Ross Douthat has a really interesting post about race and American politics. He takes issue with Jonathan Chait’s contention that white identity politics holds the GOP together. Ross concedes that there’s something to that, but that introducing race into the discussion makes it hard to discern important differences. Ross says that works both ways, then analyzes how the appeal of the Democratic Party among Hispanics depends on an explicit promise to make Hispanics beneficiaries “with very explicit and specific promises of special legal treatment (in hiring, government contracting, college admissions, immigration policy, etc.) based on their ethno-racial background.
If these promises help cement a new Democratic majority, then (to repurpose Chait’s analysis) the new progressive era he envisions will depend, no less than the conservative era that preceded it, on “ethnocentrism” and “racial resentment” and “ingroup solidarity.” If anything, the racial element will be even more explicit: Chait’s emerging Democratic majority will be less a rational coalition of ideological interests and more a kind of a race-based spoils system, in which progressive elites exploit a system of racial preferences designed to provide temporary assistance to the descendants of slaves to supply a permanent form of race-based patronage for America’s fastest-growing ethnic group.
Is this an unfairly reductionist take on liberalism, the Hispanic vote and Democratic coalition politics? Absolutely. But it’s no more reductionist or unfair than Chait’s race-based analysis of what makes modern conservatism tick.