Principalities & Powersrnbv Samuel FrancisrnRacial PoliticsrnWhatever the new Republican majorityrndoes with the immense congressionalrnpower it seized in last November’s elections,rnit will probablv be unimportantrncompared to the force that started tornemerge in the same elections and whichrnthe national leadership of the RepublicanrnPartv, and even more the DemocraticrnParty, tried to ignore, denounce,rnand destroy. The emergence of the Republicanrnmajority, of course, is importantrnin terms of the conventional politicsrnof the nation. Not only has it convertedrnthe remaining tenure of the Clinton administrationrninto a two-year-long sequelrnto Night of the Living Dead, this timernwith the zombies lurching around in thernOval Office, but it also represents thernend of the New Deal electoral coalitionrnand a great leap forward in the politicalrnconsciousness of the Middle AmericanrnRevolution.rnBy themselves those two developmentsrnare enough to make the electionsrnof 1994 a major event in American history.rnBut the end of the coalition thatrnformed the electoral foundation of 20thcentur}’rnliberalism does not necessarilyrnmean that a genuinely antiliberal coalitionrnhas permanently crystallized, norrndoes the Republican victory mean thatrnthe Republicans are authentic or adequaternleaders of the revolution fromrnwhich they have gained at least temporaryrncongressional dominance.rnSince its inception in the 19th century,rnthe Republican Partv has beenrnwedded to the mvth of Economic Man,rnwhich holds that the desire for materialrngain is the principal if not the only musclernthat throbs in the human breast andrnthat therefore all historical events canrnbe explained in terms of economic motivation.rnMost Republicans are probablyrnunaware that thev share this myth withrnunemployed Russian Marxists and toolong-rnemployed American professors, butrnthe persistence of the myth in what passesrnfor the Republican mind is evident inrnlast }ear’s “Contract with America,” withrnall its budget-balancing, tax-cutting,rnwelfare-reforming, economic-incentivernproposals. It remains to be seen howrnmany of the contract’s actual promisesrnthe Republican leadership was seriousrnabout, how much the leadership and thernpartv will be able or willing to enact,rnand how much is een possible to implement,rngiven what seem to be somernglaring contradictions. But even if all ofrnthe contract sails through Congress, escapesrnthe ignominious fate of a vetornfrom the nation’s First Zombie, andrnlatches itself onto the American wav ofrnlife as firmh’ as sitcoms and Social Security,rnit will do little to fill the tank ofrnwhat is now rapidly becoming the principalrnmotor of the Middle AmericanrnRevolution.rnThat motor, the force that the establishedrnleadership of both parties soughtrnto stop, is, in a word, race, and it is evidentrnin the controversy over the mostrncontroversial issue in the November elections,rnCalifornia’s Proposition 187. Thatrnproposition was far more controversialrnthan Ollie North or the role of the religiousrnright, and unlike them, it will remainrnwith us, shaping the practical politicsrnand the impractical politicalrnconversation of the nation, for decadesrnto come.rnOriginally, Proposition 187 was merelyrna proposal to prohibit illegal aliensrnfrom obtaining public services, mainlyrnwelfare, public education, and nonemergencyrnpublic health care. Thernracial note was introduced near the endrnof the campaign, bv the thousands ofrnHispanics wa’ing Mexican flags, whornoccupied public buildings, screamed atrnpolicemen and anyone else who attractedrntheir attention, and threatened tornburn down the cities and the state ifrnAmericans dared vote contrary to theirrnpassions. On at least one occasion, theyrnbeat up an elderly American who hadrnthe courage to sport the American flagrnin expressing his support of 187. Thernman was luckier than the flag he bore,rnwhich the mob burned. These werernclear expressions of a militant nonwhiternand anti-American racial consciousness,rnwhich the press invariably described asrn”peaceful.” Just to show how peacefulrnthey were, the National Guard and thernLos Angeles Police Department werernplaced on full alert in the event that 187rnactually passed.rnhi the event, of course, 187 passed byrn59 percent to 41 percent, but it is in thernethnic and racial breakdown of the voternthat the meaning of the proposition forrnthe emergence of racial consciousnessrnis most evident. From exit polls conductedrnby the Los Angeles Times duringrnthe oting, it appears that 63 percent ofrnwhite Californians supported 187, whilern55 percent of blacks, 53 percent ofrnAsians, and a whopping 77 percent ofrnfiispanics opposed it. The racial divisionrnis obvious: nonwhites voted together inrnopposing a measure that was portrayedrnby its foes as racially driven, while whites,rnwho still make up 81 percent of the Californiarnelectorate, supported it by a landslidernmargin. The racial division is evidentrnalso in the breakdown of thernnational vote, in which 63 percent ofrnwhite men supported the Republicans.rnAs Thomas Edsall wrote in the WashingtonrnPost shortly after the election, thernmass defection of white males to thernCOP “violates a core concept at thernheart of the Democratic Party as thernparty of working people. White men arernthose experiencing the largest wage declines,rnthe brunt of defense cutbacksrnand the dramatic attenuation of corporaternloyalty.”rnThe racial meaning of the vote isrnhardly surprising. For years now, politicallyrnorganized nonwhite minorities inrnthe United States have openly boasted ofrntheir ethnic consciousness, developedrnnationally powerful lobby groups to representrntheir interests, and ha’C effectivelyrnlegitimized the belief that it is theirrnright to think, feel, vote, and behave accordingrnto their racial identity whilerndelegitimizing the same belief forrnwhites. Many, perhaps most, whitesrnhave permitted this development andrneven encouraged it, though some morernaggressively than others. But what thernvote for 187 tells us about whites is thatrnthey are now starting to vote for theirrnown interests as a group, in opposition tornthe interests of other groups. If thatrntrend continues, and there is every reasonrnto believe it will, what will logicallyrnfollow is the emergence of an overtlyrnracial politics in the United States of arnkind that we have not seen before.rnOf course, not all whites supportedrn187, and most prominent among thosernwho attacked it were presidential perennialrnJack Kemp and Bill “Mr. Virtue”rn8/CHRONICLESrnrnrn