May 23, 2019

MICHAEL BARONE: Will ‘whiteshift’ save America from ethnic strife?

If you’ve been paying any attention at all to journalism in recent years — maybe not a good idea, but if you have — you surely have noticed those stories predicting, often with a certain relish, that the United States is about to become a majority-minority country.

Such predictions, as the Obama administration Census Bureau director noted in 2015, “made demographic change look like a zero-sum game that white Americans were losing.” Such fears may have contributed to Donald Trump’s election the following year. No one wants to vote for the side that seems to be saying, “Hurry up and die.”

But are those trends so inevitable? Not necessarily, writes political scientist Eric Kaufmann, a Canadian who teaches in Britain and is of Jewish, Chinese, and Latino ancestry. His most recent book is called Whiteshift, which he defines as “the mixture of many non-whites into the white group through voluntary assimilation.”

As he points out, something like this has happened before. A hundred years ago, Catholic, Orthodox, and Jewish immigrants pouring into Ellis Island were considered to be of different “races” by white Anglo-Saxon Protestant elites.

Half a century ago, their descendants were regarded as still culturally and politically distinctive in Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s description of New York ethnics groups, Beyond the Melting Pot. A “balanced” ticket in those days had to include Irish, Italian, and Jewish candidates.

Today, all these groups are lumped together as “whites,” even though there are still perceptible, though muted, differences in political attitudes and perspectives between those with different ancestries.

One might go even further back in history. American political culture and institutions have their roots, as the late political scientist Samuel Huntington argued in Who Are We?, in England. In the seventeenth century, unlike almost all other European polities, England welcomed Jews and Huguenots, tolerated Catholics and Quakers, nurtured representative government, and protected individual rights.

That’s a template for an expandable polity — one that gives us and other Anglosphere nations a useful model as we experience ethnic change.

But division is better for the ethnic grifters who run one of our major parties.

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