WSJ: ‘How a Census Bureau error led Democrats to assume they were on the right side of inexorable demographic trends’

From the Wall Street Journal, Feb. 5, 2021:

Remember the “coalition of the ascendant”? National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein invented the phrase in 2008 to describe the “growing elements of American society” that had elected Barack Obama and given Democrats commanding majorities in both congressional houses: “young people, Hispanics and other minorities, and white upper-middle-class professionals.”

Republican successes in 2010, 2014 and 2016 called the coalition’s durability into question. But the 2020 election— Joe Biden’s victory notwithstanding—may provide the greatest reason to doubt it. Compared with 2016, President Trump and congressional Republicans improved their standing significantly among Hispanic voters and made smaller strides among other groups, such as Asian-Americans, blacks and Muslims.

“The majority minority narrative is wrong,” says sociologist Richard Alba, referring to the idea that nonwhite Americans will outnumber whites by 2050 or so. In his recent book, “The Great Demographic Illusion,” Mr. Alba, 78, shows that many “nonwhites” are assimilating into an American mainstream, much as white ethnic groups did before them. Government statistics have failed to account for this complex reality, partly for political reasons, and in doing so they’ve encouraged sloppy thinking about the country’s future…

The difficulty started as the federal government prepared for the 2000 census and sought to recognize the small but growing number of multiracial Americans. The Census Bureau decided to let people like Mr. Woods check off more than one racial box on their forms. Leaders of liberal civil-rights groups lobbied against the change. They feared a recognition of multiracialism would dilute the numerical strength of minorities and make it harder to enforce antidiscrimination laws.

The Office of Management and Budget devised an ironic solution to the dilemma. The OMB, whose responsibilities include maintaining the consistency of data across federal departments and agencies, revived a version of the old “one drop” rule from the Jim Crow era, according to which a single African ancestor made a person entirely black. The OMB decided that Americans who designated themselves as white and something else on their Census forms would be classified as nonwhite.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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