“What I do believe is that we are struggling, not just the Tea Party, not just Democrats, not just Republicans, but as a country we’re struggling with…what does the loss of a white America mean?” – Mike Madrid, Political Consultant
Race has played a central role in virtually every significant political event of the country and will continue to do so beyond 2012. According to Vincent Hutchings, “The reality is most whites are Republican and vote Republican and most non-whites are Democrats and vote Democratic. So, even when we’re not talking about race, politics in this country is heavily infused with racial issues or racial politics.”
With the face of the country changing so rapidly in a world connected by advances in transportation, communication, and the speed of financial markets, the American project beyond 2012 will be viewed within the context of a diverse world. The future success of the country will depend largely on its ability to manage its own ghosts as it adjusts to the interconnectedness of the very international system it helped to build.
Fundamentally the country has a choice between two political stances: one that is insistent on the imagery of the past, an image threatened by the potential loss of white privilege, and another that has staked its power on a coalition dependent on the political integration of racial and ethnic minorities with liberal whites. Yet the impact of newer and growing minority generations on the future of politics in America remains unclear. With white anxiety as the current backdrop of the political discourse in states like Arizona, Georgia, Alabama and Texas, the future will rest on how the political parties shape our conception of race in America.
The 2012 electoral math paints a bleak picture for the Republican Party, a party that gains the vast majority of its prominence through white voters. As Ronald Brownstein, Editorial Director, National Journal, points out, “In the long run, I think there is no alternative for Republicans but to try to cut into this Democratic vote among minorities, in particular Hispanics.”
But the short-term issues of class and race riddle this long-term necessity with obstacles. Migration flows that once came from Europe have for the last two generations come from Latin America and the Far East. Asians now make up the largest component of immigrants migrating into the United States, surpassing even Hispanics. As Mike Madrid observes, “There’s an incredible loss of certainty on where we’re heading. And the very fabric of our society is changing, right before our eyes, neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, and sometimes it’s difficult to recognize that the immigrant experience is the defining experience for America.”
And while some in either party will continue to wonder aloud how to halt this change, the comfort and aspects of normality that have long accompanied exclusion and the power of white privilege will certainly be more difficult to maintain.
- How will Republicans react if they lose a presidential election that they have structured largely on the preservation of whiteness?
- Will the racialized discourse employed by more vocal members of the right wing dissipate, or redouble its efforts to promote a white agenda?
- As for a GOP victory, would it give legitimacy to the staying power of whiteness as it adjusts to the changing face of the country and new groups seeking acceptance?