Babson, Free Speech, and Overblown Outrage

I had originally planned to write a brief rant about how all the remaining top contenders of the Democratic primary are white (because hey, what the fuck is up with that?), but I recently learned about something a bit more close to home that I wanted to talk about.

In early January of this year, Asheen Phansey, an adjunct professor at Babson college posted a joke on his personal Facebook page. It was, in its entirety, as follows: “In retaliation, Ayatollah Khomenei should tweet a list of 52 sites of beloved American cultural heritage that he would bomb. Um… Mall of America? …Kardashian Residence?”

It’s not a good joke, but quickly a local blog picked it up with the exaggerated headline: “Babson Professor Urges Iran to Bomb 52 American Cultural Sites to Own the Trumpsters”. The article says, “Begging a religious lunatic who oppresses women and gay people to blow up American cultural sites is sadly par for the course for your run of the mill college professor in 2020.” This soon found its way to Twitter where the professor was described as an “America-hating terrorist supporter” and others said he should be deported. He has US citizenship by birthright. People were encouraged to call Babson to complain. 

Within 48 hours, Babson opened a formal investigation and condemned “threatening words and/or actions condoning violence and/or hate”. The professor was suspended without pay, and when the investigation was concluded, just one day later, he was fired. 

I personally disagree with the decision made by the Babson administration, and I’d like to explain why. First, two disclaimers: This was not a good joke, it wasn’t very tasteful, I will not defend it. Also, I am not questioning the legality of Babson’s action. As a private institution, they are not bound by the First Amendment. However, I believe that the firing of Phansey is a gross overreaction that damages the very important culture of freedom of expression at Babson and in higher education in general. 

Babson has stated commitments to academic freedom and freedom of expression, and historically they have stood by them even in controversial situations. It is a betrayal of these principles to now so hastily fire a professor over a poor joke on Facebook. Phansey apologized and removed the post, but to no avail. PEN America, a free speech advocacy group, put it well: “If professors face such extreme consequences for comments that contain sarcasm, humor, exaggeration, or irony on social media, it will perpetuate self-censorship and a culture where honest discourse is paralyzed. College leaders must not rush into formal investigations and decide on severe repercussions in response to speech that contains no nexus to a professor’s role and no clear indication of violent intent.” PEN America also released an open letter calling for Babson to reverse the decision signed by a number of groups and individuals, including the American Federation of Teachers, AFL CIO, and the ACLU of Massachusetts. 

There is also some weirdness going on where Babson claimed to be “cooperating with local, state, and federal authorities,” when in fact there was no criminal investigation, and they had simply emailed the Wellesley police to warn of a potential social media firestorm. This brings us to a different broader point about how institutions deal with social media outrage. This incident was nothing until it began circulating among conservative social media circles, and Babson’s response can be read as an attempt to head off negative social media coverage. 

It’s worth stopping here to remember that social media is not real life. Conservative twitter is not real life. Liberal twitter is not real life. Online outrage is not always without valid cause or purpose, but it must be handled tactfully and thoughtfully. In their haste to respond to social media, Babson made a bad decision, and I hope they will reconsider it. 

Why I Love America

It is far too easy when discussing politics to get dragged into the dirt. To have your view muddied and dirtied until you see only the negatives. This is not necessarily a bad thing. How else are we to try to improve what is broken? But it is a limiting perspective. The news doesn’t help. We read of tragedies and crises, peril and hatred. This series of articles has been no different; we’ve viewed the future of America through a lens of partisan conflict and thinly disguised bigotry. But that’s not the whole story. So for this, the final article in my series, I want to leave you with something different. I want to tell you why I love America.

Because I do love America. Truly, deeply, and with all my heart. It is my home, from my birth until my death. There is no place else I would rather live; no place else I hold in higher regard. I do not hesitate to say that the United States of America is the greatest country on the face of the earth, and it is with nothing but the utmost pride that I am able to utter the words “I am an American.”

There are many things that make America as amazing as it is. Our devotion to liberty, our history as the world’s oldest and most storied democracy, and our breathtaking national parks. Today, however, I want to focus on one thing in particular, that which this whole series has been about: Diversity. America is perhaps the most diverse nation to ever exist in the history of humanity. We comprise people from around the globe. Within a matter of decades, the third-largest country on earth will be a majority-minority country. This is unprecedented in the history of humanity.

Of course, America is by no means a perfect country, nor would I ever claim it to be so. But as we’ve discussed, so many of these issues can be traced back to our diversity. It is the price we pay, but it is a trade I would take any day. One of my biggest pet peeves is liberals holding up European countries (especially Nordic countries) as examples of superior countries. “Why can’t we have healthcare like Sweden?” they ask. “Why can’t we be more like Norway?” they ask. Certainly, these countries are not bad, and their policies are indeed great, but the implementation of their policies is facilitated by their homogeny. These are not diverse countries, and they would not be the same today if they were. It’s easy not to be racist when there is no one to be racist to. It’s not uncommon in European politics to see far-right parties embrace universal healthcare, but to do so in conjunction with strict immigration policies. The message is clear: universal healthcare, but not for brown people. Do not mistake liberal policies for liberal attitudes. The European migrant crisis of the last decade has laid this all clear. The sudden appearance of millions of people from North Africa and the Middle East was met with a surge of far-right parties and the near implosion of some countries (*cough* UK *cough*). Racism is a problem of exposure to diversity, and no country has experienced as much exposure as the US. 

It can sometimes seem as if the US lags behind the rest of the world, but in reality, the opposite is true. We are pioneering the future. We are creating a truly global and accepting country in a way that no one else ever has. Yes, our policies are often less progressive than other countries, but as I have already mentioned this is due to our diversity. Healthcare, gun control, zoning policies, abortion rights; all of it is deeply mired in our struggle with diversity. 

The path is not an easy one. The election of Donald Trump should make that clear enough, but America has persisted in the past and will continue to do so today. Our history is one defined by progress in the face of hardship and bigotry. I have faith that America will emerge from this episode stronger for it; that we will continue to lead the world. I understand how hard it can be to be hopeful in these times, but I implore you to try. We are moving forward as we always have. We have no national language, no state religion. American is not an ethnicity, only a nationality. One defined by your capacity for freedom and acceptance. The Great American Experiment of our founding lives on but in a new form. No longer is it just about democracy; democracy has proven itself around the world. Instead, it’s about democracy AND diversity. It’s about learning to break down the barriers between peoples and build a nation in the image of a truly global community. 

This is a journey we take together. Not all those who express hatred or bigotry are beyond redemption. Nor should we seek to cast them out or proclaim them as nothing more than ignorant racists. They are folly to the same vices that afflict us all. Jealousy and envy, fear and anger. They are just as American as anyone else, and we should treat them as such. Don’t just lambast them for their disagreements; instead, help them to understand. We all share the same goal: To make America a better place. For all our differences as to what exactly this might mean, we all do so with the same reverence and love for the concept that is America. 

I leave you with this. While diversity might be the source of our hardship, it is also a source of our greatest national beauty. Even when times feel dark and it looks as if we are sliding backwards, I urge you to remain hopeful. The path we walk is treacherous, and we will never emerge unscathed, but I never doubt that it is the correct path. It is with unwavering faith that I can say “I love America.”

Democracy at Its Limits

Now that we’ve had a look at the key parties and issues of American politics, let’s take a step back and look holistically at the effects of demographic change on the future of American democracy. In particular, I want to discuss constitutional hardball. While this is by no means unique to our time it represents one of the biggest threats to democracy in America today. Cheery stuff I know, but don’t won’t worry, this series won’t be all doom and gloom.

You’ve likely heard a lot about how polarized US politics is today. Not only are politicians less moderate and less likely to reach across the aisle, but voters too are finding less common ground. If you remember my writings on the two political parties, you can probably see how race plays directly into this. Shifting demographics force parties to either try to capitalize on the change itself, or to the backlash, two diametrically opposed sides. Politically, one of the most dramatic effects of polarization is the increasing frequency of constitutional hardball. Constitutional hardball is a term used to describe actions that are technically legal but that go against norms or historical precedent. 

For an example we can look to the demise of the filibuster over the past decade. The filibuster forced legislators in the Senate to have more than a simple majority (usually 60/100 votes) to pass laws. This can be frustrating for lawmakers who may have a majority, but not a larger supermajority. However, it was generally considered the norm as it (ostensibly) promoted cooperation and compromise between the parties. In an increasingly polarized world this is less appealing, especially since it can be repealed with only 50 votes. Under the Obama administration Democratic lawmakers removed the filibuster for some presidential nominees. Under Trump and the Republican party this trend has accelerated dramatically. Most notably they removed the supermajority requirement for Supreme Court nominees (allowing for the confirmation of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh). And now some Democratic presidential candidates are considering removing the filibuster all together if elected (assuming they had a Senate majority).

While both parties have engaged in constitutional hardball, it is the Republican Party that has been largely responsible for it’s increasing prevalence today. Voter ID laws and gerrymandering get much of the media attention, but the most egregious examples came after the 2018 midterm elections. After a Democratic governor was elected in Wisconsin, the Republican governor and legislature passed a series of bills stripping the governor’s office of power, leaving the new governor unable to make any significant changes to laws. Similar stories played out in Michigan and two years earlier in North Carolina. 

Constitutional hardball is, by definition, technically legal. It nonetheless presents a massive danger to democracy. It prevents the government from accurately reflecting voters by suppressing turnout or lowering effective voting power. This erodes trust in the institutions critical to democracy. It also increases polarization, meaning the whole thing is a positive feedback loop. 

All of this presents a challenge to the Democratic party as they battle over the future of the party. Constitutional hardball often takes the form of a power grab. Parties alter the rules to favor themselves in the future. The problem then is that it can be hard to win if you refuse to play too; at the same time, playing only increases the danger to democracy. Beyond the discussion of abolishing the filibuster entirely, Democratic circles have also discussed stacking the supreme court (adding more seats to force a majority) and splitting California into multiple states (to increase Senate representation). These proposals are not without merit, but they are both controversial examples of constitutional hardball. There is no right answer here. Democrats are stuck with two bad options: try and maintain norms and risk losing political power indefinitely, or fight fire with fire and risk destroying the foundations of American democracy. 

If it’s any comfort this is not without precedent. Despite what it might feel like, we have gone through more contentious times as a country and emerged intact on the other side. The 1970’s saw politically motivated bombings occur nearly every week. The specter of fascism nearly took hold on the years in preceding WWII. We had a bloody Civil War that killed nearly as many Americans as all other wars combined. These may seem like dark times, and in many ways they are, but this is not apocalyptic. American democracy is the oldest in the modern world; it will not be destroyed without a fight. 

Through all of this though let us remember the theme of this series: race and demographic change. Constitutional hardball and polarization is a reaction to changing demographic change in America. It’s easy to see issues as being bigger than or unrelated to race, but the point I am trying to make is that race effects every single aspect of American politics, not just the ones explicitly associated with race. From healthcare to gun control to the filibuster, race drives everything. This is why studying the effects of demographic change is so important. To borrow the words of Ken Burns, I want to see race “not as a politically correct addendum to our national narrative, but at the burning heart of it.”

Next month will be the final article in my series. I’m going to leave the topic a surprise, but I hope it can be a poetic and satisfying end to these articles. I’ll see you then.

Where Does the GOP Go?

Hello! If you’re a first year, or were gone last semester, this is a continuation of a series focusing on the effects of demographic change on the future of American politics. Check out to read previous articles on asymmetric politics and the future of the Democratic Party. 

Today we’ll be looking at the future of the Republican Party in America. Republicans now have more political power than at almost any time in recent history. 

But being in power has a way of revealing and widening political fault lines. You don’t have to look far to find articles prophesizing the downfall of the Republican Party due to their failure to capture the growing number of minorities. 

While this will eventually be a problem for the party, those predicting an impending doomsday are wrong. The mere political presence of ethnic minorities consistently pushes other voters to the right. This action will largely counteract any political power Republicans lose because of an increasing number of non-white voters. 

Instead I want to highlight a specific division in the Republican Party; one that has become increasingly prominent during the Trump era: The divide between social conservatives and the business wing of the GOP. These two groups form the core of the GOP coalition. 

Initially, the shared enemy of communism created their alliance. The Soviet Union, with its state run economy and avowed godlessness was the worst enemy of the religious social conservatives and free-market, small government libertarians. 

The shared enemy allowed them to ignore that their world views were fundamentally incompatible. Is the role of government to ensure individual freedoms through low taxes and deregulation as the business wing believes? Or is it to create a ‘moral’ society by any means necessary. We can look to a classic issue in American politics: pornography. For social conservatives this is something that needs to be contained and banned; a harm to society. For a libertarian this would be unnecessary government regulation; people have a right to make their own decisions. At the extremes, this is an argument about liberal democracy itself. What is more important: freedom or morality?

This division is most clearly seen among political elites and conservative intellectuals. The most recent and dramatic rift has been between Sohrab Ahmari and David French. Armari published a piece online titled “Against David French-ism”. 

He claims to be inspired by seeing a poster for a children’s drag queen reading hour at public library in Sacramento and by the ‘mistreatment’ of Brett Kavanaugh by the left. 

He writes that in the “culture war” the ultimate goal is “defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good”. He continues that David French, who represents the libertarian wing of the party, is simply too nice to win this war. By rolling over and allowing, even if not agreeing with, things such as gay marriage, libertarians are failing conservatism. 

A confluence of factors has led to this rift gaining prominence in recent years. The shared enemy of communism died with the cold war. 

The election of Donald Trump has given Republicans a massive amount of political power. However, at the same time, society has continued to shift further and further to the left, deepening the fears of social conservatives. Compounding this fear are two other societal shifts: Diminishing numbers of Americans identifying as Christian, and white Americans continuing to make up a smaller and smaller proportion of the population. 

How will the Republican party react to a browning America? For the business wing this is business as usual. Tax cuts are (theoretically) race neutral; the size of government (theoretically) affects all people equally. But for social conservatives this is a crisis. Looking at more recent year

s, it’s hard not to say that social conservatives are winning out. Donald Trump, while not himself a die-hard social conservative, represents that group. He has shown a personal disregard for the small government principles of the libertarian wing. Instead he has appealed to the growing anti-immigrant, socially conservative sentiment I have previously discussed. 

The biggest sign of this shift in Republican ideology is the story of Representative Justin Amash. Amash is a founding member of the Tea Party: the ultra-conservative republican group that emerged in opposition to Obama’s policies. Amash made headlines recently when he called for the impeachment of Donald Trump. 

His opposition to Trump comes from his disagreements over executive power and limits of government. These are the principles on which the Tea Party was founded on, and these are the principles Amash cites. But the rest of the Tea Party turned on him. He was roundly denounced and ultimately, he left the Republican Party. Amash is not a moderate in any sense of the word; he turned on Trump because he saw him as betraying libertarian and conservative values.

In the broader American political context, this is a risky move. By doubling down on social conservatism, especially regarding race and immigration, Republicans have positioned themselves to take full advantage of the backlash to a browning America. 

This is a powerful force that is not to be underestimated.The risk is not losing support from people of color, they never really supported Republicans in the first place. Instead it is white, moderate, voters that present the most active threat. In 2018, droves of white suburban voters (especially women) abandoned the Republican party and handed Democrats a massive victory, even in traditionally Republican areas like Orange County. 

We’ve examined the people, and the parties on their own, but next month we will look at how they interact in the penultimate article of this series. See you then!

Don’t Vote for Bernie Sanders

Hot Take, here we go! So I wanted to talk about the future of the Democratic Party, and the rapidly escalating 2020 Democratic presidential primary is a great way to frame this discussion. Also, I haven’t gotten any angry emails yet, so what better way to change that then by trashing your favorite politicians?

Admittedly, trashing isn’t really the right word. I quite like Bernie Sanders. However, he is not representative of the future of the Democratic Party, and he is not a good candidate for president. Now, before I continue, I would like to emphasize that while connected, “being representative of the future of the Democratic Party” and “being a good Democratic candidate for president” are not the same thing. Please do not conflate them.

Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way first: Bernie Sanders is old and white in a party whose voter base is anything but. The problem is more than surface level though. Despite recently making strides in the right direction, Bernie has still failed to find substantial support from women and people of color. Furthermore, he represents the far left wing of the Democratic Party. It is true that mainstream Democrats have moved to the left, and it is possible for a politician to be liberal and still representative of the party. However, in our hyper-liberal bubbles, it is easy to forget that Democratic voters as a whole are not that liberal. Polling consistently shows that the majority of Democratic voters want to see their party move in a more moderate direction, not a more liberal one. Ultimately, Sanders is an ideological warrior. He is not known for compromise or moderation; he is known for being a socialist. This is not what holds together the Democratic Party.

I think that people tend to vastly overestimate Sanders’ electability. He certainly performed well in 2016, but he is simply not what people want. Like Donald Trump, Sanders received a massive boost from the unpopularity of Hillary Clinton, but he still solidly lost the primary. Meanwhile, old age and socialism are two of the least desirable traits voters look for in a candidate. Now, you might say to me, “Bernie is actually a democratic socialist, and that’s totally different,” or “Bernie isn’t really a socialist,” and you would be right. However, I can assure you that the greater American public could not care less. For more concrete evidence, we can turn to the 2018 midterm elections. The Sanders-inspired OurRevolution movement supported numerous Bernie-esque candidates, and nearly all of them failed. The idea that Bernie Sanders would be able to turn reliably Republican districts blue was proved false. Instead it was moderate Democrats who led the party to its house majority.

Now that I’ve angered half of you, I’ll anger the other half by telling you that Beto O’Rourke is also neither representative nor a good candidate for the Democratic Party. Unlike Sanders, he is young and more subtly progressive. However, also unlike Sanders, he hasn’t staked out hard policy positions. In short, Beto gives good speeches, but it is nearly impossible to figure out what he actually stands for. His previous voting record is uneven, and he falls behind nearly all other current candidates when it comes to staking out policy views. As I mentioned previously, the success of the Democratic Party hangs on pushing specific policy. Broad ideological battles and speeches are the territory of Republicans. O’Rourke may be inspirational, and I’ll take him over Cruz or Trump any day, but he will not be able to effectively hold together the Democratic coalition.

Besides 2020 electability, what does the future of the Democratic Party look like? In addition to the surface level visuals, like more representation of women, POC, and young people, it’s about being willing to compromise and reach out. It’s about taking concrete policy positions and, when in a position to do so, working to make gains on these even if it means compromising. In our era of polarization and constitutional hardball it’s easy to forget that bipartisanship and cooperation are not just good politics, they’re what Democratic voters are looking for. Being liberal is okay, but that can’t be all that you have going for you. Instead it’s about putting your stake in concrete policies rather than an ideology.

If you’re curious what current primary candidate is best, I’m afraid I’m not ready to put that down in writing just yet. Should you really want to know, you can come ask me in person, but I’m saving my official endorsement for some time closer to the actual primary. I hope you all have a great summer! Hopefully I’ll be back in the fall to talk about the future (or potential lack thereof) of the Republican Party.


Browning America

In 2000, 76.5% of voters in the presidential election were white. By 2020, just two decades later, this number is projected to be only 66.7%. This nearly 10 point drop is a result of the growing numbers of voters of color. Most notably, the Hispanic vote is expected to nearly double from 7.4% to 13.3%.  It’s hard to understate the effect that this will have. Not just on elections, but on the American people. In 2009, America made history. Barack Obama was inaugurated as the first African-American president. Many heralded the start of a “post-racial America”. Now, 10 years later, it’s pretty clear that this was not the case. So what happened?

While most people say Obama’s election was a victory against racism, for many he was a symbol of something else: the declining power of white America. This view was not wrong either; Obama swept to power on a powerful coalition built on the back of voters of color. He was a symbol that the balance of power was changing in America.

Sociologists have studied what happens when people are shown information indicating that their political power is diminishing. In a particularly fascinating experiment, Spanish speakers were put on trains and train stations around (very liberal) Boston, particularly those in white neighborhoods. They simply took the train like anyone else, but after only 3 days researchers found a sharp rightward shift in the immigration opinions of the other passengers. In another experiment, subjects were shown demographic data indicating that the Hispanic population in America is growing very rapidly. After seeing this, subjects reported a noticeable shift to the right. They became more likely to support strict immigration policies, and even moved rightward on non-immigration related policies. In this second experiment, it’s important to note that this reaction was universal. Both African-Americans and Asian-Americans had the same response as white subjects. This is not an ideological reaction, it’s a human one.

These experiments show the effect of subtle examples of the declining power of white America. Obama’s presidency was not subtle, so we can only imagine the effects that it had. While this effect can cut both ways (Hispanics exposed to micro-aggressions such as a questioning of their citizenship move left) the overwhelming effect is to drive the American population to the right, particularly on immigration.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this in America. When immigration from Asia and parts of Europe surged at the end of 19th century, we saw a sharp move to the right among the political elite. The Chinese Exclusion act and the Immigration Act of 1924 came into being with bipartisan support, and the pseudo-science of eugenics became widely popular. This type of white-supremacist sentiment did not die down, and instead culminated, and violently ended, with the genocides of WWII.

This is something of a tangent, but anti-immigrant sentiment and white supremacy in America is closely connected to the rise of the Nazi’s in Germany. Nazi politicians studied US law, particularly in how it denied citizenship to non-white residents. And if you still have doubts, here is a quote from Adolf Hitler: “It was America that taught us a nation should not open its doors equally to all nations”. When the US entered WWII against Nazi Germany, it adopted an anti-racist sentiment to distinguish itself, but it was not the reason we fought against Germany.

We cannot and should not hope for such a cataclysmic event to end the rightward shift we see now. Instead, it falls on us and our political institutions. Next month, we’ll look at how the political parties may change in response to demographic change.


Democrats and Republicans: Asymmetric Politics

The Democratic and Republican Parties sit on opposite ends of an ideological spectrum, but on a deeper, more fundamental level, they are in fact quite similar. At least, this is what is commonly assumed.

The problem with this assumption is that it’s wrong. Beyond policies and partisanship, these two parties are radically different in what drives them and how they operate. Understanding how Democrats and Republicans differ beyond their overt partisan leanings is crucial to understanding modern American political workings.

In their pioneering book Asymmetric Politics, political scientists Matt Grossman and David Hopkins put forward two definitions for the Democratic and Republicans parties. They define the Republican Party as centered around ideology and the Democratic Party as centered around group interests.

Understanding both parties starts with looking at their voter demographics. The voting base for the Republican Party is primarily white, with strength largely coming from men, older voters, and/or the non-college-educated.

The key factor when understanding the deeper workings of the Republican Party is not its actual demographics but the level of homogeny among its voters. The majority of Republicans (70%) identify as conservative, and they all share a common conservative ideology: the broad ideas of limited government, traditional values, and opposition to liberalism. Yes, all of these ideas are quite fuzzy, but this makes it easier for conservatives to unite behind them.

This shared idea of conservatism is the primary driving force of the Republican Party. Ideological purity and ideological victory are the main goals of the party. The clearest manifestation of this is the persistent strength of the ultra-conservative Tea Party.

Arising in 2009 in opposition to Obama’s early economic policies, the group turned heads when they forced a government shutdown in opposition to the Affordable Care Act, or as it’s more commonly known, Obamacare. The goal of the Tea Party, both in this shutdown and in a wider frame, is to remain true to conservatism, especially on economic policy, at all costs. Compromise in any form is unacceptable to them. Even now, a decade later, the Tea Party is a potent force in the Republican Party.

In contrast to the Republican Party, the Democratic Party is defined by an increasingly diverse set of voters. Often referred to as “the Obama coalition,” the party is supported by various groups such as people of color, organized labor, the LGBTQ community, the youth, and increasingly women. These groups do not share a uniting liberal ideology the same way conservatives do (only 44% of Democrats identify as liberal); instead, the Democratic Party is driven by coalition politics. Each group has a distinct set of policy initiatives that they want to pass, and they work together to accomplish all of them. The Democratic Party serves as the framework that unites these disparate groups.
Whereas the Tea Party is a dominant force in the Republican Party, no similar group has emerged in the Democratic Party. Even with the election of Donald Trump and the increasing level of polarization in American politics, Democrats remain on average more moderate and less ideological than their Republican counterparts. A 70-year-old African-American Christian woman in Atlanta does not want the same thing as a 30-year-old white hipster in New York. A first generation Mexican-American in Dallas does not want the same thing as a gay Asian-American in Seattle.

The Democratic Party is not bound together ideologically the same way the Republican Party is. Rather than seeking a broad ideological victory, Democrats focus more on specific policy initiatives, working to accomplish them even if it means compromising. By working towards these specific policies, whether it is prison reform, banking regulations, or LGBTQ protections, Democrats hold together a diverse coalition.

This divide in the political parties did not appear from nothing. It was driven, in part, by American voters. When polled on broad ideological questions, the average American voter falls slightly to the right of center. However, when polled on specific policies, the average American voter falls slightly left of center. For example, most Americans believe that the size of government should be limited, but when asked about specific policies, they will often choose policies that expand the size of government, in direct contradiction to their previous answer. In order to remain electorally viable, it is logical that the two major political parties represent this cleavage in American voters. Thus, Republicans focus on broad ideological statements while Democrats focus on narrow policy discussions.

These fundamental differences between America’s two dominant political parties are vitally important to understanding how these parties act today and what their futures might look like. One could point to more recent events to suggest that this dynamic is changing. Democratic 2020 candidates are rushing to support positions once considered far left, and Donald Trump is definitely not an ideological purist, but we should not read too much into these. The majority of registered democrats/democratic-leaning registered voters want to see their party move in a more moderate direction. Meanwhile, Republicans accept Trump as a ‘deal with the devil’, but a surprising amount don’t even want to see him on the 2020 ticket (although to be clear the chance of Trump not winning the 2020 Republican primary is basically nil).

Next month, we will be looking at what exactly demographic change in America looks like, and how voters react to it. Once we have that established we will come back and take an in depth look at both the Republican and Democratic Parties to see how these fundamental values we just talked about might be affected by demographic change.

The Political Story of a Changing America

Politics at Olin is weird, mostly because we really just don’t talk about it much. Given the overwhelmingly liberal tilt of our student body, this is not terribly surprising. We are often just yelling into an echo chamber, but this comes at a cost. While many Oliners are politically engaged and reasonably knowledgeable about political issues, we lack a real depth of understanding of politics in America. It is my plan to change this. I want to tell you all a story, the story of how demographic changes shape the modern American political landscape and what the future of American politics may look like because of it.

But let’s back up a second first. Who am I? My name is Diego, and for those of you who haven’t met me, I am a junior studying mechanical engineering. I am also doing my AHS concentration in political science. American politics is my obsession – to an unhealthy level. I am absolutely fascinated by it, and I want to share this all with you. I am, like most Oliners, a solid liberal Democrat, but to be clear, I am not here to preach liberal policies. I want to talk about American politics on a deeper, more fundamental level than any single policy.

In 1970, 87.5% of all Americans were white. By 2010, that number was only 72.4%. It is projected that by around 2042, America will have become a majority-minority country. That is, white Americans will no longer be a majority of the population. In 2013, non-white infants outnumbered white infants for the first time in US history. The ratio of white births to deaths has continued to decrease while immigration is skyrocketing. All of this means one thing: America is becoming more brown, and quickly. No amount of policy or politics can change this, but the effects of these changes on American politics and society cannot be understated. In the oft derided, but telling, words of conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, “They’re changes that none of us ever voted for, and most of us don’t like.”

Over the course of this semester, and potentially the next, I will be writing a series of articles for Frankly Speaking. The topic is going to be the future of American politics as seen through the lens of demographic change. This article is just a preview of what’s to come. This is a complicated topic that cannot be summed up in a single article; there are a multitude of topics we need to understand before we can look at the future of American politics holistically. Next month, we’ll be diving all the way in with a look at asymmetric politics and the fundamental differences between the Democratic and Republican parties. After that, expect articles on human reactions to demographic changes, the future of both the Democratic and Republican parties, and constitutional hardball. I’m going to throw a lot at all of you, and much of it is going to be quite wonky and in-depth, but these demographic changes have already had a profound impact on American politics, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Finally, this is not a one sided discussion. I want to hear what you think! I am studying away in Singapore this semester, so unfortunately you cannot yell at me in person, but if you have something you want to add, or something wasn’t clear to you, feel free to shoot me an email or message.