By Leon Hadar | April 27, 2011
The most reliable study of the changing U.S. demographics in the last decade which was issued by the Census Bureau recently didn’t include statistics about the number of Jews among the Americans that were surveyed, since by law the government wasn’t allowed to collect information about their religious affiliation. But in any case, the number of American-Jews isn’t the main demographic factor that is going to determine the long-term direction of the U.S. relationship with Israel.
Indeed, American foreign policy, including the support for Israel, has been driven by European-Christian elites, reflecting the outlook of the Anglo-Protestant founding Fathers. Hence, the Atlantic orientation of U.S. foreign policy which had led to the intervention of the two world wars, to interventions in the Middle East and to sympathy with Israel, was embraced by a world-view shared by leaders stepped in cultural and religious traditions that evolved in the British Isles and the Low Countries and which included a strong attachment to the Bible’s Children of Israel and the Holy Land.
The arrival of new ethnic and religious groups did not transform the contour of U.S. diplomacy—but affected them on the margins. Many Northern European and Irish immigrants and their descendants had opposed U.S. entry into World War I and II while American Catholics and Eastern European ethnics had enthusiastically supported a tough stand against the Communist Bloc during the Cold War.
And lobbies representing supporters of Greece, Armenia, Ireland and, yes, Israel have played a role in shaping U.S. policies but only in the context of a broad American global strategy that enjoyed wide public support. In the case of Israel, both secular liberals and conservative Christians regarded the establishment of Israel as the culmination of an historical epoch that had stretched from Biblical times to the European Holocaust.
But now it seems that descendants of these Euro-Americans are gradually losing their dominant demographic status. Indeed, according to the new census, the pace of diversification in the U.S. over the past decade has been staggering, with the so-called minorities—Blacks, Asians, Hispanics or Latinos—on the road towards becoming the new majority.
The percentage of non-Hispanic whites is 5.4 percent less than it was in 2000, with the minorities now making up 46.5 percent of the under 18 population. Four states have now a majority of minorities—California, Texas, New Mexico, Hawaii, and in eight other states, blacks, Asians and Hispanics compromise between 40 t0 50 percent of the population.
This growth has been overwhelmingly driven by Hispanics. Latinos now represent one in six Americans, or nearly 50.5 million, up from one in eight, or about 35.3 million, in 2000. Latinos accounted for a majority of the population growth in 18 states, at least 40 percent of the growth in seven more, and at least 30 percent in five others.
Most experts believe that white or Euro-Americans will probably become a minority group sometime before 2050. And most of them also agree that these changes are going to have a dramatic impact on American politics. The Democrats are expected to be the main beneficiary, if one considers the results of the 2008 elections, when the biracial Barack Obama had won the support of the majority of blacks, Hispanics and Asians, while the majority of Euro-American voted for his Republican adversary.
According to opinion polls, blacks and Latinos tend to be less supportive of Israel than white Americans. Indeed, new poll by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) found that nearly half of U.S. Latinos feel that their government is too supportive of Israel. The findings also suggest high levels of anti-Semitism exist in the Latino community.
Moreover, most black and Hispanics exhibit less support for U.S. intervention in the Middle East and elsewhere and support a more “inwardist” approach that lead to major cuts in defense and foreign aid and to growing investment on domestic social and economic programs. (Cuban-Americans are the only Latino group that leans towards the Republican Party and is friendly towards Israel).
At the same time, the growing influence of blacks and Hispanics as well as Americans of Chinese and Indian descent is likely to transform the Atlantic orientation of American foreign – and by extension, the focus on the Middle East — and place more emphasis on U.S. role in Latin America and the Pacific Rim.
Obama who was born in Hawaii and described himself as the “first Pacific President” and who returned to the British Government a bust of Winston Churchill that was loaned to George W Bush after the September 11 attacks, may be the first U.S. president who is more in tune with the political aspirations of the members of this coming majority of minorities.
The Republicans, on the other hand, are starting to look and sound more and more like the political party that stands for the declining white majority—while also becoming the political home for pro-Israeli Christian Evangelists like Sarah Palin, who like their Likud buddies in Israel find it difficult to understand why the majority of American Jews continue to vote for Obama and the Democrats.
This article was originally published in Haaretz on April 24, 2011.
Leon Hadar is a research fellow at the Cato Institute.