One inevitable consequence of this is that other groups are going to get less attention in the future. The most important of these are blacks, who have been the Democrats’ favorite minority since the 1960s. But they are now the second largest minority group in America with a population of 40.2 million. And their growth rate is less than half that of Hispanics.
As Hispanics grow in political importance, blacks are necessarily going to see their position within the Democratic Party decline. When the next Democratic president is elected, more appointments will go to Hispanics, fewer will go to blacks. Hispanic concerns about issues such as trade with Mexico are going to take precedence over black concerns about jobs, and so on.
The reality is that blacks and Hispanics are natural political rivals. Since both groups belong overwhelmingly to the Democratic Party, one’s gains will tend to come at the other’s expense. This is true in other areas as well. Blacks increasingly complain that Hispanics are pushing them out of public housing, taking their jobs, and occupying minority slots in university admissions.
This is not a new development. As long ago as 1881, Frederick Douglass, the great black leader, complained that blacks suffered from immigration. “Every hour sees us elbowed out of some employment to make room for some newly arrived emigrant from the Emerald Isle, whose hunger and color entitle him to special favor,” he wrote.
Hispanics have replaced the Irish of Douglass’s day, but the same principle still applies. Harvard economist George Borjas has shown that increased immigration tends to force down black wages and raise black unemployment. Last month, the unemployment rate was 8.1 percent for blacks, but only 5.3 percent for Hispanics.
For these reasons, I think blacks should reconsider their blind loyalty to the Democratic Party. At the same time, Republicans should recognize that blacks’ concerns about immigration gives them a far better chance of attracting their votes than those of Hispanics. Once Bush is gone, the party will almost certainly become overwhelmingly anti-immigrant. Thus there is a strong mutual interest that could form the basis for a new alliance between blacks and Republicans.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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