The Right Coast

March 06, 2005
Don't Blame Pete Wilson for Making California a Blue State (Part III)
By Gail Heriot

Just a bit more information about the reasons behind California's transformation from an electoral toss-up state into a Democratic stronghold:

Between 1990 and 2000, California's population increased 13.82%. From the standpoint of race and ethnicity, the increase was overwhelmingly the result of an increased number of Hispanics and Asians. The numbers of whites (including Hispanic whites) actually decreased in absolute terms by 1.73% as a result of out-migration and low birth rates.

Asians: 9.56% (1990) 10.92% (2000). Increase in Absolute Numbers: 35.19%

Blacks: 7.42% (1990) 6.68% (2000). Increase in Absolute Numbers: 2.49%

Hispanics: 25.83% (1990) 32.38% (2000). Increase in Absolute Numbers: 42.65%

Non-Hisp. Whites: 57% (1990) 46.7% (2000). Decrease in Abs. Numbers for White (Hisp. or not): 1.73%

Sure, it's an oversimplification to look at voting behavior of individuals exclusively or even primarily in terms of their race or ethnicity. But when you are dealing with large numbers, the patterns are both unmistakable and difficult to change except over rather long periods of time, usually generations.

In the past couple of Presidential elections, California voters have voted this way:

Asians: 1996: 51%Dem/44%Rep, 2004: 64%Dem/35%Rep

Blacks: 1996: 83%Dem/8%Rep, 2004: 84%Dem/14%Rep

Hispanics: 1996: 70%Dem/22%Rep, 2004: 68% Dem/31% Rep

Non-Hispanic whites: 1996: 45%Dem/43%Rep, 2004: 47%Dem/52%Rep

(The '96 data is from CNN, the 2004 data is from the L.A. Times. Sorry I couldn't find a full set of California data for 2000.)

Given this change in demographics, it would have taken a realignment earthquake for California not to become a Blue State. Even George W. Bush, who has devoted substantial efforts to wooing the Hispanic voter could only get 31% of California Hispanics to vote for him, and that was regarded as quite an accomplishment.

I have devoted three blog entries (see Part I and Part II) to rebutting poor Brendan Miniter's statement in the WSJ's Political Diary that Pete Wilson caused California to become a Blue State by his support for Proposition 187 (which prohibited the state from conferring certain benefits, including welfare benefits, on illegal immigrants). I don't mean to pick on Miniter in particular. Lots of conservative (and liberal) writers have made this claim. It seems fair to ask me why I feel it necessary to devote so much energy to this issue. After all, I voted against Proposition 187, and I consider myself moderately pro-immigration (although, as I said before, I would make substantial changes to American immigration policy if I were in charge).

I am becoming increasingly concerned, however, that conservative "elites" are out of touch with both the rank and file conservative voter and with reality on the issue of immigration. Sure, immigration confers certain benefits on the United States and on all or many of those concerned. But it also confers some costs. And it's important to be realistic about it. Turning California into a Democratic electoral stronghold was one of them. I express no opinion about how that cost should be weighed; I merely point out that it's unbecoming to blame it on Pete Wilson.