The population of the US has always fluctuated as a result of immigration and major demographic disruptions such as depression and war. These fluctuations have always brought major social and political upheavals. We are presently in the process of yet another one. The white descendants of European immigrants have become stagnant with an aging population and a low birth rate. Other ethnic/racial groups are expanding as a result of continuing immigration and a significantly higher birth rate. It is highly probable that over the course of the next 30 years or so white Americans will become a minority of the population, albeit it, a large one. This has already occurred in four states, California, Hawaii, Texas and New Mexico.
There is a broadly held view that these developments are creating a political crisis for the Republican party. The voting patterns in the recent election certainly support this view. However, it is my view that celebrating the Democratic Party's attainment of a permanent majority is a bit premature. It is a fairly universal feature of human societies that people who have power use that power in an attempt to hold onto it. White men have been running this country through out its history. They are not going to give up their position of dominance without a fight. Those conservative white men who are the most desperate to retain traditional patriarchal power are concentrated in the right wing of the Republican Party.
Jim Crow laws are a general term which refers to the mechanism adopted in southern states for the purpose of politically disenfranchising blacks after the end of reconstruction. There were formal laws such as literacy tests and poll tax which prevented most blacks from registering to vote. There were more informal means of violent intimidation to deal with any who attempted to get past the laws and resist the total system of racial separation and control.
This system came under attack by the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It was effectively dismantled by a series of court decisions and congressional actions such as the civil rights acts and the voting rights act. By the 1970s most Americans were prepared to believe that the Jim Crow era had receded into history. It appears that part of the response to the growing demographic threat of the brown people is an effort to build new versions of tactics that resemble the Jim Crow laws. Referring to this trend as Jim Crow 2.0 seems to me to have a certain historical resonance.
This time it is not happening in the Solid South which began the process of converting to the party of Lincoln in the face of Democratic support for the civil rights movement. Even though black people now vote there, the lockstep political homogeneity of the white population has enabled them to retain essential political control. The focus of political maneuver and manipulation has moved to the so called battle ground states. These are states where neither of the two major parties enjoys a historically recurring advantage. They have become critically important in determining the outcome of presidential elections and the balance of power in Congress. There seem to have been about 10 of them in recent elections. Some of them such as Florida and Ohio are always on the list. Others seem to come and go.
Republican efforts to gain control of these crucial states is determined, organized and systematic. This is after all the party that was able to recover from the debacle of Watergate to establish a 12 year reign of power with Reagan/Bush I. After the debacle of the Bush II crash and the Democratic victories in 2008 they got busy. They were not just focused on federal elections. They managed to gain of control of state legislatures and state houses in a number of battle ground states in the 2010 midterm elections. This was not just any old election year. The resulting legislative bodies were positioned to control the reapportionment process. They have made very good use of that advantage.
We have already seen efforts to make it harder for voters who are likely to lean toward the Democrats to vote. The legislative majorities have been used to gerrymander state and federal electoral districts. Among other things this has been credited with their ability to hold onto a majority in the US House even when the tide in the national popular vote turned against them. There are now initiatives underway to change the way that presidential electoral votes are allocated in some battle ground states. These are going to be efforts sustained over an extended period. They are not going to go away.
This diary is intended as introductory background. I want to explore the issues of voting rights and voter suppression and the management and manipulation of the electoral process in more detail. I will be doing subsequent diaries on those topics.