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January 07, 2003

Why Bush Will Lose: Demographics of Dem Victory

The Future Belongs to Us

I've stated repeatedly over the last six months my conviction that Bush will lose in 2004. (See here and here and here).

With Bush kicking off his reeelection drive this week with his propaganda offensive on the domestic front -- since his "stimulus package" can't be considered serious economic policy-- I thought it worthwhile to do a series of posts on different aspects of Bush's vulnerabilities for 2004. While tempered realism is needed, I do think it will also take realistic optimism to build the energy not just to defeat Bush but to move broader politics in the next two years.

And it's worth emphasizing that I am no general Pollyanna. I bet money on Bush to win against Gore in 2000 (which I define as if you end up with the nice tote bag that can obliterate the world) and predicted the GOP takeover of Congress back in 1994. But I also have a strong track record of betting positively against the conventional wisdom. On the day Bush Senior had troops enter Kuwait City and his polls were at 90% approval, I was telling friends he would lose reelection in 1992. And similarly, after the 1994 debacle I was betting on Clinton to easily win reelection. While documenting past positions is not possible on everything, in that year of 1994 as the California GOP took control of the Governor's office and both state houses for the first time in many decades and the anti-immigrant Prop 187 passed by large margins, within weeks of the election I predicted that this promised not a rightwing future for the state but a progressive resurgence.

In a post to USENET (where Internet politicos argued politics before blogs) a week after the 1994 election, also called The Future Belongs to Us, I argued "when the results are broken down, they promise a much more progressive future for California." So I felt some triumph in writing my column a few months ago that California was passing major pieces of progressive legislation and was Where Democrats Could be Democrats.

Just as new immigrants were activated by the anti-immigrant attacks in California, they are being spurred to becoming citizens and voting nationally because of post-911 assaults on civil liberties across the country. While this demographic change is not the only issue going against Bush-- and I will write about others in posts this week -- it is a large and significant reason both Bush and the GOP are in deep political danger. Just as the Trent Lott affair reflected the party's increasing inability to straddle coded appeals to racism while smiling at non-racist moderate voters, Bush will find it increasingly hard to straddle appeals to anti-immigrant Republicans while making empty pledges of outreach to the latino and asian communities.

At the most basic level, each year the GOP faces a demographic shift in the voting population as greater and greater numbers of non-white teenages gain the right to vote. In the 2000 census, 14-17 year olds were 36.4% non-white, while the general voting population that year was only 28% non-white. An additional 6 million non-whites will reach the age of 18 between 2000 and 2004. (See this census page with the data.)

Now, not all of those new 18-year olds will have the right to vote (although many more of them will than their parents, since they often will have been born in this country and automatically qualify for citizenship). But that is why the more general upsurge in naturalization applications since 911 is so significant. In the eight-month period after 911, applications for citizenship soared. There were 519,523 new applications for citizenship between Oct. 1, 2001, and May 31, 2002 - 65 percent more than the 314,971 applications received over the same period beginning in 2000. INS spokesmen compare this to the upsurge in applications in the mid-90s following Prop 187 and other anti-immigrant attacks:

In 1995 applications for naturalization increased by almost 77 percent compared to the year before. Naturalizations rose 114 percent in 1996, reaching an all-time high of 1,044,689. Another similarity between today and the mid-90s is a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment, [INS spokesman] Kane said. ‘‘There was a lot of anti-immigration rhetoric and legislation, which became a catalyst for people to realize they needed to protect themselves,’’ he said, pointing to mid-90s immigration and welfare reform that targeted both legal and illegal immigrants.
After that naturalization wave, concentrated in California, latino voting surged. Latinos grew to 11 percent of California voters, up from 8 percent in 1992. They went from 10 to 16 percent of Texas voters, and from 5 to 12 percent of Florida voters. See also here for more on the latino voting surge in California. The Bush INS has been using 911 security excuses to slow granting citizenship, but they can only delay, not stop the wave of new citizens that will be able to register and vote in the next two years.

While Bush has avoided the more overt rhetoric against immigrants (a reason he was a candidate for President in 2000 and California's Pete Wilson was a pariah who no Republican wanted to be seen with), it is still unlikely he can make serious inroads into the latino population, especially post-911 with the new attacks on immigrants by his Justice Department and his backing away from promises of amnesty. A widely cited conservative analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies argued (see a shorter version in National Review:

  • Democrats lead Republicans by a comfortable margin in the partisan identification of Latino voters. The gap is even wider among immigrant Latinos who have not yet become citizens. As many of these non-citizens naturalize, the political affiliation of Latinos is likely to shift still further toward the Democratic party.
  • Latinos become more Democratic, not less, with increasing education and tenure in the United States. Rising income also does not appreciably change Latino partisanship.
  • And the problem is not merely the GOP positions on immigration but a more farreaching identification of latinos with core Democratic economic and social policies. As the CIS argues:
    To make serious gains among Latinos, the GOP will have to consider a wholesale policy redirection on health care and social welfare programs, changes that will be almost impossible to pursue given the party’s fiscally conservative base.
    From this analysis, the CIS argues that Bush should abandon moves towards amnesty for immigrants as a sure route to defeat.
    In light of the assembled facts, the Republicans may want to think long and hard about current proposals to grant amnesty to immigrants illegally living in the country. From a Republican standpoint, legalizing the status of illegal aliens is another path to electoral defeat.
    So in appealing to latino immigrants, Bush is forced into contradiction with both economic and social policies from his more conservative base.

    And this GOP problem with immigrant communities is expanding rapidly to include the Asian American community. Attacks on latino immigrants in the mid-90s led to a surge in asian american naturalization and voting as well and a shift towards the Democrats. Clinton got just 29% of Asian-American vote in 1992, while Gore got 54% of Asian vote (and Nader surprisingly scored his largest percentage base with Asian Americans with 4% of them voting for him, for a total of 58% progressive vote among Asian Americans in 2000.) See these exit polls.

    And post-911 attacks on parts of the Asian community, especially South Asians, is just likely to accellerate these trends. Exit polls in New York City in 2002, important because they included 3000 Asian voters rather than the usual handful in national polls, showed that while George Pataki had strong support for governor among Asian Americans, only 22% of those polled gave favorable ratings to Bush, with 70% of Asian Americans ranking his performance average or poor. Reflecting a steady trend over the past decade, a majority of Asian Americans polled were Democrats (56%), 16% were Republicans, 3% were registered in other parties, and 24% were not enrolled in any political party.

    While a poll from New York City might seem an uncertain harbringer of doom for Bush, the fact that these Asian American voters could evaluate a Republican like Pataki on his own merits while overwhelmingly rejecting Bush reflects deeper trends in the community, especially as they match decades-long trends against the national GOP and Bush. Across the country, the potential of the Asian American vote is tremendous, since in places like New York City less than 20% of eligible Asian Americans turned out to vote. Part of this is the continual violations of law by many election officials that refuse to stock bilingual ballots or offer assistance. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights last year released a report on the 2000 controversy in Florida. The report found that many people for whom English is a second language were unable to vote because election officials refused to offer bilingual assistance. If progressives can push for greater bilingual support for voters, the significance of the asian american shift in voting towards Democrats will only be accentuated.

    And there has been a large expansion of voter outreach to new immigrants across the country. See , here and here for stories on new organizations and efforts to naturalize, register and get out the vote among these new immigrant communities.

    One key tactic for progressives is to not allow Bush to straddle his verbal outreach to new immigrant communities while attacking them through anti-immigrant roundups and denial of rights. A new movement plans "Freedom Rides" this Spring for legalization of immigrants, deliberately evoking the history of the freedom rides that demanded the right to vote for blacks denied equal status. This effort is backed by major church, community and union groups such as the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees union. See here and here for stories and the movement's web page. This builds on the AFL-CIO officially changing its national policy in 2000 to support amnesty and legalization for undocumented immigrants.

    With union mobilization (an issue I will discuss more in depth in a post this week) reinforcing the ongoing upsurge in new immigrant, latino and Asian American voting, Bush will be facing millions of new voters seeking his defeat in 2004. By supporting bilingual outreach and amnesty efforts like the Freedom Rides for legalization, progressives can help accellerate these trends supporting progressive electoral victories in coming years.

    Posted by Nathan at January 7, 2003 09:37 AM

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    Comments

    This is nice, but it's still depressing that we can't get native-born white males (of which I am one) to vote sensibly.

    Actually, it's more than depressing: these feelings of w/m disenfranchisment can then continue to be stoked in opposition to any progress in governing. It means the BEST we can hope for is reliving the Clinton years again and again. Every step forward will be like dragging Jesus' cross up the hill.

    Posted by: a different chris at January 7, 2003 04:55 PM

    Hey, the GOP has to get some votes :) But really, just because a large majority of white males vote Republican, that doesn't discount the fact that a large minority votes progressive. Increasing that percentage is a useful goal, but it's hardly the priority when there are so many unregistered voters sympathetic to progressive goals.

    Posted by: Nathan at January 7, 2003 08:17 PM

    "The Future Belongs to Us"

    I surprised at you Nathan. You know it doesn't work that way. E.g.,:

    "Freedom doesn't come like a bird on the wing.
    Freedom doesn't come like summer rain.
    You've got to work for it,
    fight for it,
    day and night for it.
    AND EVERY GENERATION'S GOT TO WIN IT AGAIN!"

    Posted by: Tom at January 13, 2003 12:45 AM

    Re Asian-Ams: Wen Ho Lee and the "Chinese fundraiser" "story" are a BIG part of the story, according to both personally relayed anecdotes and some media reports.

    Posted by: Jeff at January 14, 2003 11:42 PM

    I enjoyed this piece because it's nice to encounter some optimism for a change. However, I don't believe the Dem candidate will win in 2004 because the Republicans will go to any lengthsnot to have to surrender the White House. In 2004 there will be more dirty tricks to ensure a GOP victory than we can possibly imagine now. The voting machines will be only half of it. My forecast is actually that there'll be an assassination in the course of the campaign - the Dem candidate will die, probably in a plane crash. The Republicans are getting very good at those, you see.

    Posted by: Carl at January 16, 2003 10:29 AM

    The war started last week and it's starting to look ugly. Big surprise. People, except for Bush- led by the nose by his pencil neck hawks and some southern baptists are not really gung ho for the war in the first place.
    just pray the greens don't mess it up again! thinking about nader and idealistic greens in 2000 just makes my blood boil. "gore is anti-environment" and "there is no difference between the parties". what a load of delusional horse manure. i hope those green party members, who are likely marching in the anti-war parades are happy they are the ones responsible for GWB winning in 2000. idiots.

    Posted by: Kristen at March 25, 2003 06:55 PM

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