who support Obama's health care reform: 31%
Here are several factors that may account for this stark divergence:
White Racism: I do not believe that this is the dominant factor, given the fact that Obama experienced a notable drop in support even among whites who voted for him.
African-American & Latino Racism: Antipathy towards whites is not a significant factor, however, race and ethno-identity-politics plays a far greater role in the voting decision of African-Americans and Latinos than it does among whites. And for reasons that I consider irrational, it is perfectly acceptable for African-Americans and Latinos to publicly declare that they should vote for the political and economic interests of their ethno-communities, while a white would be labeled an incorrigible racist for doing the same.
I consider this factor disheartening because the growth of ethno-identity politics does not bode well for the health of our republic. Ideally we want people to vote according to what they believe will promote the broadest public good for all Americans and not just the narrow interests of their ethnic groups. I would like to see more African-Americans and Latinos politically engaged as individuals and as members of geographic communities, but not as racial groups.
For example, individuals working together to pursue environmental and educational policies that benefit all the residents of their neighborhood is an example of positive civic involvement. But, when individuals lobby for the government to set aside public jobs and government contracts solely for members of their ethnic group, it's an example of an ethnic spoils systems. The implicit belief in the said system is demonstrated when political commentators on Univision frequently declare that Obama should push forth immigration reform because the majority of Hispanics supported him, not because it broadly benefits Americans of all races. The problem with this is that the growth of an ethno-political spoils system will encourage the growth of reciprocal identity politics among whites, a prospect that I do not look favorably upon.
Overlap of Class & Race: My first instinct was that was that most African-Americans and Latinos support Obama not because of race, but because as members of groups with a disproportionate number of poor and uninsured individuals, his health care proposals appealed to them. While this is a valid factor, we must not overplay it, because even among upwardly mobile minorities, Obama enjoys overwhelming support. And conversely, the poor and working class whites who comprise a notable portion of some red districts are generally not supportive of Obama.
Flawed Marketing by Republicans: Several years ago that may have been true, however during the last presidential election McCaine went out of his way to reach out to Latino voters, yet he lost to Obama by a land slide.
Divergence of Political Values & Visions: With some notable exceptions, support for limited government, free markets, economic & social liberty is less prevalent among African-Americans and Latinos. Unfortunately (from my libertarian perspective) the one element of the conservative tent that holds a wider appeal for minorities is religious conservatism, as demonstrated by the comparatively low support among Latinos for gay marriage and reproductive rights. Why these other aspects of conservatism do not hold wide appeal for the said groups is a long and complex topic that will be explored in future posts.
As a conservative who places tremendous stock in culture, values and visions and not race, the significant demographic changes that the United States is undergoing does not trouble me in itself. What made the United States the freest, most peaceful and prosperous nation in history was not race, but the philosophical and constitutional foundation laid down by the founding father. To a tremendous degree this foundational core is reflected in the values, vision, customs and culture adopted by Americans of different colors and creeds, which I refer to as the "American Way." While I do acknowledge that there is philosophical diversity within the American Way, there are some core tenants and parameters, which relative to other philosophical and political streams, conservatives are generally aligned towards.
Diverse individuals have maintained their separate cultures and traditions while still embracing these core American values. African-Americans such as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and Larry Elder are among the most brilliant, patriotic proponents of the American Way, so of course I consider them more American than a white, socialist douchebag like Dick Durbin. If the color and composition of the United States significantly changes, but its core values and vision remained, American will continue to be the greatest nation on earth. However, with the large number of African-Americans and Latinos embracing the expansive statism and sense of entitlement that the democratic party actively promotes, the projected demographic change holds troubling implications. And even though democrats and progressives will receive a political boost from these changes, they too should be troubled that the growing political polarization that we are experiencing is occurring along racial lines. Unity through Diversity is a great philosophy that unfortunately does not always hold true in real life.