Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Next America

Ron Brownstein in the National Journal looks at the census numbers and sees where the demographics take us politically.

In releasing its final 2010 national results last week, the Census Bureau sent Americans a postcard from the future. From every angle, the results showed that the nation’s transformation into a “majority-minority” nation is proceeding even faster than expected. Nationally, the overall share of the non-Hispanic white population dropped from 69.1 percent in 2000 to 63.7 in 2010, a greater decline than most analysts anticipated. In a mirror image, the minority population grew from 30.9 percent in 2000 to 36.3 percent in 2010.

The change over the past decade was especially dramatic among young people. In the new census, 46.5 percent of people under 18 were minority, a dramatic jump from 39.1 percent in 2000. As recently as last summer, demographers projected that minorities would make up a majority of the under-18 population sometime after 2020. At the current rate of growth, however, nonwhites will comprise a majority of children in the United States by 2015. And because of the explosive minority growth in the youth population—the people who will form families and become parents in the coming years—the nonwhite share of the overall population is likely to grow even faster over the next decade, says Brookings Institution demographer William Frey.

The census numbers are “telling us about our future,” Frey says. “I see this as a pivot decade. This decade what we’re seeing is, these Hispanics and Asians are really crucial to our country because they are juxtaposed against an aging white population. It is really the new minorities—Hispanics and Asians—that are driving where we’re headed.” Strikingly, as Frey notes, the census found that the number of whites under 18 declined by more than 4 million over the past decade, even as the number of minority young people increased by more than 6 million.

What this means is that the country is in for an interesting campaign season for the next election. The GOP is facing increasing numbers of voters in demographics such as Hispanics, a group they have actively targeted with their campaigns against immigration and assistance to the poor, not to mention the teabagged-stained rhetoric for English-only laws and other ham-handed ways of preserving the white patriarchy.

Paradoxically, they are promoting Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) as one of their rising stars and assumed that because he is young, handsome, and Hispanic, he’s their ticket to the Hispanic vote. The problem with that is that while the white folks in the GOP may see Mr. Rubio as Hispanic and assume that they all vote as a bloc, within the Hispanic community they see it differently. Mr. Rubio is Cuban, and as any Cuban will tell you, they don’t see themselves as part of the Hispanic community along with those from Mexico or Central and South America, and vice versa. If the Anglo GOP thinks that putting Mr. Rubio on the ticket is their way of getting the Latino vote, es una tonteria tremenda.