Posted on July 31, 2022

The New Politics of Race

Samuel T. Francis, American Renaissance, Summer 2003

“Since 1970,” write immigration expert Roy Beck in his The Case Against Immigration, “more than 30 million foreign citizens and their descendants have been added to the local communities and labor pools of the United States. It is the numerical equivalent of having relocated within our borders the entire present population of all Central American countries.”1 Not until the 1990s did serious controversy about the impact of this wave of mass immigration develop, and when it did, most of the debate centered around such issues as its impact on the American economy, education, crime, the environment, and the cultural identity of the nation in general.

Yet it should be obvious — and it has been obvious to some — that the addition of 30 million or more new residents would have an immense impact on the politics of the nation as well. Not all immigrants became citizens and, therefore, eligible to vote, but many did (40.3 percent, according to the 2000 Census), and one of the major contests between the Republican and Democratic parties in the 1990s and in the following decade has been over which party foreign-born citizens would support.

Indeed, to a large extent, the politics of the first decade of the new century are being shaped by the twin forces of mass immigration and race. While immigrants from Latin America made up 44.3 percent of the foreign-born population in the 1990 Census, the 2000 Census showed that, for the first time in American history, Latin Americans had become a majority of the immigrant population (51.7 percent). European immigrants, traditionally the major component of the foreign-born, fell steadily, from 61.7 percent of the foreign-born population in 1970 to only 15.8 percent in 2000, while Asians in 2000 made up the second largest portion at 26.4 percent.2 While most European immigrants are and have been white, those from Latin America are mainly of non-white Amerindian stock.

As a general rule, immigration on the scale that the United States has experienced it in the last thirty years, and especially in the last decade, can be predicted to influence politics in three ways: (1) traditional political institutions, and especially parties and their campaign tactics, can be expected to compete for the allegiance of the immigrants themselves and will therefore adapt to the demands, interests, and values of the immigrants they are seeking to attract, modifying or entirely abandoning issues and positions (and constituencies) they have supported or reflected in the past; (2) the immigrants may import new interests or demands that do not and cannot be fitted into traditional institutions (e.g., demands for national separatism or for radically different political institutions), and therefore may form their own political parties to pursue such goals; and (3) the impact of immigration on political as well as on cultural, economic, and social relationships may instigate racial and ethnic conflict and political reactions against immigration (this influence has been especially prominent in European politics in the last decade, more so than in the United States), while immigration may also create new interests (as, e.g., cheap labor for agriculture and other labor-intensive businesses) that will continue to encourage it. Moreover, as some parties succeed in attracting immigrants as new constituents, those parties that fail to do so may need to recruit other racial and ethnic groups as constituencies simply to compete with their rivals’ added strength, and may alter their platforms and positions accordingly.

As noted, both Republican and Democratic parties have engaged in heated competition to gain the votes of immigrants, and the effort to do so on the part of the Republicans has already shifted that party’s political and ideological character, as well as the general strategy by which it has conducted its campaigns for the last generation. At the same time, the Republicans have also made efforts to attract black voters and to break the virtual monopoly on black allegiance that the Democrats have enjoyed since the era of the civil rights movement. To date, these Republican efforts have not been significantly successful, despite their impact on the party itself.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have become increasingly dependent on the black vote, to the point that the party’s presidential nominees for the last decade or more have been virtually determined by the results of the Super Tuesday Southern primaries, in which black voters have predominated since 1988 (blacks account for 40 percent of the Democratic electorate in Southern primaries3), and the political agenda of the party is in large part now determined by black demands and interests. Thus, in 1988, the first year in which several Southern states held presidential primaries on the same day (March 8), the candidate who won the most Democratic primary votes was Jesse Jackson, with 26.6 percent of the total votes, running first in four states in the Deep South (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi) as well as in Virginia. Congressional Quarterly commented that, while in the 1984 primaries Jackson had won some 75 percent of the black vote, his black support “was nearly unanimous across the South on Super Tuesday” in 1988. Jackson emerged from the multiple primaries with only 14 fewer delegates than Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis4, who eventually won the party nomination by courting the white ethnic vote, butJackson’s heavy reliance on the black voting bloc to gain the standing he enjoyed in 1988 pointed to the strategic role Super Tuesday would come to play in the politics of the Democratic nomination. That role was solidified in 1992, when Bill Clinton emerged as the Democratic front-runner after the Super Tuesday vote that year. Like Jackson, Clinton won a substantial majority of the black vote in the South, averaging nearly 71 percent of that vote in four predominantly black states across the Deep South and winning more votes in them than Jackson had in 1988.5

In 2000, the battle to win the black vote in the Democratic primaries dominated the early contest between Vice President Al Gore and former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey. Bradly began his campaign by announcing that it would “become a counterpart to the civil rights movement of 1964,” as Washington Post reporter Thomas Edsall wrote, and Bradley himself vowed to build a “multiracial coalition around the issue of children who are in poverty.”6 As the New York Times reported, in the states holding primaries in the first two weeks of March 2000, “political history suggests that black voters could make up a significant share of the electorate, particularly in states where competitive Republican primaries may drain white voters from the Democratic contests,” and several of these primaries were in “Southern states where black voters often play a decisive role.”7 Despite Bradley’s efforts to woo black voters, a Wall Street Journal poll on the eve of the primaries showed Gore beating Bradley among blacks by 79 percent to 9 percent.8 Throughout the early primaries and caucuses, the two candidates dueled with each other over the issue of which was more solicitous of blacks. Even on the eve of caucuses in Iowa, where blacks made up only 1.7 percent of the population, Bradley and Gore sparred over which one would more quickly forbid racial profiling, allow convicted felons to vote, enact more draconian hate crime laws, more vociferously denounce the Confederate flag, and more closely court the Rev. Al Sharpton.9

When, during a debate between the two Democrats in California (which in 2000 scheduled its own primary for March 7), liberal journalist Jeff Greenfield challenged them to repudiate Sharpton for what Greenfield call his “very inflammatory language about whites and other ethnic groups,” especially after both Gore and Bradley had condemned George W. Bush for not renouncing Bob Jones university and the Confederate flag, neither candidate would do so save in the mildest terms. Gore said he did condemn the language Sharpton had used, but also asserted that “in America, we believe in redemption,” while Bradley assured the audience that he thought Sharpton “has grown” and that “we have to allow people the right to evolve.”10 Despite the sparring, Gore won the black vote on March 7 overwhelmingly, taking 92 percent in Georgia, 87 percent in California, 85 percent in Missouri, 74 percent in New York. With these and similar victories virtually assuring Gore of the party’s nomination, Bradley withdrew from the race shortly afterward.11

While the Democrats do not enjoy as much of a monopoly on the Hispanic vote, national election returns show that a strong majority of Hispanic voters have consistently supported the Democrats as well. The irony of these patterns of racial and Hispanic immigrant voting is that, while the Democrats have become in many respects the prisoner of the black and Hispanic racial minorities on whom they are dependent for political success, the Republicans have become no less dependent on a strategy and ideology that seek to attract the same minorities, even though they have been unable to attract very many to their ranks. The result is that, to an increasing degree, American politics revolves around race and immigration and the constituencies created by them — not around the traditional white European-American core of American politics and government. As the white European portion of the American population continues to dwindle toward what the Census Bureau has repeatedly projected will be a minority of the national population by 2050, and as mass non-white immigration continues unabated, white voters and constituencies can expect to find themselves and their interests increasingly marginalized and increasingly irrelevant to the national political campaigns and candidates of both major parties.

In so far as either or both of the major parties can accommodate the demands of the immigrants, the emergence of new, major political vehicles oriented mainly or exclusively to immigrant concerns is not likely. There are some indications that Mexican “recidivism” or “separatism” — that is, movements demanding either the national independence of U.S. territories won from Mexico in the Mexican-American War or the return of these territories to Mexico — is growing in the Southwest, but the demand is by no means a serious political force in the region. What is more apparent is the increasing level of explicit racial consciousness among Hispanics of the Southwest and its political expression, a racial consciousness that explicitly defines itself as non-white and as exclusive of whites.

One of the more notorious expressions of such consciousness is the statement of Los Angeles Hispanic activist Mario Obledo that “California is going to be a Mexican state. We are going to control all the institutions. If people don’t like, they should leave.” When asked to affirm his remark on the nationally syndicated Tom Leykis radio program on June 7, 1998, he did so, adding that white Americans should go to Europe.12 Remarks to similar effect could be quoted from any number of marginal political figures (Hispanic, black, or white for that matter), but Obledo is not marginal. He is the former state of Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare for California under Gov. Jerry Brown, president of the California Coalition of Hispanic Organizations, a co-founder of the Mexican-American League Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), a former president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a nationally recognized Hispanic leader, and the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1998.

Similarly, Art Torres, a former California state senator and chairman of the California Democratic Party, called Proposition 187, which sought to deny eligibility for welfare to illegal immigrants “the last gasp of white America in California.” Other Hispanic leaders in the state have explicitly called for ethnic bloc voting as a means of what they call “taking over institutions.”13

Further indications of the emergence — and legitimization — of a Hispanic racial consciousness with a serious political expression appeared in a column of Los Angeles Times columnist Rebecca Venable de Rodriguez about the 2001 mayoral campaign of Antonio Villaraigosa (himself a former member of the far-left and anti-white Hispanic separatist group MEChA). She suggested that what she predicted as the coming Villaraigosa victory (in fact he lost, mainly because of lower than expected Hispanic turnout) was merely a prelude to a re-conquest of southern California by Mexico, “If only history courses [stuck],” she wrote, “we would understand that racial fusion was always the natural outcome of conquest and that the Spanish conquest was only the last one of many . . . . The idea of an active re-conquest of Mexican territory [i.e., California and the American Southwest] is in the air. But the reality of cultural re-absorption already renders it a foregone conclusion.”14

The subtext of such sentiments is that literal, physical political separation from the United States is unnecessary simply because the pattern of Mexican immigration and fertility virtually ensures that the Southwest will become Mexican ethnically and culturally in the not too distant future. As long as neither the Democratic nor the Republican Party rejects this kind of Hispanic racialism, and as long as both parties continue to court and reward those who express it, Hispanic radicalism will probably not go to the trouble of breaking with either party or trying to establish new political vehicles. The old vehicles seem perfectly willing and able to carry them as far as they choose to go.

If both parties, to one degree or another, are willing to accommodate Hispanic radicalism and if, as a result, no ethnic party emerges, then the impact of mass immigration will continue to be felt mainly within the parties. The same seems to be true of black radicalism. In 2002, California’s Democratic Gov. Gray Davis virtually endorsed the concept of reparations for slavery, radical black demand that had enjoyed some resonance among mainly black city councils, but had not yet emerged into the political mainstream. Gov. Davis’ support for a bill passed by the state legislature requiring insurance companies doing business in the state to provide information on any slave insurance policies they or predecessor companies had issued during the era of American slavery made him, as San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders noted, “the highest-ranking elected official in America to take a stand in favor of reparations.” It is notable that both his Republican opponent, William Simon, and Republican President George W. Bush declined to express a clear position on the reparations issue.15

Republican Failure to take a position on reparations in California echoed similar GOP avoidance of controversial issues with racial implications in the South. Republican Gov. David Beasley of South Carolina blundered seriously when he endorsed removing the Confederate Battle Flag from the top of the state capitol building after he campaigned in favor of keeping the flag in 1994. In 1998, partly because of his switch on the flag issue, Beasley lost re-election. Since then, Republicans have tried to avoid a clear position on the Confederate Flag in Southern states. In 2000, both George W. Bush and his rival for the party nomination, Sen. John McCain, evaded the issue by saying it was a matter for the people of South Carolina to decide (after losing the primary, McCain tearfully apologized for not denouncing the flag beforehand). In 2001, in Mississippi, where a referendum was held on whether to keep the traditional state flag with a Confederate flag design in its corner, the Democrats supported changing the flag while the state Republican Party (and Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott) declined to take any position at all. The old flag won overwhelmingly in the referendum.

The reason for GOP avoidance of taking positions on such issues as reparations and the Confederate Flag ought to be clear, as is the reason for the deference of the Democrats to black demands. The mainly white, conservative Republican base does not support reparations or (in the South, at least) removing the Confederate flag, and endorsing such positions would alienate the party’s base vote (which is what happened to Gov. Beasley). On the other hand, Republican leaders are determined to win black support and therefore fear to oppose reparations openly or to endorse the Confederate flag and thereby alienate potential black supporters. In the case of the Democrats, dependence on the black vote locks them into positions that are either not shared or are actually abominated by many whites. Whatever the ultimate outcomes of the racial-political dilemmas that each party has created for itself, the black racial minority can look forward to being able to trump opposition to its demands in both parties, threatening to desert the Democrats for the Republicans and vowing never to support the Republicans if they endorse (or “fail to repudiate”) “racism” and the “symbols of bigotry.” Even though blacks will constitute a smaller minority in the multiracial America of the future than Hispanics, they can still expect to be able to extort significant political gains and to thwart efforts to abolish such racial privileges as affirmative action.

For both blacks and Hispanics, therefore, the impact of race and immigration on American politics in the first decade of the new century is likely to be largely confined to the two major political parties and their ideologies, strategies, and agendas. Hispanic and black influence will continue to grow within the Democratic Party, and it will also continue to exercise an effective veto power on Republican Party policy. Under these circumstances, there is no need for black or Hispanic interests to look outside of today’s two party system for meaningful political expression.

As the two parties continue to orient themselves to black and Hispanic constituencies (real in the case of the Democrats, largely imaginary in the case of the Republicans), there is no similar accommodation for their remaining white constituency. This is especially the case for whites who support traditional conservatism or are alienated by the growing racial radicalism of the dominant ethnic blocs within the Democratic Party. Indeed, the 1990s saw a number of attempts by mainly white constituencies to break away from both major parties — Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, Ralph Nader. While these splinter movements were not at all driven by racial concerns, they did have in common the feeling that the major parties were no longer responsive to their values and interests. The major parties are not responsive to white concerns because their leadership follows today’s “politically correct” fashion of inclusiveness to accommodate ethnic and racial minorities. Secondly, it is politically safe to take whites for granted, as they are perceived as “having nowhere else to go.” However, the availability of “third parties” means that such alienated whites do have somewhere else to go — and even when those parties fail, voters can simply stay home (as more than half the electorate now does in presidential elections). The withdrawal of masses of voters from any political participation and the growing attraction of new parties suggests that perhaps a significant portion of the white electorate is up for grabs. As in Europe, opposition to immigration is building among the American electorate. Since neither major party opposes current immigration policy, it is likely that the immigration issue will play a major role in any new political movement appealing to white voters. Also, the allied themes of resisting global economic integration, defending national sovereignty, avoiding needless wars and foreign entanglements, and renouncing racial privileges for non-whites — an agenda of the right — would play a role as well in any new white dominated political party.

The impact of mass immigration, along with the emergence of both Hispanic and African-American racial consciousness and identity, suggests that race, far from vanishing from politics and culture, is evolving into an axle around which political wheels increasingly turn. “Color-blind society” advocacy, once a prerequisite for liberal credentials, is today so fervently embraced by neoconservatives that it appears to have disappeared except within Republican leadership circles and their largely white supporters. Thanks to almost four decades of unabated mass immigration, the United States continues to become a multiracial and multicultural “society.” Racial and ethnic consciousness continues to increase (and may eventually do so among whites) and will exert even more influence on American politics in the new century.

In summary, the impact of ra e and immigration on the future of American politics will be pervasive. It will steer the major political parties to the left as they compete for the allegiance of mainly low-income, low-skill immigrants and racial minorities. It should spur the creation of third-party splinter movements of the right that seek to mobilize the alienated and largely forgotten white voters, whose interests and values are less and less reflected in the ideologies, strategies, candidates, and platforms of the Democrats and Republicans. Also, it will enhance an explicit racial and ethnic consciousness and identity for all racial and ethnic groups, in politics as well as most other aspects of life.

It is doubtful that any of the “third party” movements can either win a national election or even gain a following sufficient to displace one of the two major parties. However, depending on the attractiveness of their leaders and platforms, one or more of them may determine which of the two major parties loses. In the 2000 election, Ralph Nader’s Green Party essentially cost Al Gore and the Democrats the presidency. It is also true that in five states (Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin, all of which but Florida were carried by Gore), Pat Buchanan’s much smaller number of votes in the Reform Party exceeded the margin between Fore and Bush. Had Buchanan not been on the ballot, Bush would almost certainly have won those five states, the national popular vote, and the election itself without the extended recount and controversy in Florida. “Third parties,” even if unable to win elections or establish themselves as enduring institutions in national politics, are able to determine which party wins and which loses. Therein lies their political clout.

The major political impact of immigration in the last twenty years has been the internecine warfare within the Republican Party itself between those who support restrictions and/or reduction of mass immigration and those who support the open borders agenda. The arguments and tactics deployed by the latter have already transformed the Republican Party and its priorities into a considerably different institution than it was prior to the 1990s. This transformation of the Republican Party — how it came about and why pro-immigration forces prevailed — is key to understanding the political impact of race and immigration on our national politics.

  1. Roy Beck, The Case Against Immigration: The Moral, Economic, Social, and Environmental Reasons for Reducing U.S. Immigration Back to Traditional Levels (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996), p. 15.
  2. Stephen Dinan, “Immigration growth of ’90s at highest rate in 150 years,” Washington Times, June 5, 2002.
  3. Andrew Cain, “Focus on race not working for Bradley,” Washington Times, December 13, 1999.
  4. Rhodes Cook, “One Side Is Clearer, The Other Still Murky,” Congressional Quarterly, March 12, 1988, pp. 636-37.
  5. Rhodes Cook, “‘Super’ Kick Propels Front-Runners Onto Fast Track to Nomination,” Congressional Quarterly, March 14, 1992, p. 637.
  6. Thomas B. Edsall, “Times may be wrong for Bradley’s liberal, multiracial strategy,” Washington Post, February 9, 2000.
  7. Kevin Sack, “Decisive role seen for black voters in later contests,” New York Times, January 16, 2000.
  8. Glenn Burkins, “Gore’s strong support among blacks could prove an edge in next primaries,” Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2000.
  9. Richard L. Berke, “Generally in accord, Bradley and Gore duel on race issue,” New York Times, January 18, 2000.
  10. Bill Sammon, “Both candidates refuse to repudiate Sharpton,” Washington Times, March 2, 2000.
  11. John Harwood, “Bush seizes control of Republican Race; Bradley, in defeat, to consult advisers,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2000; data on Gore’s black support in the primaries mentioned come from exit polls on Gore also won “a majority of every demographic group” in the March 7 primaries; Richard L. Berke, “The 2000 Campaign: The Overview: Gore and Bush triumph nationwide, putting nominations in their grasp,” New York Times, March 8, 2000.
  12. The audiotape of Obledo’s remarks is available at, the website of the immigration reform group, Voices of Citizens Together.
  13. For Torres’ remark and similar ones, see California Coalition for Immigration Reform, Reconquista! The Takeover of America (Huntington Beach, Calif.: CCIR, 1997).
  14. R. Venable de Rodriguez, “Word garden needs weeding to blossom,” Los Angeles Times, April 3, 2001.
  15. Debra J. Saunders, “Forty Acres and a Lexus,” Weekly Standard, May 27, 2002, pp. 27 and 28-29.