I have written here a number of times about postmodern ideology, which in my adult lifetime I have watched take over university life in the United States, becoming the dominant approach to the study of history and literature, and which has now become extremely influential among most liberals, many of whom probably don't understand what it is or where it came from. Its dominant tenets, I would argue, are more or less as follows.
Human society is defined by struggles among different demographic groups contesting for power. White people--especially straight white males--have traditionally dominated society, oppressing women, LGBTQs, and nonwhites. Each of us carries in our genes either the sins or the victimhood of our ancestors. All right-thinking people have a duty to reduce the imbalance between straight white males on the one hand, and everyone else on the other. A key aspect of white male oppression is visibility. We need far more nonwhitemales in visible positions--such as positions of power--to correct for centuries of oppression.
Given this mindset, Democrats have easily adopted the equation, white people bad, nonwhites good, with the corollary (sometimes) that the really bad white people are men. In another manifestation of this tendency, when a few white men commit terrible crimes, commentators (and Facebook posts) immediately cite them as proof of the intrinsic, evil nature of white men. When President Trump does this about immigrants, we accuse him (rightly) of racism, but doing it about white men is quite acceptable in liberal circles. Those who hold these views are also entirely intolerant of those who don't, which is why many liberal women view the 50% of American white women who voted Republican this month as traitors to their sex and are not afraid to say so.
The postmodern ideology, to a surprising extent, has convinced a lot of us that American politics are fundamentally about a racial divide. I would like to present some figures from the election to suggest that this ideology has made it impossible to see reality clearly.
What triggered this post was a story about Congresswoman Marcia Fudge of Ohio, a black woman who is talking about challenging Nancy Pelosi for speaker. An interview quoted her as follows.
"Instead, Fudge said [that her possible candidacy] was about a fresh start in Congress, making sure that Democratic leadership reflects the voters who gave Democrats the majority ― specifically, African-American women. (Fudge pointed out that while women have gotten a lot of credit for ushering in the Democratic majority, white women are still broadly supporting Republicans. She mentioned that Stacey Abrams lost white women by 76 percent in her bid to be governor of Georgia, and that were it not for black women in Alabama, Roy Moore would now be a senator.)"
The big problem with this statement is that it is not true. The following figures are based on CNN exit polls The question I used the polls to answer was, who voted for Democratic candidates?
The CNN polls showed that 53.2% of the electorate voted Democratic. That's very good news, even though the Democratic failures in Ohio and Florida suggest that it doesn't guarantee a win in 2020. 60% of all Democratic votes came from whites, 19% from blacks, 14% from Latinos (CNN's word), 4% from Asians, and 3% from other races. Despite everything you have led to believe, most Democratic voters were white--even though 54% of whites voted Republican. All the talk about demographic change, particularly among Democrats, seems to have obscured simple mathematics: 71% of the electorate remains white.
Having said that, the demographic breakdown of the Republican Party is a bit frightening. White Americans cast 86% of Republican votes, compared to black Americans (2% of Republican votes), Latinos (7%), Asians (2%) and other races (3%.) While white voters comfortably outnumber nonwhites among Democrats, they make up nearly the entire Republican Party. 150 years after Reconstruction, 64 years years after Brown v. Board of Ed, and 54 years after the great Civil Rights Act, the Democratic Party is highly integrated, or, to use the contemporary term, diverse. The Republican Party is integrated at a token level, at best. But let us not get confused about the significance of two different figures. 86% or Republicans are white--but only 54% of whites vote Republican. That's too many, but it left room two weeks ago for 36 million Democratic votes.
The numbers remain just as interesting when we factor in gender as well as race. Combining these categories, we find that the single largest bloc of Democratic voters--contrary to what Marcia Fudge seems to think--are white women, 20.5 million strong. The second largest is white men, with 15.4 million. Then come black women (6.2 million), black men (5 million), Latino women (4.9 million), and Latino men (3.6 million.) The CNN sample apparently wasn't big enough to break down Asians or "other races" by gender.
Now let's go back to Marcia Fudge's statement and test it and try to understand where she is coming from. I can't see any justification for her statement that black women (6.2 million votes) deserve more credit for winning the Democratic majority than white women (20.5 million votes.) She seems to be arguing that black women deserve a leadership position in the House because such a high percentage of them voted Democratic--92%, compared to 50% (essentially) for white women. Her new colleague Arianna Pressley has put another slant on this issue by frequently remarking that "people closest to the pain should be closest to the power." I can't help but wonder if Fudge's outlook has been skewed by representing a majority black district for many years, where white votes are a luxury rather than a necessity. In any case, in the United States, we have never evaluated the significance of a person's vote (presuming that they could cast in the first place) based upon their demographic or how the rest of their demographic votes. Every vote has always counted equally. I personally do not believe in allocating leadership positions solely based on race and gender, but if you do, it seems to me that Nancy Pelosi--or failing her, a different white female Congresswoman--would have the best claim to the Speakership right now.
So far I have been focusing on pure equity based on numbers and attempting to show that the actual numbers do not bear out current liberal assumptions. I would now like to take the argument a step further and talk about political strategy.
Black and Latino voters together made up 33% of the Democratic vote--and about 80% of black and Latino voters voted Democratic (90% black, 69% Latino.) That obviously makes them an indispensable part of any Democratic majority, but their numbers, as we have seen, are still dwarfed by those of white Democrats. And, clearly, far more white than minority votes remain in play. That, interestingly enough, was also the reason, as I showed in an earlier post, that Doug Jones was elected over Roy Moore in Alabama--not because black turnout was so huge, but because an extraordinary number of white voters refused to vote for Moore. Minority turnout might still increase, and we should make every effort to see that it does and to stop Republican voter suppression efforts. But the Democrats will still depend more on white votes than on black ones to secure more votes than the Republicans get, simply because there are so many more of them. And Donald Trump, in my opinion, won the 2016 election because many (though very far from all!) white people felt that the Democratic Party did not care about them anymore.
For 2020, in my opinion, the Democrats need a serious, charismatic candidate, preferably under 60, who bases his or her appeal on the needs of the great majority of Americans who are not rich, regardless of race or gender. The last Democratic candidate to fit that profile was Barack Obama. Developing an effective candidate has become extremely difficult for many reasons. The media no longer pays enough attention to government, as opposed to politics, to allow anyone to make a national name for him or herself based on achievements in office, and the Republican Party has made it very hard for government to function on any level. But I really doubt that postmodern ideology--the idea that only the election of a nonwhitemale can redress a history of oppression by giving the oppressed visible representation--can either win back the Presidency for the Democrats or move the nation to a better place.