The Dying Gasps of Nativism

Here's the latest video from Chase Whiteside and Erick Stoll of New Left Media interviewing attendees at Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally held this past Saturday in Washington. 

The sentiments being expressed are really no different than say the ones that were expressed at this McCain/Palin rally (video at The Guardian) in Colorado Springs back in late October 2008. The Guardian, at the time, wrote of Palin's adoring crowd that day that "beneath the cheers and applause, there was a lingering mood of defeat - a sense that it was all over, and that as much as anything, this was a goodbye rally for the woman who just months ago had so energised social conservatives." There's no question that "lingering mood of defeat" on the right has over the past two years been further transformed into a Lernaean Hydra of ignorance, anger, bigotry, righteous indignation, fear, sheer stupidity and irrationality.

That these people sincerely hold the belief that Obama is a racist Muslim Socialist born in Kenya underscores the influence of the right-wing propagandist machine that is Fox News and the right-wing blogs. Today a "hydra-like problem" or "hydra" refers to a multifaceted problem that seems incapable of step-by-step solution, or to one that worsens upon conventional attempts to solve it, for example, attempts to suppress a particular piece of information resulting in it being disseminated even more widely.

And we clearly face a hydra-like problem when it comes to the right-wing echo chamber. Let's face it, they have more money and their own media empire, a purveyor of misinformation like no other on the planet. But as Hercules did slay the Lernaean Hydra, so too we will slay the multi-headed serpent that is the nativist right with the sword that is demographics.

Back in 1998 at a speech at Portland State University, President Clinton noted:

Today, largely because of immigration, there is no majority race in Hawaii or Houston or New York City. Within five years, there will be no majority race in our largest state, California. In a little more than 50 years, there will be no majority race in the United States. No other nation in history has gone through demographic change of this magnitude in so short a time ... [These immigrants] are energizing our culture and broadening our vision of the world. They are renewing our most basic values and reminding us all of what it truly means to be American.

Indeed in 2001, California, the nation's most populous state, joined New Mexico, Hawaii and the District of Columbia where non-Hispanic whites are also in the minority. And in 2005, Texas became the fourth state to have a non-white majority population. As of 2008, the percentage of non-Hispanic white residents has fallen below 60 percent in Maryland, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, New York and Mississippi. 

In thinking about Arizona's anti-immigration SB 2281, my thoughts are that the law is really not much more than an pathetic attempt at ethnic cleansing, a last ditch effort to drive Hispanics from the state. According to a Brookings Institution report, Arizona's Hispanic population has shot up 180 percent in the last 20 years, with the white population dropping from 72 percent to 58 percent. Hispanics account for about one-third of the state's 6.6 million people, and 90 percent of Hispanics under age 18 were born in the US. Even if all immigration from Mexico were halted tomorrow, the high birthrate of this young population would continue Arizona's population boom and its demographic shift. Arizona will become majority-minority state by 2020.

According to the US Census Bureau, the dominance of non-Hispanic white people, who today account for two-thirds of Americans, will be whittled away, falling steadily to less than half in 2042 and just 46 percent by 2050. In the opposite trajectory, those who describe themselves as Hispanic, African-American, Asian and Native American will increase in proportion from about a third now to 54 percent by 2050.

Such a rapid demographical shift is in tune with trends that we have been seeing for quite some time, but it is happening much faster than experts had predicted 12 years ago when President Clinton gave his speech. When I hear Tea Baggers talk about "taking back their country," I can't help but think that what they really mean is reversing that demographical shift. I suspect as that demographical shift takes increasing hold we will continue to be subjected to the dying gasps of nativism but they are grasping at straws if they think that the demographic shift can be reversed.

It's game, set, match for the nativist right but whether the non-nativist right can make inroads into the growing Hispanic electorate will depend on whether they amend their vitriol on immigration issues. For Democrats, it is certainly a political imperative that we enact a comprehensive immigration reform and remain attuned to the social justice concerns of most Hispanics but more importantly, I think, we need to demonstrate that our basic values include tolerance and cultural pluralism. These are the values to which President Clinton was referring to back in 1998 and these are the values that will ultimately assign the nativist right to irrelevancy.


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