Friday, August 12, 2005So the nation as a whole will be majority-minority by 2050, which provides further evidence to "emerging democratic majority" thesis. But the aging of the Democratic activist base will render these potentially favorable political winds nugatory, since we won't have the manpower to exploit them. Right?
You see, demography is not necessarily destiny. Present trends may not continue, or there may be something about the trends that we haven't thought about. Take the "no ethnic majority" argument forwarded by the NYT. Closer examination will reveal that the nation hasn't had a majority ethnic group since the English lost their dominance around 1880 or so. The hidden assumption of their analysis is that white, latinos, asians, and blacks will remain self-segregated, homogenous groups. Except they're not homogenous - they're each very diverse. And they won't remain isolated populations because of intermarriage. Already something around 50% of minorities born in American marry outside their ethnic group. This has always happened. I'm not "white." I'm irish-german-cherokee-welsh-scottish-scots irish- and maybe english too. Tell a german and an englishman they're the same ethnic group. I dare you. So in 2050 we'll continue to be what we are right now: mutts. And good for us.
Secondly, the "emerging democratic majority" hypothesis simply presumes that the voting structure of each constituency will remain unchanged over the next generation. Which is a hell of an assumption, particularly given the full-court press the Republicans are giving Latinos. As Clinton was always eager to say, the only constant is change. Sure there's the potential for big Democratic electoral gains, but as a sports writer once said - potential is a French word meaning you haven't done anything yet.
Finally, Shaula Evans is right to be concerned about the very "mature" Democratic activist base. We certainly need to rebuild Democratic institutions and bring more people in. But to a certain degree these institutions are always going to be dominated by older people, for the same reason that they are dominated by affluent people. Political participation tends to require a lot of time, which people in their 30's don't have. And it takes a lot of commitment, which people struggling to pay the bills can't give.
So demography is interesting, and certainly insightful, but it is hardly inevitable.