I disagree strongly with former NY Times editor Howell Raines on the Democrats taking over the South.
Even more dramatic changes in voter attitudes will shift the region’s party balance, to the detriment of the Republicans. This won’t come about because current Republican voters and their elected officials now in office will somehow be converted, but because they will be overwhelmed by new voters in the burgeoning Hispanic and Asian communities, who will join the black minority. Over half of the nation’s 40 million blacks live in the South.
For the time being, however, a traveler through the South can’t help but notice that its affluent, suburban whites remain myopic about the obvious signs, like the multiracial families to be seen among Walmart shoppers on any given day in any shopping mall.
Houston and Dallas are among the 11 American cities with the largest Hispanic populations. Vibrant Vietnamese communities are all along the Gulf Coast. Major cities have Spanish-language advertising, and have or soon will have sleek Latino-oriented shopping centers, like the new one on the fashionable southern side of Birmingham. The Asian presence in the medical, academic and business communities is substantial and growing, perhaps most notably in Baton Rouge, where Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana and presidential candidate (who is Asian-American, like Gov. Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina), works.
Judging from the laws they are passing, Southern Republicans seem untroubled by Mitt Romney’s 17 percent of the minority vote in the last presidential election. It seems an overstatement to say that Southern Republicans are in outright denial about the fact that whites will be a minority in America around 2043. It does seem fair to say that the national Republican Party is underreacting, and Southern Republicans seem to be especially resistant to appealing to their minority neighbors.
Like their counterparts in the national G.O.P. and the current crop of about 15 me-too Republican presidential candidates, Southern legislators seem unwilling to make any change on social welfare, retirement, health care or women’s and gay rights that would attract Southerners not voting Republican at present.
A survey of demographic and polling data in what the Brookings Institution demographer William H. Frey calls a New Sunbelt, stretching across the Southern Rim from Miami to Los Angeles, makes an ironclad case for this huge recalibration in political and cultural attitudes. Yet, for example, in the Florida Panhandle the same whites who cheer the new Hispanic stars at high school soccer matches deliver a bloc vote for the most conservative-sounding candidates at local, state and national levels. Anecdotal evidence indicates that affluent Southern Republicans continue to believe that minority voters can be attracted with punitive polices based on the Paul Ryan model.
The statistical evidence shouts otherwise. “Demography is destiny” is the theme of Mr. Frey’s new book, “Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics Are Remaking America,” and another recent book, “The Next America: Boomers, Millennials and the Looming Generational Showdown,” by Paul Taylor and his colleagues at the Pew Research Center.
Did anyone Howell cited in the article pay attention to the 2010 and 2014 elections, where Republicans gained 80+ seats in the House and turned a 60-seat Democratic majority into a 54-seat Senate control, and gained governor's mansions in deep blue states like Illinois and Maryland, or did I miss that? Did anyone pay attention to Chief Justice John Roberts gutting the Voting Rights Act and assuring the GOP will control the South for another 30+ years at the very minimum?
Yet Howell craps out this pipe dream:
In presidential politics, the transition will most likely be seen first in red states like Texas, Georgia and North Carolina, all states that could be in play next year and could become purple, if not yet blue, as early as 2020.
All three of those states will be red states for the rest of my lifetime. Demography doesn't equal destiny when Republicans suppress the minority vote and stir white resentment politics to the max.