The twins, Nancy and Michelle, have taken up knitting. Maybe it will lead them into politics. (More)
Mrs. Squirrel knits drapes and rugs for our home, and the twins decided to redecorate their bed nook. Chef gave them some toothpicks and a spool of thread, and the girls set to work on a lovely blue throw rug. They say it will make their bed nook brighter and homier once they finish, but they’re still learning and often have to undo bad stitches and try again.
Knitting a nation together is harder still. Although our national motto is E pluribus unum – “Out of many, one” – Americans have not fully lived up to that ideal. Over the centuries, we have see-sawed between separation and assimilation, knitting separate garments or demanding we ignore differences between the threads that comprise our national tapestry, often at the same time politicians played on those same differences.
The comments of wealthy Romney donors at a fundraiser in the Hamptons this weekend highlighted a gulf that Republicans both embrace as in then-Gov. George Bush’s 2000 comment on “Some people call you the elites; I call you my base,” and deny as in Sen. Rand Paul’s 2010 claim that “there are no rich, there are no middle class, there are no poor.” Arizona legislators insist that schools should teach students as individuals, but in practice that works out to ignoring the proud and painful legacy of Latinos while the state’s most notorious law enforcement officer practices racial profiling.
The contours of our divisions are changing. New research by Robert Putnam, a professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, suggests that class is now a greater divide than race:
Relatively speaking, racial differences controlling for class are decreasing while class differences controlling for race are increasing in America. Non-white folks with a college education are looking more and more like white folks with a college education and white folks who haven’t gotten beyond high school are looking more and more like non-white folks who haven’t finished high school.
Putnam has looked at indicators like income, out-of-wedlock birth, education, and community involvement, and found the class gap has overcome the still-present racial divide. While not all researchers agree with Putnam and it’s difficult to disentangle race and class, the most consistent finding in a 2009 Pew Hispanic Center study was the growing cultural convergence of second- and third-generation Latinos. Both the range of occupations and the priorities and social values of native-born young Latinos are essentially the same as those of other young Americans.
In terms of electoral politics, the demographics of race and class are also changing, as Ray Teixeira and William Frey noted this week in The New Republic. They studied U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Surveys from November 2008 and May 2010, and found:
Minorities, 80 percent of whom supported Obama in 2008, have increased their share of eligible voters across the time period by around 3 percentage points. (About three-fifths of this is from Hispanics, most of the rest from Asians and those of “other race.”) White working class voters, whom Obama lost by 18 points, have decreased their share of eligible voters by about the same amount. And white college-educated voters, whom Obama lost by only 4 points, were roughly stable (a very slight two-tenths of a percentage point uptick in their share of eligibles.)
These data indicate that the national trends that favored Obama in 2008 have continued apace in his first terms.
They found similar and sometimes wider changes in key swing states like Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire. But they caution that demographic shifts do not automatically reflect in voter turnout, and suppressing likely Democratic voters – under the false flag of preventing voter fraud – has become a nationwide strategy among Republican state legislatures.
If Republicans continue to build their platform around “the haves and the have mores,” they have little chance of winning elections unless they block others from the polls. Their strategy is not E pluribus unum, knitting the many into one. Instead their strategy is Supra pluribus, a paucis … “Over many, a few.”
To remove those stitches, we need to elect more Democrats.
Good day and good nuts.