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“Norman Rockwell’s America Is Gone”: The Nation Should Welcome Darkening Demographic

Norman Rockwell is dead. So is his America.

If you find that declaration sad, or possibly slanderous, you probably have fond memories of “the way we were” during a supposedly kinder and gentler time before the civil rights movement, women’s lib and cellphones. If you don’t shed tears over that America, you may have grown up as I did — oppressed by the strictures of a social and political system that didn’t show much respect to those who were not white male Christians.

Either way, the overwhelmingly white nation that Rockwell depicted in his sentimental paintings is gone. (I intend no disrespect to Rockwell, whose portrait of 6-year-old Ruby Bridges integrating a New Orleans school stands out in civil rights iconography.) Just last week, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau confirmed a trend long in evidence: The nation continues, inexorably, to grow darker.

For the year ending July 1, 2012, deaths among non-Hispanic whites exceeded births, the Census Bureau reported. The majority of births in this country are now to blacks, Asians and Latinas.

That trend helps to explain the discomfort among older conservative voters with immigration, which has been the driver of the nation’s increasing diversity. They see the country in which they grew up, in which they held the political, social and economic power, slipping away, becoming a place with which they are unfamiliar. Their anxiety boils down to a misplaced fear that they will be strangers in their own land.

Their misapprehensions are stoked and amplified by the right-wing media axis, which has spent years defining undocumented workers as barbarians at the gate and all people of color as suspect. Even as support grows in mainstream America for legalizing undocumented immigrants, the pit bulls of the right continue to denounce any attempt at comprehensive immigration reform as an unjustified “amnesty” to lawbreakers.

Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, the magazine founded by William Buckley, says so. So does former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, now head of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Rush Limbaugh, as usual, doesn’t attempt subtlety as he argues that conservative voters would lose all political clout if undocumented immigrants gain citizenship: “There are legitimate fears that … Republicans/conservatives are gonna end up … outnumbered.”

If Limbaugh conflates conservatives with his listeners, he’s right. But they are dwindling, anyway. The Limbaugh audience, like the GOP primary voter, skews older. Looking toward voting patterns 10 to 20 years from now, Republican strategists have fretted over the party’s failure to appeal to younger voters.

One of the ways in which the GOP alienates younger Americans is with its harsh rhetoric and unwelcoming policies toward those who crossed the border illegally. According to a 2009 Washington Post/ABC News poll, 73 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 support giving them a path toward legal status.

Younger Americans have grown up in a more diverse nation, so they are far less likely to see those with darker skin and different accents as a threat. But there are good reasons for older white Americans to welcome immigrants, too — whether or not they entered the country with legal documents.

Without them, the United States would be doomed to the kind of demographic “bust” that countries from Japan to Russia are experiencing, with birth rates so low that the population is not reproducing itself. That has all sorts of dire economic consequences.

For one thing, there aren’t enough younger workers to support all the retirees. Japan’s long-running economic malaise has several causes, but its aging population — exacerbated by its hostility to immigrants — is surely one of them.

Whatever the long-term problems with our Social Security and Medicare programs, they’d be far worse without the Latinos, Asians and Africans who have revitalized rundown neighborhoods, invigorated popular culture and shared in the American Dream. As Brookings Institution demographer William Frey told The New York Times, the new census figures make “more vivid than ever the fact that we will be reliant on younger minorities and immigrants for our future demographic and economic growth.”

Their vitality ought to be welcomed.

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, June 15, 2013

June 17, 2013 Posted by | Immigration | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They Won’t Be Moving On”: What Will Republicans Do if Obamacare Turns Out OK?

Ramesh Ponnuru has a long piece at National Review imploring conservatives to come up with a health-care plan they can swiftly put in place when Obamacare inevitably collapses under the weight of its disastrous big-government delusions. Though I disagree with almost every point Ponnuru makes along the way, from his analysis of what will happen with Obamacare to his recommendations of what a conservative health-insurance system should look like (the fact that anyone, even a free-market dogmatist, thinks catastrophic coverage plus high-risk pools would work out great is just incredible), I’ll give him credit for trying to get his ideological brethren to come up with a proposal to solve what they themselves keep saying is a terrible problem. But alas, his effort is doomed to fail. Why? Because when it comes to health care, conservatives just don’t care. I’ll elaborate in a moment, but here’s the crux of Ponnuru’s argument:

Opponents of Obamacare should plan instead for the likelihood that in its first years of full operation the law will fail in undramatic and unspectacular ways. Premium increases, cost overruns, and the like may keep the law from becoming popular, but they will not prompt the third of the public that supports it to switch sides, or even get its many soft opponents fired up about it. Meanwhile, the administration will spend millions of taxpayer dollars to advertise the law’s benefits. The law’s dogged defenders will explain away all the disappointing developments, and the polls, as the result of continuing opposition in red states. A few conservative lawmakers have speculated that the law will crash so badly that the Democrats will themselves demand repeal in the next couple of years. That is not the way to bet.

Republicans’ confidence that Obamacare will collapse has contributed to their lassitude in coming up with an alternative. It is a perverse complacency. If the program were going to collapse in the next three years, it would be all the more important for Republicans to build the case for a replacement for it. We can be sure that the Left would respond to any such collapse by making the case for a “single payer” program in which the federal government directly provides everyone insurance.

The biggest problem with this kind of appeal is that he will never, ever get anything beyond a tiny number of Republicans to invest any effort in coming up with a health-care plan. That would involve understanding a complex topic, weighing competing values and considerations against one another, and eventually getting behind something that will be something of a compromise. And let me say it again: They. Just. Don’t. Care.

That isn’t to say there are no conservatives who care about health care, because there are a few (like the folks at the Heritage Foundation who came up with the individual mandate!). But they are few and far between on the right. Your typical Republican, on the other hand, cares deeply about issues like taxes and defense policy, and works hard to understand them and come up with ideas for where they should go in the future. But had President Obama not passed health-care reform, they would have been perfectly happy to let the status quo continue indefinitely. They donned their fervent opposition to Obamacare like a new jacket, for reasons of politics, not policy. Sure, it was in many ways a conservative plan, much of whose complexity comes from the fact that it works to expand coverage within the private market. But it was big and important, and it was Obama, and it was a way to articulate their anti-government philosophy, and so they got fired up about it. But it isn’t because health-care policy is something they’re passionate about. Republicans care about taxes whether or not at the moment we happen to be having a big public debate about taxes. But if we weren’t debating health care, they wouldn’t be staying up nights coming up with interesting solutions to health-care problems, because it just isn’t their thing.

Ponnuru doesn’t allow for the possibility that Obamacare will turn out to be something less than a total failure, and he says that conservatives all believe the same thing (though he does differ from some of his allies on whether it will collapse dramatically or simply limp miserably along). But let me suggest another possible scenario: It ends up working pretty well. It doesn’t turn America into a health-care paradise, and there are some implementation problems here and there, and we still have to pay more for our system than other countries do. But people like the fact that their coverage is guaranteed, and the doomsaying turns out not to be borne out. Critically, the middle class and wealthy people who collectively hold political influence discover that their lives haven’t really been changed all that much, except in some ways that are positive. And it becomes hard to get voters too angry about Obamacare.

What will Republicans do then, if the issue doesn’t seem to have much political potency? Will they keep working to come up with new health-care proposals more in line with their values? Or will they move on to some other issues that seem to offer better opportunities to gain political advantage? If you think it’s the former, you’re dreaming.

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, June 13, 2013

June 17, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Republicans | , , , , , | 2 Comments


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