Why Obama Won

All the conservative talking points about demographics are an excuse for not coming to terms with being out of touch.

Republicans have been doing a lot of soul searching following Tuesday’s election and have come up with various explanations as to why their candidate lost. The consensus for now is that the country is changing and that the party is out of step with this change.

Rather than meet this change in a responsible and realistic manner, so many prominent conservatives have resorted to lamenting the passing of a golden era, the death of “real America”. The most common statement thus far been “Obama only won because of demographics” which is a lot like saying “I only failed the math test because of numbers”. Similarly heard is “Obama only won because of the Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, women and urban residents”. Conservatives are pretending that these people are nothing more than special interest groups – as if they don’t already constitute a vast majority of the country.

In other words, when a Republican wins an election, it’s because the country as a whole voted for him – end of story. When a Democrat wins, a black man at that, the electorate is dissected so as to lay blame on those pesky minorities and women.

It should come as no surprise that the Republican establishment is mourning the end of an era in which White men ran the show. Personally, I think this is premature because White men still overwhelmingly run the shows that matter. But still, the times they are a changin.

Here is my favorite excuse from the aftermath. 

You heard it, but have a closer read. “It’s a changing country. The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore. And there are fifty percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it and he ran on it. And whereby twenty years ago, President Obama would have been roundly defeated, by an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney. The White establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You’re gonna see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama, overwhelming Black vote for President Obama and women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel they are entitled to things and which candidate between the two are going to give them things?”

So there you have it. White men made the country and now women and the coloreds are destroying it. Rather than thinking about ways to appeal to women and minorities, conservatives are blaming them for not seeing the light, for wanting things, for not working hard enough. The self-victimization never ends.

Jon Stewart describes the conservative resentment most accurately: “They’re really only entitlements when they’re something other people want. When it’s something you want, they’re a hallmark of a civilized society.”

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How to Get Rid of the Electoral College Without Abolishing it

The Electoral College (EC) is a lot like the weather in that, as Charles Dudley Warner said, everybody complains about it, but nobody does anything about it. For once, it seems that people are doing something, but not in the conventional manner.

In national surveys, Republicans, Democrats and independents have expressed overwhelming support for getting rid of the EC. The conversation typically ends when people consider how difficult it would be to pass a Constitutional Amendment to abolish the EC. As I have recently discovered, however, no such Amendment is required and the EC can still exist under a system that adheres to the popular vote.

Article 2, Section 1, Claus 2 of the US Constitution gives states the power to decide how to apportion their EC votes. This clause contains the seeds for the EC’s demise – and it would be achieved through an interstate compact. Jigga what?

An interstate compact is essentially an arrangement made between two or more states to work together on a particular issue. The best example of this is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates most of the NYC metropolitan area’s airports and seaports, and important transportation infrastructure and real estate (like the World Trade Center site).

Starting in 2007, states began using their Constitutional rights to subvert the EC by ratifying what has come to be known as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). States that implement the NPVIC agree to give all of their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote, regardless of the winner in their own state.

This means that as soon as the NPVIC has as many states as is required to achieve an EC majority (currently 270 votes), the rest of states do not matter. You do not need to convince every state sign on to the NPVIC – only enough to get a majority in the EC. The EC can continue to exist, but it would only function as a formality in the electoral process.

The NPVIC is already law in eight states and Washington D.C. – that’s 132 electoral votes, or 49% of the target of 270. The NPVIC would only come into full effect once this target is achieved – until then, the winner take all system will persist.

Considering that the NPVIC started only six years ago, it’s not unreasonable to think that eventually (much sooner than a Constitutional Amendment at least), enough states would sign on to support the winner of the national popular vote.

The states that have signed on to the NPVIC are overwhelmingly blue. But I don’t rule out the possibility of red state support in the future. The best bet for that would be if Romney wins the popular vote, but Obama wins the Electoral College. If the polls from the last few weeks are any indication, such an outcome is very likely.

What’s a Hispanic?

The non-Hispanic White population is declining whereas that of White Hispanics is increasing. The difference between the two, or lack thereof, will hold the key to determining mainstream American identity over the coming generations.

As with any conversation on race, last week’s post on the relative decline in the population of White America sparked some interesting questions. What does it mean to be White anyway? And most importantly, in the American context of racial and ethnic demography, what exactly is a Hispanic or a Latino?

The boundaries between racial and ethnic categories are always fuzzy and it doesn’t get much fuzzier than the American invention of the word Hispanic. To get the heart of the matter, one must discern the difference between the American conceptions of race and ethnicity.

Let’s lay out at the outset that race is a construct and that the categories are fluid and not based in genetic classification. Race is, however, seen as having to do with geographic origin, phenotype and identity. Ethnicity, on the other hand, is almost entirely based on culture and identity. The US Census uses the following racial categories:

  • White: having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa
  • Black or African American: having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa
  • Asian: having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
  • American Indian and Alaska Native
  • Other
  • Two or more races

Notice, there is no category for Hispanic or Latino. That is because the US Government considers these to be ethnic categories (not racial) and includes people of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race. For example, check out the following Hispanic Americans.

Most folks may not realize that Carlton Banks’ real name is Alfonso Ribeiro and that Charlie Sheen was born Carlos Irwin Esteves. Black and White, but both Hispanic.

I know many of you are already saying, but Charlie Sheen isn’t Hispanic – that he’s just a really weird White guy. That is just the point, White and Hispanic (just like Black and Hispanic) are not mutually exclusive terms. Let’s not forget that Latin America also received millions of European immigrants over the past few centuries. Argentina is arguably the Whitest country in the world. In fact, a majority of Hispanics and Latinos in the US are considered White by the government (but then again so are Arabs).

This begs the question, is it useful to have a Hispanic category if it includes the likes of Martin Sheen, Christina Aguilera and Andy Garcia? When demographers say that the US is going to be a majority minority nation in about three decades, they mean that the non-Hispanic White population will dip below 50%.

There is a possibility, however, that many Hispanics will assimilate into mainstream White and Black culture, as many have already done. This is why most Americans don’t consider Christina Aguilera and Charlie Sheen to be Hispanic in any real sense. By 2050, the US may be less than 50% non-Hispanic White, but since so many Hispanics are already White, this milestone may have little, if any real impact on American identity – it will depend largely on whether in the coming decades, White Hispanics see themselves as being primarily Hispanic or White. Let’s keep in mind that throughout American history, many European immigrants were not initially considered White – the term has been constantly evolving/expanding.

Also, there are already four majority minority states, including Texas and California, where the Hispanic and non-Hispanic White populations are almost equal. The non-Hispanic White community in these states still maintains an overwhelmingly disproportionate amount of political and economic power and cultural capital. So perhaps things might not be that different after all.

White Baby Population Falls Below 50%

White babies are now a minority. White people will soon be one too. Will these changes affect the way we interact among one another?

In the year leading up to July 2011, about 4 million babies were born in the United States, of which less than 2 million were non-Hispanic White. This is the first time in American history that there is no racial/ethnic majority among newborns.

The baby numbers came as no surprise to most demographers who had expected this moment for years, but it’s only the beginning of an even larger demographic shift.

In most parts of the world, the thought of an American congers up the image of a White person. This is understandable given that the White population has always represented a large majority of the country, but this majority is shrinking fast. In 2010, the non-Hispanic White population accounted for 63.7% of the total population – the lowest it’s been in our nation’s history.

By the 2040s, the overall non-Hispanic White population in the country will likely fall below 50% for the first time ever. This may have dramatic implications in terms of what it means to be an American. In many ways,  it can already be felt. In a few decades, the US will be the only major Western country to not have a White majority.

I see two potential scenarios. On the one hand, this may be the dawn of an age in which the organizing principle of societal categories will be based on something other than race – perhaps class, religion, geography, ideology. The possibilities to divide are endless, but for the first time, race may not be at the forefront. Another possibility is that the White population, having lost their majority, will grow increasingly insular and fearful of other communities. Let me know what you think will happen when the US become a majority minority country.