As America Changes, Reactionaries Will React

A political scientist at the University of Chicago seems to have confirmed something the January 6th insurrectionists had in common (in addition to the obvious factors, like being fans of the former president):

The Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST), working with court records, has analyzed the demographics and home county characteristics of the 377 Americans, from 250 counties in 44 states, arrested or charged in the Capitol attack.

Those involved are, by and large, older and more professional than right-wing protesters we have surveyed in the past. They typically have no ties to existing right-wing groups. But like earlier protesters, they are 95 percent White and 85 percent male, and many live near and among Biden supporters in blue and purple counties. . . .

By far the most interesting characteristic common to the insurrectionists’ backgrounds has to do with changes in their local demographics: Counties with the most significant declines in the non-Hispanic White population are the most likely to produce insurrectionists who now face charges. . . .

All 36 of Texas’s rioters come from just 17 counties, each of which lost White population over the past five years. Three of those arrested or charged hail from Collin County north of Dallas, which has lost White population at the very brisk rate of 4.3 percent since 2015.

The same thing can be seen in New York state, home to 27 people charged or arrested after the riot, nearly all of whom come from 14 blue counties that Biden won in and around New York City. One of these, Putnam County (south of Poughkeepsie), is home to three of those arrested, and a county that saw its White population decline by 3.5 percent since 2015.

When compared with almost 2,900 other counties in the United States, our analysis of the 250 counties where those charged or arrested live reveals that the counties that had the greatest decline in White population had an 18 percent chance of sending an insurrectionist to D.C., while the counties that saw the least decline in the White population had only a 3 percent chance. This finding holds even when controlling for population size, distance to D.C., unemployment rate and urban/rural location. It also would occur by chance less than once in 1,000 times.

Put another way, the people alleged by authorities to have taken the law into their hands on Jan. 6 typically hail from places where non-White populations are growing fastest.

CPOST also conducted two independent surveys in February and March . . . to help understand the roots of this rage. One driver overwhelmingly stood out: fear of the “Great Replacement.”

Great Replacement theory has achieved iconic status with white nationalists and holds that minorities are progressively replacing White populations due to mass immigration policies and low birthrates. Extensive social media exposure is the second-biggest driver of this view, our surveys found. Replacement theory might help explain why such a high percentage of the rioters hail from counties with fast-rising, non-White populations. . . .

To ignore this movement and its potential would be akin to [the previous administration’s] response to Covid-19: We cannot presume it will blow over. The ingredients exist for future waves of political violence, from lone-wolf attacks to all-out assaults on democracy . . .

Paul Waldman of The Washington Post reacted to the study:

We’ve known for some time that many [Americans feel] a deep cultural anxiety, the sense that the world is changing in ways they don’t like and can’t control, and is leaving them behind. To a great degree, they’re right: Popular culture is far more diverse now than it was 20 or 30 years ago, and in many ways it reflects liberal values. If you think it’s an abomination for people of the same gender to marry, TV is going to make you feel very uncomfortable (as will your own kids’ opinions, in all likelihood).

And if you’re a White person living in a town that is steadily becoming less White, just like the country as a whole? Many such people will welcome that diversity, but some will see it as a threat to their status.

Status is complicated. It comes not only from your income, the prestige of your occupation or the esteem of your neighbors. It can also come from the feeling that you and people like you are in charge. . . .

As someone who spent a lifetime chasing status, [Biden’s predecessor] understood that the feeling of status threat could be turned into a powerful political weapon. For instance: The point of insisting Mexico would pay for his border wall wasn’t that we needed the money, but that we’d regain status and potency by dominating and humiliating that country. Vote for [him] and that status and potency would be restored, he claimed.

It is almost impossible to overstate the role that the conservative media plays in creating and sustaining the feeling that White people’s status is under threat — and that the appropriate response is resentment and fear. The encroachments of liberalism are a daily drumbeat on Fox News and conservative talk radio, as is the message that everything you cherish is on the verge of collapse. You may have thought a “Happy Holidays” sign at the department store was just a seasonal decoration, but Fox will tell you it’s actually part of a war to outlaw your religion, so you’d darn well better get mad.

After the past couple of decades, we should understand that there’s almost nothing Democrats can do to diffuse those feelings of cultural displacement. Fox is gonna Fox, and [Republican] politicians . . . are going to see culture war rabble-rousing as their key to rising within the party.

The degree to which Democrats “reach out” to guys in Midwestern diners or try to show them “respect” by paying homage to their cultural markers won’t make a difference. . . .

The degree to which Democrats “reach out” to guys in Midwestern diners or try to show them “respect” by paying homage to their cultural markers won’t make a difference. . . .

That rage still burns, because the forces of societal change that feed it continue inexorably, and some people will always try to profit from it, politically or financially. That’s true even if conservatives find it harder to loathe President Biden than they did Obama or Hillary Clinton.

Unquote.

President Biden had his first cabinet meeting last week. The fact that the cabinet “looks like America” was a mark of progress.

Many of our neighbors would have been more comfortable if Biden’s looked like the Nixon cabinet in 1972. That’s not going to change any time soon.

We Should Expect Divided Government For a Long Time

Back in July, I wrote about the unrepresentative nature of the House of Representatives:

The House doesn’t represent the will of the people, because small states are over-represented (some congressional districts are nearly twice as large as others) and recent gerrymandering results in more Republicans being elected than Democrats, even though Democrats get more votes.

What I should have said is that some small states are over-represented and others are under-represented. For example, Rhode Island’s two members of Congress each represent only 525,000 people. Wyoming’s single member represents about 580,000. Yet Delaware‘s one member of Congress represents 925,000 and Montana‘s represents more than one million.

That might be a wash in political terms, because some small states lean left and some lean right. Unfortunately, of the 12 states that have no more than two representatives in Congress, eight lean right and only 4 lean left.

In addition, we shouldn’t forget the District of Columbia, which has more people than Vermont and Wyoming, definitely leans left and isn’t properly represented in Congress at all (they don’t have a senator and their representative gets to talk but not vote). This all adds up to an advantage for the Republicans.

In that post, I also said that gerrymandering resulted in more Republicans being elected to the House in 2012 than Democrats, even though Democrats got more votes. I was right about the numbers: the Republicans received only 47.6% of the total House vote, but ended up with 51.7% of the seats, which resulted in the Republicans having almost total control of the House of Representatives, since the House is run more efficiently (i.e. less democratically) than the Senate.

It might be the case, however, that gerrymandering doesn’t explain the Republicans’ success. That’s not to say the Republicans haven’t done their best to draw Congressional district boundaries to their advantage. They clearly did so the last time they got the chance and did it with more dedication than the Democrats.

Nevertheless, a recent study suggests that the Republicans have a natural advantage in House races. The reason could be that Democrats have gerrymandered themselves by tending to live in big cities, college towns and old manufacturing centers. That’s how gerrymandering works. You try to clump together people who vote for your opponents in as few districts as possible. This creates a few extremely safe seats for your opponents (ideally, they’d get 100% of the vote in a few districts), and a bunch of relatively safe seats for your side. It’s basically voter segregation or ghettoization. By living close together in places like Atlanta, Ann Arbor and Toledo, Democratic voters appear to have put themselves at a natural geographical disadvantage in House races.

The people who did the study claim to have tried out thousands of different district boundaries in 49 states (no Alaska? no Rhode Island?). The results were not encouraging for Democrats or opponents of gerrymandering:

In the vast majority of states, our nonpartisan simulations produced Republican seat shares that were not much different from the actual numbers in the last election. This was true even in some states, like Indiana and Missouri, with heavy Republican influence over redistricting.

It might be possible to counteract this Republican advantage by creating lots of districts that radiate out from the centers of towns and cities and would include a nice mix of urban, suburban and rural voters. The authors of the study seem to discount this possibility. At any rate, their point is that by living in relatively close quarters, Democrats are at a natural disadvantage when it comes to electing members of the House of Representatives.

A reasonable conclusion to draw from all of this is that Congress is even less representative than it seems to be. The Senate was explicitly designed to favor the interests of lightly-populated states, which now tend to vote Republican, while the House exhibits some favoritism toward small states, but more importantly is gerrymandered, whether on purpose or by simple geography, to favor Republicans as well.

The good news is that Democratic presidential candidates may continue to do relatively well, since most people pay at least some attention to politics during presidential elections and most people agree with Democratic policies (progressive taxation, more social spending, less military spending). Democrats who run for President will do well, that is, until they actually have to govern. Then they’ll have to deal with too many Republicans in Congress.

Criticizing Israel and the Fundamental Problem

Max Blumenthal is the 35-year-old son of former Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal. The younger Blumenthal published his second book in October. It’s called Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.

In an interview at Salon, he discusses the right-ward shift in Israeli politics, the rise of some scary racism and the reaction to his book. The Amazon reviews indicate the reaction the book is getting:

5 stars…………71
4 stars…………..7
3 stars…………..3
2 stars…………..4
1 star…………..65

That’s what’s called a “distinct pattern”.

What interested me most about the interview was Blumenthal’s description of Israel as a “settler colonial ethnocracy”. That is, after all, an accurate description of colonial America’s treatment of both the native population and African slaves. It’s doubtful that the Indians or slaves would have considered the United States to be a straightforward constitutional democracy.

Blumenthal points out an important difference between America and Israel, however. He says that the Israeli government’s official policy is to maintain a Jewish population in the country of at least 70%. The United States has controlled immigration, but has never had a policy aiming at a specific percentage of the population being, for example, white Christians.

This demographic policy, Blumenthal argues, leads to oppressive policies toward Palestinians, non-Jewish Africans and, most recently, Bedouins:

The Jewish state requires [holding non-Jews] in detention centers like the Saronim, where thousands of non-Jewish Africans are staying right now in shipping containers in the Negev desert; or the Prawer Plan, which mandates the removal of 30- to 40,000 veteran [Bedouin] citizens of Israel to Indian reservation-style communities from their ancestral lands; or the fact that Palestinians face constant home demolitions — we’re talking about 26,000 home demolitions since 1967. The Jewish state mandates the creation of the separation wall, which is said to prevent “demographic spillover”; and it requires the Gaza Strip to be under siege perpetually, because 80 percent of its population is refugees who have legitimate claims to the land and property inside what is now the state of Israel.

(Note: Demonstrations against the Prawer Plan were in the news recently.)

I haven’t been able to confirm Israel’s 70% demographic target, but did find an article by Israel’s most respected demographer, Sergio DellaPergola, a professor at Hebrew University. He lays out the basic existential issue Israel faces (putting aside any threats from its neighbors):

…it has been suggested that [Israel] faces a conundrum because it has three fundamental goals, but can achieve only two of the three at the same time. The three goals are to preserve the Israeli state’s Jewish identity, democratic character, and territorial extent.

Thus, Israel can choose to apply a Jewish cultural identity to the whole territory and population between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, but in that case it cannot be a democracy. Israel can opt for the same territorial extension and apply to all residents the democratic principle of “one man, one vote,” but in that case it will not be a Jewish state. Or Israel can choose to be a Jewish and democratic state, but in that case it will have to withdraw sovereignty from significant parts of the territory and population.

Professor DellaPergola points out that 1947’s U.N. resolution 181 called for the establishment of a Jewish state, an Arab state and a U.N.-administered area around Jerusalem (in the diagram below, the proposed Jewish state is yellow and the Arab state is gray). The 1948-49 war resulted in Israel expanding its borders beyond those in the U.N. resolution. DellaPerfogla believes that “the real bone of contention is what happened in 1947-1949, not the outcome of the Six Day War in June 1967”.

MFAG007y0

If the non-Jews living in Palestine and surrounding regions back in 1947 had welcomed the creation of Israel, the Middle East would be a much calmer place today. They didn’t and it isn’t.

The Cold Civil War and the South Rising Again

It’s tragic that we have to keep fighting the Civil War, even though it’s been a cold war for the last 150 years. Witness Reconstruction’s failure, white Southern insurgency, lynchings, Jim Crow laws, “separate but equal”, the Ku Klux Klan, chain gangs, filibusters, Lester Maddox, “right to work” laws, the Tea Party, voter suppression, and so on.

But that’s the situation we’ll be in until the biological and cultural descendants of those 19th century Southern traitors (also known as “rebels”) lose their ability to screw up America.

That blessed day will begin to dawn when there are enough African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans in Texas and Florida to make those state consistently blue. When that eventually happens, the rest of us should finally be protected from the South ever rising again.