Demographics and right wing panic

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, May 17, 2012 13:14 EDT
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There’s a number of reasons that we’re experiencing our current bout of right wing extremism taking over the Republican Party, causing them to primary anyone who is seen in public with a Democrat and pushing them to do things like, oh, side with people who think it’s just awful that women leave husbands who beat them. Having a Democrat in office who is also the first black President is right at the top of the list, of course, but it’s also just the changing face of America in general that is causing the surge of “take our country back!” sentiment. If you ever wonder what that means—specifically “from who?”—well, these statistics that were released today might be illuminating.

After years of speculation, estimates and projections, the Census Bureau has made it official: White births are no longer a majority in the United States.

Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 49.6 percent of all births in the 12-month period that ended last July, according to Census Bureau data made public on Thursday, while minorities — including Hispanics, blacks, Asians and those of mixed race — reached 50.4 percent, representing a majority for the first time in the country’s history.

The rational, non-racist reaction to this news is to say, “Huh,” and then go about your day. Not that there aren’t ramifications for this sort of thing, but mostly they stem from how racist our country continues to be. If we could get our heads straight about this, demographic changes would by and large not be a big deal, but just evidence of the fascinating evolution of American society. 

The declining white majority is, I suspect, one of the reasons that conservatives are flipping out, trying to shut down practically all government spending, and even attacking women’s rights. The government spending issue—as well as health care reform—is the most direct response to all this. Knowing that the benefits of American citizenship are increasingly being shared with non-white people is causing a massive “shut ‘er down!” approach. Privatization of everything may be less efficient and more expensive, but it also makes it easier to shut people out. 

Interestingly, I also think the dramatic focus on taking away women’s rights is also the result of this, at least in part. The escalating attacks on contraception, for instance, are fed by right wing myth-making about how white women are abandoning their God-given duty to marry young and get to baby-making, instead choosing to have casual sex and pursue careers that put them in competition for jobs that used to be male-only. I think it’s hard for liberals to see it, because we’re really used to siloing our issues, but that outrageous attacks on Sandra Fluke for speaking out about contraception and the barely-concealed racist fears and furies spring from the same well. This isn’t even just an argument that’s made through dog whistles and insinuation, even. The favorite way for conservatives to talk about this is to make dark claims that the liberalism and feminism of Europe is going to destroy it because there’s so many Muslims now. They expect you’re smart enough to see how those arguments translate when it comes to American demographics. 

This article only came out this morning, so I haven’t seen any direct conservative responses yet. But I imagine it’s just a matter of time.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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