Demography and Destiny

Charles Blow is a New York Times columnist whose output is usually around the bend, even by the low standards of that publication. But his most recent column is surprisingly cogent. It begins with the observation that black political power appears to be ascendant:

It is easy to believe that Black power and influence are growing in America, and that the logical conclusion is that a set of policies favoring the Black community in America — a so-called Black agenda — is growing more likely as the years pass and the percentage of nonwhite Americans rises.

But things are not so simple. Blow identifies two obstacles to achievement of what he considers to be the black agenda:

But some of what we see may be illusory and in some ways the passing of a Black agenda may become harder, not easier. The window that could allow the passage of such a slate of policies may be closing as we speak.

Democrats face an intractable problem: their voters are concentrated in a small number of states.

As Norman Ornstein tweeted in 2018:

“I want to repeat a statistic I use in every talk: By 2040 or so, 70 percent of Americans will live in 15 states. Meaning 30 percent will choose 70 senators. And the 30 percent will be older, whiter, more rural, more male than the 70 percent. Unsettling to say the least.”

Not so unsettling if you are an old white guy. Blow continues:

If you think it has been hard to get this Senate to embrace policies like reparations or voting rights that stand to benefit Black people, imagine how much harder that task will be before a Senate that continues to tilt toward smaller states.

The idea that reparations constitute a plausible agenda is delusional, but the point is well taken. Blow is right about the filibuster:

I believe [Senator McConnell] is playing a Brer Rabbit-style trick with the ultimate goal of creating a nightmare scenario for progressives. While abandoning the filibuster would indeed be advantageous to liberals in the short term, in the long term — when it may become harder and harder for Democrats to maintain control of the chamber — it could be a disaster, allowing the minority in America to say what becomes law and which judges get confirmed.

Of course, that “minority” would not be able to enact legislation, but it would be able to block left-wing measures that may emanate from the House. But that isn’t the only problem. Liberals always want to depict America in two colors, black and white. But demography is against what Blow sees as the black agenda there, too:

Furthermore, a Pew demographic analysis has found that by 2065, Hispanics in America will nearly double the population of Black people, and Asians will overtake Black people as the nation’s second-largest minority.

Each of these groups have their own specific legislative agendas. How high on the list of priorities will be the agenda of the third-largest minority group at that point?

Good question! There is another point, too, which Blow does not raise. More than half of all Africans who have come to the U.S. have come voluntarily, as immigrants, not as slaves. And that majority grows every day. Such Africans come here for the same reasons as everyone else, in search of opportunity. Why should their legislative agenda prioritize an endless rehashing of the Democratic Party’s sins of slavery and Jim Crow?

For quite a few years, liberals have confidently believed that demography is on their side; even that it makes their ultimate victory inevitable. But as Blow correctly observes, demographic tides may be moving in a very different direction.