With the election over, there is no question we have entered the age of the new demography in which the changing internal populations of countries are remaking their politics. HispanicLatinos, millennials, African Americans, independent women, gays and lesbians and a host of fair-minded voters not blinded by religious fervor or abject racism came together and delivered a good win for President Barack Obama. The uncertainty is whether the United States will give itself the chance to take advantage of its demographic transformation to secure its future. In that sense, we have entered a new age of opportunity. But it is also clear we have entered the age of climate change. The assertion of the new demography came simultaneously with Hurricane Sandy that should have blasted smugness for all time.
If I may, a personal, self-serving note: If Florida, as expected, is finally given to Obama, it will confirm the call I made on October 29 that nailed the election’s outcome on the button in the Electoral College. On the popular vote, I was also very close. I said the spread between Obama and Mitt Romney would be three million votes. The spread currently stands at about 2.7 million. You can read that blog at:
Let’s say you are a young HispanicLatino, say, in your 20’s, and you are aware enough to know there are more important things in life than social networking, music, dancing, drinking, friends, entertainment and games. Let’s say that you pick up on the fact that 57 percent of white non-HispanicLatinos have anti-HispanicLatino sentiments, that is, that so-called Anglos think negatively about you, your family and your friends. The findings from a recent survey commissioned by the Associated Press and conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and Stanford and Michigan universities are no surprise to most HispanicLatinos. But what is someone so young supposed to think – or do? The answer is to make it about you yourself, not them. What 57 percent of Anglos think is less important as each day passes and will have lesser and lesser bearing.
Most writers across the country have bemoaned the results of the study. It is, I suppose, sad – if you live in the past. A different viewpoint should take hold instead of morose musings that the country never achieved harmonic convergence on race. It does not matter now that the country never got to some nebulous promised land where skin color and ethnicity blended into some sort of multicultural muddle. The very point of where humankind finds itself today is that in a globalized world, all cultures matter, and, in fact, matter equally. The point of the future is that we are going to have to get along despite lasting natural differences not melt each other into some vapid subsistence.
In Monday’s perhaps decisive presidential debate on foreign policy, its participants mentioned the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Had Richard M. Nixon been elected in 1960 instead of John F. Kennedy the world almost certainly could have come to an end two years later. Nixon was an insecure, neurotic man who would have sided immediately with the Joint Chiefs of Staff who – to a man – wanted to bomb Cuba the sooner the better. The Russian reaction against American bombers would have triggered a nuclear catastrophe. Kennedy was the stronger man. He withstood the pressure of the less visionary around him, and he risked the judgment of an American people freaked out over communists lurking in every closet.
It does matter who gets elected, and in recent years across this country at many levels of government the wrong men and women have been elected for as equally a potentially conclusive moment in American history – when the very concept of community is at stake. And the problem might be compounded in less than two weeks when the country votes for President. Regular readers of this blog know that its central tenet is the impact and potential of the country’s new demography. And the new demography is on par with any experience the country has faced. It is not as compelling as missiles off the coast of Florida. Rather, it is a slow-motion event not given to searing images or dramatic news footage, and it is happening against a backdrop of publicly-elected individuals who are fearful of the demographic change the country is undergoing and who certainly are no longer willing – as generations past did – to help pay for the success of the community of the future.
Over the weekend, the following letter to Justice Kennedy regarding Fisher v. Texas made its way to Washington, where I hope it is of some benefit.
Justice Anthony Kennedy
The Supreme Court of the United States
One First Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20543
Dear Justice Kennedy:
With all due respect, I hope you are not offended that I am bowing to public reports that you are the possibly deciding vote on Fisher v. Texas. I hope the clerk who screens your mail is not similarly offended. I am not a lawyer but I write in the hope that I can help you see Fisher from a different point of view.
Years ago, supporters of George W. Bush’s push for immigration reform correctly predicted in public that falling birth rates in Mexico and a growing Mexican economy would reduce and stabilize historic immigration to the United States from its southern neighbor. Bush wanted to disarm critics skeptical of anything that smelled of an amnesty that would add fuel to the demographic change that so many in his party fear. The ploy did not work. Immigration reform went down in flames.
Now comes evidence that the life span of the lower-income non-HispanicLatino white population without high school diplomas is falling precipitously – a development that will amplify and accelerate the growth of the HispanicLatino population and its importance to the economy. Most of this blog draws heavily and directly from a story in The New York Times by Sabrina Tavernise two weeks ago that details in part how the demographic transformation that alarms so many in the country will continue.
I wonder how upset most college presidents would be if all of a sudden — overnight — their football programs were ripped apart like the NCAA did Penn State University on Monday. Earlier this week, the top college enforcement organization eviscerated football from a football-crazed campus. Were that to happen at other schools, I would not be surprised if a fair number of college presidents might not let out a cheer, privately, of course. You see, football is out of control at most colleges. Football programs are nothing more than revenue-producing businesses that push power at the expense of college presidents and faculty members to coaches of teams most of whose members do not ever graduate.
The great and constant plaint from Hispanics or Latinos is and has been education. Their grievances have as their origins actual discrimination that kept many of them out of school or condemned as many or more to schools through the years with insufficient resources to maximize their community’s talents and potential – much to the nation’s detriment. Were the average household incomes of HispanicLatinos to equal overnight that of the average white, non-HispanicLatino household, the nation’s fiscal condition and outlook would be quite different.
Last week in Washington, Mitt Romney said the failure of schools with minority students “is the civil rights issue of our era.’’ Hmmm. It is more the seminal national security of our time but who’s quibbling? If HispanicLatinos do not accelerate their educational – and thus their economic – attainment in the short term, they will not be able to stave off the nation’s crushing fiscal demands in the long term. Without the tax revenues necessary to keep abreast with the technological advances in defense systems, the country’s defenses ultimately will be on par with other nations. It is only a matter of time. Not to mention keeping up with other costs. But this is a fella who cannot bring himself to support any version of the Dream Act, and he seems to not understand how college-opportunities programs after World War II set up the nation for long-term economic growth.
Years ago, when Bill Clinton was styled as America’s first black President, more than a few Americans, knowing it to be hyperbole, were tolerantly amused. It was fun to appreciate the direct connection the African American community and he shared but, of course, along came Barack Obama. My bemusement at the Clinton pretext stemmed from the wanton disregard of Lyndon Johnson’s role in cracking open the world for African Americans – and HispanicLatinos simultaneously. After decades of oppression, minority communities began to emerge from their suppressed selves because of Johnson. LBJ was America’s first black president politically and America’s first HispanicLatino president, to boot.
Many years ago one of the most influential books ever written shaped my own political identity and my view of the world. Ostensibly about the presidential campaign of 1960, Theodore White’s Pultizer Prize-winning The Making of the President told the story ofhow John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson survived one of the narrowest presidential victories in the nation’s history. But more than simply converting a political story into a highly interesting narrative, White wrote revealingly about how political markets are hardly more than consumer markets. In his eyes, fifty states and the District of Columbia – each one different from the other – comprised 51 political markets with many more submarkets of voters, hundreds in fact. They still do, if not more so.