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Growing ethnic polarization is dominating U.S. elections

by Henry Srebrnik (feat. Stephen Saideman)

The Chronicale Herald
August 16, 2016

The presidential race is bringing out some of the worst aspects of politics in the U.S. by pitting different demographic groups against each other.

This year, for the first time in decades, overt white nationalism has become a factor in national politics.

Tim Miller, Jeb Bush’s former communications director, says the Republican Party is now essentially driven “by a set of white identity politics.”

Donald Trump’s followers are overwhelmingly white. Opposition views him as illegitimate for his nativist nationalism and resistance to multiculturalism. These groups are completely in Hillary Clinton’s camp. The Democratic Party is more than a choice; it is their “home.”

We are beginning to see the kind of ethnic polarization in America that ruins countries. In such places, there is no overarching sense of common identity or culture, but rather antagonistic groups living side by side.

In such societies, political parties become vehicles of ethnic groups, regardless of platforms or names. Even those leaders who would rather place stress on economic or other issues have frequently found it easier to mobilize people along ethnic lines.

Once parties are organized on ethnic lines voters will vote for the party that represents their group, regardless of the individuals running for office.

So Fiji has “ethnic Fijian” and “Indo-Fijian” parties, Guyana “Afro-Guyanese” and “Indo-Guyanese” parties, Sri Lanka “Tamil” and “Sinhalese” parties, and so on.

In Africa, with its artificial states, a host of parties serve as vehicles for competing ethnicities. Even the United Kingdom now has Scottish and Welsh parties (as well as Catholic and Protestant ones in Northern Ireland).

How many votes would the Zionist Likud get among Israeli Arabs, even if they were promised the moon? How many Israeli Jews vote for Balad and Hadash, two of the four Arab parties that comprise the Joint List, an Israeli Arab political grouping?

In ethnically divided party systems we get “outbidding.” Parties at the extremes create ever greater polarization in the political system.

As Carleton University political science professor Stephen Saideman notes, “Political leaders competing for support from an ethnically homogeneous group have really strong incentives to demonize outgroups to gain political support.” Governance becomes very difficult across this divide.

Today’s Republican Party is predominantly a white, working-class party with its epicenter in the South and interior West. The Democratic Party is a coalition of relatively upscale whites, along with racial and ethnic minorities, concentrated in an archipelago of cities.

This divide will widen. According to the American National Election Studies, the white percentage of the national vote has dropped steadily from around 95 per cent in 1948-1960 to 73 per cent by 2012. By 2055, whites will be in the minority and no longer a viable mainstream for American politics. Democrats represent growing demographic groups, not shrinking ones like the white working class.

In California, race-based voting is creating a one-party state. Republicans, the de facto white party, can no longer win power there due to a massive demographic shift.

In 1940, 90 per cent of Californians were white and the GOP carried the state reliably in presidential elections. Today more than 60 per cent of the state is non-white, with Latinos set to become a majority by 2050. They are already a majority of youth. So California is now solidly Democratic.

Welcome to the world of ethnic hostility, where election results, in the words of political scientist Donald Horowitz, become little more than a census count of competing ethnicities.


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