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As the U.S. Becomes More Diverse, Will Republicans Choose Whiteness...or Democracy?

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

2042. That's the year when demographic experts anticipate white Americans will no longer comprise the majority in the United States. The closer we get to this pivotal and historic point, the more consternation, reaction and vitriol we will witness from the right.

It will likely lead to even greater violence and upheaval because of a simple fact: Much of the country simply cannot process the idea of an America that does not cater to them as the white majority.

In her profound work Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson recounts a back-and-forth she once had with Taylor Branch, a historian of the Civil Rights movement, in November 2018. They sought to find a parallel between what the U.S. is undergoing presently and what other nations and eras experienced in the past. Eleven Jewish worshippers had just been gunned down a month earlier at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Charlottesville had happened the year before but was still on both their minds. Migrant children were being separated from their parents at the border. MAGA was in full force.

The two wondered, Are we back in the U.S. circa 1950, a time to which those in power then would surely prefer to return us? Or are we closer to Weimar Republic Germany of the early 1930s, a failing state vulnerable to opportunistic fascism and extremist hate?

Or perhaps we are South Africa at the end of Apartheid, where a white minority that long held all the power was terrified to relinquish it and assume a lesser place as a political minority in a fledgling democracy?

"So the real question would be," Branch asked Wilkerson, with great insight and foresight, "if people were given a choice between democracy and whiteness, how many would choose whiteness?"

The answer for many today, sadly, appears to be "whiteness." Following election losses in 2020 and early 2021, in which the GOP lost control of both the White House and the Senate, the party decided that rather than try to adjust its policies to gain more voters, it would work overtime to suppress minority votes. To win, it would also deploy naked gerrymandering to wrest control of the House from the Democrats, all in the name of preserving what amounts to minority rule by a largely white base of GOP voters.

Meanwhile, on one of the most highly rated network "news" shows, host Tucker Carlson has begun to openly amplify the "Great Replacement" theory to his viewers. He claimed earlier this month that the Democratic Party was "trying to replace the current electorate" in the U.S. with "new people, more obedient voters from the Third World." That, said Carlson, is "what's happening actually. Let's just say it. That's true."

And that same week, a new America First Caucus formed (then fell apart) in the House, led by Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA), promising among other dog-whistles a common respect for and adherence to "Anglo-Saxon political traditions" apparently because "white" was not specific and exclusionary enough.

The foundational document of the caucus also advocated, somewhat bizarrely, for infrastructure with aesthetic value that "befits the progeny of European architecture." That proved too far for even the frequent enablers of white minority rule like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and the proposal for the caucus was withdrawn.

To those who naturally embrace multiculturalism and pluralism, these actions might feel simply politically motivated, or fringe rather than mainstream, using race as easy bait to gain traction. But the history of white majority rule, enforced by racial terror and lynchings in the past and extreme police violence and mass incarceration in 2021, cautions otherwise. Racism is the point, Wilkerson would argue, because it is the fulcrum on which the levers of power and privilege in our caste system rest.

Our nation is now oscillating between progress and backlash, from Obama to Trump back to Biden, from a deeply red Georgia and pink Arizona to both now barely blue. According to Wilkerson, it is critical to continue to see this for what it is: a visceral and dangerous reaction of a large sector of the ruling dominant caste to the profound changes in its power and privilege.

America was founded on the pervasive myth of white supremacy, but that fiction has overseen four hundred years of slavery, racial violence, segregation, mass imprisonment and police terror. The new majority that will fully assert itself in sheer numbers by 2042 threatens to put an end to that myth entirely and forge a wholly different America. And that is an unspeakable horror to those whose very identities are tied to their position in the racial hierarchy.

And so the GOP digs in ever deeper, now openly using white anxiety and replacement panic to motivate its base to donate, rally and vote.

How ironic that the party of Lincoln has become the party of Jefferson Davis, bent on preserving the very system that our bloody Civil War was originally fought to end.