Thursday, December 12, 2013

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Mayim Bialik, 38.

Good stuff:

1. Sarah Kliff on the people who may fall through the cracks.

2. Jamelle Bouie on demographics, the parties, and the future. Regular readers know I strongly agree with his argument.

3. See also Reihan Salam's response.

4. Ed Kilgore on Republicans, counterrevolutionary ideology, and internal party conflict. I'm not as convinced as Kilgore is that a substantial and influential group of Republicans sincerely believe in a "constitutional conservative" ideology...but I do think he's on very firm ground in thinking of (many within) the GOP in revolutionary (or counterrevolutionary) terms. And at any rate, he's certainly right that anyone who sees something similar to Reagan/Ford, or even less plausibly Goldwater/Rockefeller, is just seeing a fantasy. Must-read.

5. At a more practical level: Jessica Taylor has a good lay-of-the-land look at Republican insurgencies.

6. And Sarah Binder on the budget deal.


  1. We should keep in mind that Bouie (and Salam's) argument can work in either direction: it certainly seems likely that racial mixing (what Salam calls the "beiging" of America) will help the GOP with formerly ostracized minorities.

    But that same "beiging" will hurt the GOP in the other direction, when the rigid ressentiment of downscale whites is diluted by racial blurring.

    Which of those two phenomenon has the more powerful impact is anyone's guess.

  2. As I was reading Kilgore's piece my main thought was that the GOP's problem is the South. The South provides GOP's base, the South is culturally distinct from the rest of the country. Its politics are essentially driven by race-based coalitions and those kind of politics arguably fuel the absolutist, counter-revolutionary fervor that grips Republicans these days. Since the South is a sizeable chunk of the country but not the majority, the Republican party may be occasionally competitive in national elections, but most times starts of at a disadvantage.

    OTOH, since the majority of GOP's base come from the South, it's virtually impossible for more moderate GOP elements to win an intraparty fight. It's hard to imagine for example, a David Cameron figure emerging within the GOP. Remember, David Cameron campaigned as a modernizer within the British Conservative Party and essentially won, not because his base accepted his ideas, but because they were tired of losing. However, I don't think that British Conservatives were ruled by the kind of fervor that sweeps Republicans these days, plus it looks to me, their establishment was far more moderate to begin with and held larger sway.

    In other words, it looks to me that the GOP is now set to suffer the negative consequences of its southern strategy for a while.

  3. One major ethnic group that immigrated in that era has stubbornly resisted the siren song of the Republican Party, despite comparable levels of cultural assimilation as Italians and Irish: the Jews. I think the welcoming of Irish and Italians into the Republican fold has less to do with Irish and Italians becoming recognized as fully white, than Catholics becoming recognized by Protestants as Christians.

    One of the main drivers of Catholics and Protestants finding common cause politically is desegregation. Support for public and private education used to be split on sectarian lines with Protestant supporting public schools as a way of getting their kids an education without worrying about being corrupted by the pope. But when desegregation came along, white Protestants in the South embraced private schools as part of their massive resistance to desegregation.

    1. I can't say that I agree that Jews have cultural assimilation at similar levels to the Irish or Italians. Irish, Italians, Poles and the like always had a religious apartness as Catholics in addition to any "racial" aspects. As those groups have been accepted as white (for most practical purposes) so has Roman Catholicism. But the Jews, and their Judaism, remain outside that reconciliation.

  4. Wow, some really good stuff today.

    Bouie's piece is especially fascinating to me. I've long dismissed talk about a "Republican death spiral" or the inevitability of the "politics of demographics". I think it's ridiculous to write off the Republican party. But it's also very tough to predict the future, especially when we are talking about demographics, whose subcategories are subject to changing attitudes and interpretations.

    The bottom line is that majority-minority relationships, including racism (both overt and otherwise) are very complex things. They involve things like identity, cognitive dissonance, resentment - all quicksilver. There is really no way to predict how these things will come to bear on party identification in the future. If you had told William H. Seward or Salmon P. Chase that the first black president would be a Democrat, they would have laughed in your face.

    I think one factor that deserves some attention in this debate is the role of conservative media. Political shock jocks like Limbaugh and Savage are very good at framing an issue. So is Fox News. They are particularly good at presenting the narrative that the white man is the one who's REALLY being discriminated against. They peddle fear and rely on resentment and it works very well for them. Their power is unchecked in the conservative political culture. So actually keeping republicans/conservatives in the fierce, "oppositionalist" minority may be beneficial. And this could play into the long-term trend as well. The way people's identities are shaped by the media they choose to ingest combined with the increasing balkanization of the media market might slow down the assimilation of those considered non-white into the white majority (a la Jews and Irish in the beginning of the 20th century). Reihan Salam touches on this in his response.

    I can guarantee this: it's such a complicated issue that no one will get it right. And it'll sure be fascinating to see it play out in the coming half-century.

  5. Bouie's right, 40 years in the future. In the next 15 years and to a diminishing extent for another 15 years past it, his thesis is wrong - demographically based political affiliations will move elections compared to today and in the past. Even if you make no assumptions about future generations, the current generational replacements will change elections. And 15-30 years is a long time in political terms.

    Bouie's also wrong in his closing paragraph that suggests political choices by the GOP in the next few years could have important consequences in 2050. There's way too much time in between. I find it surprising that he'd be impressed by something as ephemeral as political fashion while dismissing demographics.


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