[See also: Glynn Custred Sighs About Social Science]
In his new monograph Ethnopolitics: Immigration, Race, and the American Political Future, the columnist Sam Francis argues that race has taken center stage in American politics, thus shoving the entire spectrum far to the left.
I have good reason to agree with him here. As the co-author of California's Proposition 209 which outlawed state-sponsored racial discrimination (i.e. affirmative action), I have tried to bring government back to the principle of a system of race-neutral laws asserted in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
(We were fairly successful. Many California districts and agencies have stopped blatant racial discrimination. Others, like the University of California system, have tried to get around the law. Some, like San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, are simply flipping their finger at the law. The only way they will be forced to comply is through law suits. And 209 makes that easier for plaintiffs.)
Francis observes that the established powers in both our political parties pander to the growing low-skill and low-income segments of the population. Meanwhile, they ignore the interests of America's real swing voters—the white majority.
The only surprising aspect of this phenomenon is that it's solidly bipartisan. One can certainly understand why the Democrats have become slaves to race-hustling politicians. An important part of their base, along with organized labor, is the grievance industry. Leaders such as Jesse Jackson and organizations such as the NAACP make their living and exercise power out of all proportion to their numbers by exploiting the racial and ethnic tensions in our "diverse" society.
But why do Republicans pander? Leaving principle aside, it would seem more pragmatic for them to shore up their traditional base, and write off organized "victim" groups who will never support them in any numbers—as voter patterns prove. In his essay, Francis endorses Steve Sailer's analysis of these patterns, which is confirmed by a recent Center for Immigration Studies report.
After all, it is the Republican base that is so viciously denigrated by angry leaders of minority groups and pandering Democrats—and damaged by their policies.
The racial and ethnic spoils system called "affirmative action" also harms blue-collar Democratic voters—not that their leaders are listening. With the proper appeal, those "Reagan Democrats" could easily be won over by Republican candidates. (cf. the GOP's Southern Strategy.) Yet the entire Republican establishment refuses to address race and immigration issues that would prove so devastating to their Democratic opponents.
Instead, Republicans wince at the libel and race-baiting hurled against them and slink away like a guilty party caught in flagrante delicto. Why?
This is a question which Francis leaves aside—and that's a shame. If we don't understand the motives that drive such self-defeating behavior, we will never be able to change it.
Francis does amass evidence to demonstrate the centrality of race in U.S. politics, and how it corrupts both parties. He begins with the Democrats in the 2000 presidential election. By then, Democrat candidates had become so dependent on the black voting bloc that the leading contenders for nomination, Bill Bradley and Al Gore, felt compelled to vie with one another for black votes in nearly all white-Iowa. During the primaries, the Democratic Party apparatus also created racial "issues" from thin air. Francis recounts how the left attacked Republicans for appearing on the Bob Jones University campus, because of that university's policy prohibiting interracial dating; also how Democrats created a racial issue around the Confederate flag that flew over the South Carolina capitol. The media, which serves as the PR wing of the Democratic Party, eagerly followed the party script, and helped gin those inventions into national issues.
Next Francis cites the manufactured issue of "reparations" for slavery. This call for payment to the descendants of slavery's long-dead victims, 138 years after its abolition, is a transparent scam to transfer public money to a single racial group. Yet when this phony issue came up in California in 2002, Democratic Governor Gray Davis virtually endorsed the notion—the highest-ranking elected leader in the country to endorse a crank idea promoted by a handful of black city councils.
Instead of calling this gambit what it was and discrediting Davis, both Republican candidate William Simon and President George W. Bush declined to speak on the issue.
This fits a pattern among Republicans on racial issues: one of craven surrender. As Francis shows, Republicans caved in when the left attacked Bob Jones University, then again on the Confederate flag. Francis recalls how Sen. John McCain "tearfully apologized" for not having denounced the flag before the crucial primary.
An even better example of how the two parties deal with race is that of Proposition 209—which Francis curiously omits from his book. Yet it demonstrates his thesis vividly.
When Proposition 209 won in California, Congressman Charles Canady (R—FL) introduced the same language in a bill in Congress. This would have eliminated racial and ethnic preferences in the federal government. The Republican leadership ordered its members on the committee to table the legislation. Later attempts to remove preferences from the highway transportation act were also resisted by the leadership. The idea was killed.
Similarly, when two students sued the University of Michigan for reverse discrimination, a case recently heard in the Supreme Court, the Bush administration submitted an amicus curiae brief that argued against the University of Michigan's blatant quota system—but supported "diversity," a rationale that would permit the government to continue dispensing benefits and imposing handicaps on individuals because of their race. As others have argued on VDARE.COM, "diversity" is an even more dangerous rationale for race preferences than the outcry to remedy past discrimination—since it omits even the pretence promoting justice.
Francis does a good job of analyzing the seismic California initiative Proposition 187, meant to deny access to public education, non-emergency health care and welfare to people in the country illegally. When Proposition 187 appeared, Hispanic race hustlers and the Spanish language media encouraged fear, resentment and hatred against the white population—not only among the immigrant population, but also among Americans of Hispanic descent. On one occasion, a near-riot erupted in Los Angeles, in the course of which the American flag was burned, pro-187 demonstrators were attacked, and a sea of Mexican flags waved defiantly above the heads of the angry, shouting mob. The situation became so tense that the Los Angeles police department and the California National Guard were put on alert.
Proposition 187 won at the polls, garnering 59 percent. Francis, citing analyses of the voting pattern reported by the Economist and the Los Angeles Times, notes that 64 percent of whites, 56 percent of the black voters and 57 percent of Asians voted for Proposition 187, compared to only 23 percent of Latinos. (Here at least, minority Californians did not vote as an anti-white bloc.)
Among Republicans and conservatives, 78 percent voted for 187—sending a message so loud from the GOP base that you'd think the party establishment would have to listen.
But Establishment Republicans stayed silent on 187. Jack Kemp and William Bennett moralized against it.
Only California Governor Pete Wilson got the message. He jumped on the 187 bandwagon in 1994 and won re-election. He jumped on the Proposition 209 bandwagon in 1996. No other Republicans, however, will touch the issues of race and immigration—despite the repeated Republican failure to win minority votes by neglecting majority interests. They seem unwilling to learn from experience.
Francis concludes his essay with a grim prediction: Unless American whites discover their own racial consciousness and the political will to act on it, they will become "a politically inert and powerless racial minority in the new, majority non-white America of the coming century."
Here I must part company with him. Francis correctly and vividly describes the rise of politicized race and ethnicity in America. But he does not oppose this type of politics in principle. (Perhaps this is why he decided not to cover Proposition 209, which enshrined such race-neutrality in California's constitution—and was promoted most publicly by a black man, University of California Regent Ward Connerly.) Francis simply wants whites to get in on the game of racial politics, and fight for their share of the pie.
Sam Francis seems not to want minorities to side with whites. He apparently believes that racial division is inevitable.
I reject this way of dealing with race and politics in America. Yet I also admit that Francis's approach, at least in the short run, might be the only way aggressive minority politicians can be countered—and the only way pandering Democratic and Republican elites can be forced to recognize what damage they are doing by caving to America's race hustlers.
Glynn Custred [email him] is professor of anthropology at California State University and co-author of California's Proposition 209. Among his specialties in his field of anthropology are sociolinguistics, borderland studies and ethnicity and nationalism.