Suburban Whites and the Coming Democratic Majority
Sorry, Virginia, White Professionals Are Turning Your State—And Your Country—Blue
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In 2009, the blog Stuff White People Like took the Internet (or at least my corner of it) by storm. Published on a modest WordPress template and featuring only around 150 pages, it quickly gained a readership in the tens of millions and spawned two books, before petering out the following year.
It’s chief author, the then-unknown Christian Lander, mastered a distanced, anthropological tone in his semi-parodic cataloguing of the lifestyles and mores of “left-leaning, city-dwelling, white people” in North America.
Notable “Stuffs” include “Religions their parents don’t belong to” (#2), “Asian Girls” (#11),“Yoga” (#15), “Breakfast places” (#36), “Art’s Degrees” (#47), and “Sea Salt” (#119). No entries were written on, say, “Monster Truck Rallies,” “Garth Brooks,” “Religions their parents belonged to,” or “The New England Patriots.” “Donald Trump” would be something “Whites” distinctly disliked, and, as John Derbyshire quipped, probably none of the subjects even “knows what the Confederate flag looks like.”1 Stuff White People Like was about bourgeois status signaling, status anxiety, and, you could say, status irony.
As Lander wrote on this very matter:
White people hate a lot of stuff (white people who vote republican, television, Vin Diesel movies, SUVs, fast food) but every once in a while they turn that hate into sweet irony. . . . The most horrific recent example is Trucker hats . . .From “Irony” (#50)
Many detected a certain “right-wing” undercurrent to Lander’s mockery. Take, for instance, his comments on “Diversity” (#7):
White people love ethnic diversity, but only as it relates to restaurants.
Even more troubling, “Having Black Friends” (#14):
Every white person wants a black friend like Barack [Obama]: good-looking, well-spoken, and non-violent.
In the early days of the Alt-Right, Stuff White People Like inspired the term “SWiPL,” which was the “Cuck” of its time. Like “Cuck,” it was a punchy term of derision. The SWiPL was not simply a WASP, and didn’t just have fastidious tastes; he was the American White who had marinated in leftism at university, believes in “diversity” as a replacement religion, and enthusiastically votes for Barack Obama. He possesses an oblivious confidence that his own White privilege will never end up on the chopping block.
The SWiPL meme of a decade ago has been on my mind recently as the implications of demographics on recent elections have been hotly debated among the “dissident Right.” Put simply, we are getting it wrong. And this has much to do with a “mis-underestimating” of the power of the SWiPL. The psychological type we lampooned 10 years ago will become the decisive factor in coming Republican loses and, in all likelihood, Donald Trump’s defeat in November.
Is Demography Destiny?
2019 has not been kind to Republicans. In Virginia, Democrats took control of the legislature. In Kentucky, Republican governor Matt Bevin was ousted in favor of Democrat Andy Beshear. And in Louisiana, Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards was re-elected. All solid Red States . . . All places that Trump recently visited to hold mass rallies . . . and all of them became sites of major Republican defeats.
As the results came in, the hard Right sounded a familiar refrain: “demography is destiny!” The poor old GOP won’t be able to win any more elections due to mass immigration. Ann Coulter captured the sentiment in the title of her weekly column, “Yes, Virginia, Immigration Is Turning The Country Blue.” According to Coulter, “What happened was: Democrats brought in new voters.
In 1970, only one out of every 100 Virginians was foreign-born. By 2012, one in nine Virginians was foreign-born. The foreign-born vote overwhelmingly, by about 80 percent, for Democrats. They always have and they always will—especially now that our immigration policies aggressively discriminate in favor of the poorest, least-educated, most unskilled people on Earth. They arrive in need of a LOT of government services.
In late fall, a band of so-called “Groypers” took up Coulter’s charge and raided the Q&A sessions of the mainstream conservative organization Turning Point USA. The Groypers harangued TPUSA’s founder, Charlie Kirk, claiming that, unless immigration is halted, Trump will lose and America won’t maintain its “Christian values.”
But what is really going on under the surface of electoral politics? Unquestionably, immigration demographics is a critical component of elections, and everything Coulter writes is accurate, to some degree, from a bird’s eye view. But sometimes, looking at the forest can blind you to the trees. In the near-term—for the next dozen years—electoral demographics will operate quite differently than American nationalists and the Alt-Right want to admit.
Namely, the “Browning of America” brought on by Hispanic immigration is dwarfed in importance by two factors.
- The rapid movement into the suburbs (away from urban and rural areas) of educated Whites. We’ll call them SWiPs (Suburban White Professionals), with a nod to the SWiPL meme of yore.
- The abandonment of the GOP by SWiPs. We’ll call this trend “Whexit.”
African-Americans are the prime example of “block voting”: as a race, they support Democrats at 85-90 percent in effectively any election. Latinos’s support is less intense, usually around 65 percent Democratic. (This owes in large part to the fact that “Hispanic” and “Latino” are linguistic categories that cover a culturally diverse group; “Hispanics” range from ethnic Europeans to those of Amerindian backgrounds).
Whites, on the other hand, are Republican at rates between 50 and 65 percent, depending on the part of the country. We are split down the middle and more likely to show movement. As Coulter and her like point out, Hispanic immigration is clearly a net benefit to Democrats. But Whites, who make up 70 percent of the electorate, are far more important in determining political outcomes.
So, sorry, Virginia, White suburban professional are turning your state—and your country—Blue. This in itself is a profoundly important demographic transformation. The seemingly natural constituency for the party of big business, wealth, and economic opportunity is abandoning it for the Left.
The Blue Wave Rolls On…
As The National Policy Institute predicted, the 2018 Midterms marked a major political turnaround: the Democrats took control of the House with the addition of 40 seats. While many conservative commentators pooh-poohed the results, the fact is, 2018 marked a “wave” election by any definition—a Blue Wave, not the Red one predicted by the President. In NPI’s view, it signals long-term hegemony. 2018 marked the highest turnout for a Midterm in a century, and the Democrats’ margin of victory was greater than its last seizure of power in 2006. It even beat the Republicans famous triumphs in 1994 and 2010.
This all occurred, as I will discuss, due to a major shift in the White vote; this continues in 2019, and it will likely be decisive in 2020.
Reporter Dave Weigel discerned this trend more than a year before the Democrats took back the House by winning over the SWiPs.
Honestly the funniest 2018 result would be: Dems win the majority based on suburbs after reporters spend two years canvassing rural diners— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) February 22, 2017
“I just feel like the government has forgotten me,” said Rebecca Kwan, a biracial fed worker, biting into her Panera sandwich— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) February 22, 2017
In Virginia, the social and demographic change that flipped the state is not “new immigrants” but the expansion of the suburbs. The areas surrounding Washington, DC, are exploding: three out of the four most populous districts are in Northern Virginia, and “Nova” has accounted for 60 percent of the state’s overall population growth. Amazon’s decision to build its second U.S. headquarters in Nova capped off the trend. According to the Washington Post,
The region’s growth is on display every day in the form of residential developments being built in Prince William, massive data center complexes erected in once-rural parts of Loudoun County and a new skyline lighting up the night in Fairfax County’s Tysons Corner, where car dealerships and malls used to dominate the landscape.
In the mid-20th century, Dad commuted to the city to work, and Mom and the kids stayed in the quiet ‘burbs. Today, we see the creation of an urban-suburbia sprawl, where White professionals live and work.
This trend is occurring nationally. As analyzed by William Frey, over the past decade, big cities have been growing at a markedly slower rate; “the ‘back to the city’ trend seen at the beginning of the decade has reversed.” Major metropolises such as Dallas and San Francisco are declining towards zero growth, and New York and Chicago are now losing people on an annual basis.
Geographically speaking, Virginia remains a Red State, as the heartland of the state is still solidly Republican. This is unchanged despite a Court-ordered redistricting plan, which ruled that earlier Republican efforts to structure the state amounted to “gerrymandering” that disadvantaged Black voters (a claim that is almost undoubtedly true). As a result, a few redrawn districts in the southeast of the state flipped from Red to Blue.
But the new power center of Virginia politics is not in Black or Hispanic districts; it is the northwest of the state surrounding DC, with the geographically smaller, densely populated suburban areas. Scouring the list of Democratic winners in 2019, few Hispanic surnames are to be found. What we find instead are a new class of SWiP candidates: Whites, Jews, and assimilated Asians, all from places where Panera Bread, Lulu Lemon attire, and vanilla macchiatos are found in abundance.
In Louisiana, the liberals’ narrative that Trump was responsible for a Democrat winning is demonstrably wrong—and so is the idea that Hispanics are fueling a Democratic surge. Louisiana is a Red State in presidential elections, but a Democratic governor is hardly unusual. Democrats have dominated since the 1880s; in the past 25 years, Louisiana has alternated governors between the two parties. Old habits die hard, and John Bel Edwards is the kind of “socially conservative, fiscally liberal” man that fits the state perfectly. Edwards’s re-election (51 to 49 percent) was far closer than his win in 2015, when he ran away with a victory, carrying 56 percent of the vote. Turnout was way up as well, by some 30 percent. Democrats increased their total votes by 20 percent; the Republicans, more than doubled that, at 45 percent. Whatever one thinks of Donald Trump, it’s safe to say that his rallies inspired greater participation and made the election much closer than it would otherwise have been.
Regardless, Democrats are not being voted into office by immigrants. Louisiana’s White population (60 percent) approximates the country at large. However, its Black population (33 percent) is far higher, and its Hispanic and foreign-born populations, only one-third of national averages. Edwards carried the largely Black and rural parishes in the northeast of the state; however, as in Virginia, Democratic power centers were suburban areas surrounding Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans.
Texas remains the foundation stone of the GOP’s national electoral strategy and is a favorite reference point for the “demographics is destiny” crowd. “If Texas goes Blue,” they say, “the Republican Party is done for!” No doubt, Hispanics and immigrants affect elections here more than in any other state; however, it’s worth noting that in 2016, even if Trump had lost Texas, he still would have won an Electoral College victory.
The Lone Star State has been “Deep Red” since the mid-‘90s, despite the fact that Whites have been a numerical minority since 2000. In 2018, Whites made up just 56 percent of the electorate in the Senate race between Senator Ted Cruz and his Democratic challenger, Congressman Beto O’Rourke. Sixty-six percent of Whites voted Republican—a rate that’s 15-18 percent higher than the national one—granting Cruz a hard-fought victory (or perhaps stay of execution).
Generally, the trends we saw in Virginia hold in Texas. Republicans still won the majority of counties. But O’Rourke won the five most populous counties that contain its biggest cities (Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin), along with the heavily Hispanic areas in the southeast of the State.
Cruz’s unshakeable base was Whites without college degrees, 74 percent of whom voted for him and most of whom live in rural counties. Texas remains “exceptional”—and will remain so for a decade—because suburban Whites still vote Republican—in Cruz’s case, at a rate of 55 percent. Cruz even won a small majority among Whites with a degree, which is not happening in Virginia. But as White suburbia goes Blue—and all indications say it will—so goes Texas.
Texas Republicans became hegemonic during a period in which Latinos expanded to 30 percent of population. The Party will soon be dethroned, not by Mexican immigrants, but by the SWiPs.
Understanding The Whexit
In the wake of the 2016 election, the mainstream media published countless articles about “Trump and the rise of White Nationalism” and the refashioning of the GOP as a party of racial populism and resentment. This was not entirely hysterical. The Alt-Right writ large burst into public awareness due to its staunch and outlandish support of Donald Trump. Moreover, the GOP remains a mono-racial party (90 percent White) as the country has increasingly become “majority-minority.”
In 2016, Trump won a slightly lower percentage of the total vote than Mitt Romney did in 2012, in an election with significantly more turnout. But Trump achieved a stunning Electoral College victory by winning different White people than Republicans had in the recent past. He did this decisively in Midwestern states that went for Obama in 2012 but flipped to Trump in 2016: Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Both Romney and Trump were famous capitalists, but gave off quite different vibes. Romney promised to “let Detroit die” in the wake of the financial crisis; Trump, on the other hand, offered a nostalgic vision of a return to the industrial-resource economy of the 1950s. While both men’s promises proved illusory, it was Trump who touched Midwesterners’ hearts.
The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics estimates that between 8 and 9 million people who voted for Obama in 2012 supported Trump in 2016. And many who had never voted before came out for Trump. This shift—of the White working class from Democrat to Republican—has been happening for more than a quarter century. When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, 59 percent of the Democratic voting base was made up of non-Hispanic Whites without a college degree, according to Pew Research. In Trump’s America, Whites without a college degree make up 58 percent of Republican voters.
Trump won in 2016 with working-class support. But the redefinition of the party has come at a cost—namely, the hemorrhaging of SWiPs. Lost among the hyperboles about White Nationalism in the 2016 election is the simple fact that Trump won fewer total White voters than did Romney. (And for what it’s worth, he increased Republican support among Blacks and Hispanics.) Romney’s vision of a consumer-capitalist America was apparently far more palatable to SWiPs than Trump’s promises to bring back coal-mining jobs. In 2010, the GOP won 65 percent of the White vote in the Midterms. In 2018, this deflated dramatically to 54 percent, according to Pew Research.
And the GOP loses support in suburban areas as they become more developed and wealthy. After the 2018 midterms, David Balz of the Washington Post examined “competitive” Congressional districts; he subdivided these into five categories: “rural,” “suburban-rural,” “sparse suburban,” “dense suburban,” and “urban-suburban.” One can imagine what these tags refer to, from the agrarian countryside to small towns with strip malls to bedroom communities to the quasi-cities of Nova or the DFW “metroplex.” In 2018, Republicans won 25 of the 30 competitive districts classified as “rural” or “suburban rural” (83 percent!). Among districts that were “sparse,” “dense,” and “urban-suburban,” the GOP captured only 20 of 54 (37 percent) of the seats.
Whexit is happening across the board as elections become more “nationalized.” The key issue is that this will continue to take place even if—miraculously—immigration were halted entirely tomorrow morning.
Some of this has to do with Trump’s policies, such as his tougher stance on detaining illegal immigrants; some of this has to do with Trump’s controversial and increasingly bizarre output on Twitter. But it ultimately comes down to the SWiPL morality Christian Lander brilliantly theorized a decade ago. Trump has not been a break from the past (as I had hoped), but instead has become a caricature of the GOP as the party of stupidity, nuttiness, and racism—all things the SWiPs despise.
The SWiPLs of the first decade of the 2000s were urbanites, residing in Manhattan or gentrified Brooklyn. The SWiPs of today have grown up and moved to the ‘burbs, but they have maintained the moral system of the Williamsburg hipster. If there’s anything worse than wearing a trucker hat non-ironically, it’s voting Republican. It’s not just déclassé; it’s downright evil.
The Dirt Gap
At the end of the George W. Bush era, dissident commentator Steve Sailer proposed that “Affordable Family Formation” was the underlying structure of the Red State/Blue State divide. There is a “dirt gap,” in Sailer’s words, between the “liberal” east and west coasts and “conservative” Middle America; between the densely populated cities on the seaboards, hemmed in by oceans and traditional urban planning, which drive up real-estate values, and the sprawling South and Midwest, where land is cheap. In “flyover country,” a family of four with a combined income of $60,000 can afford to buy a big house with a yard; in New York City, an urban professional or “cat lady” can barely make rent on a one-bedroom apartment. Middle America is thus naturally attracted to the party of “family values,” whereas urbanites resonate with the politics of personal liberation. The lines of causality aren’t exactly made clear by Sailer; that is, whether individuals are transformed into “conservatives” or “liberals” by real-estate prices, or whether people with child-bearing or individualist instincts gravitate to different environments. Regardless, Sailer’s thesis holds up in 2019: the lower the population density, the more likely the GOP is to succeed among White voters.
The problem for Republicans is that the Party is failing with the fastest growing and increasingly wealthy members of the White race. Race itself remains the most salient aspect of American elections: with the Democrats as the multiracial representatives of “2050 America,” and the Republicans as the working- and middle- class White People’s Party in everything but name. But underneath this divide is another “identity” issue that can’t be underestimated.
The Democrats are the Party of the “New Class” of Suburban White Professionals, who are wealthier and most impactful on society, politics, and culture. Some in this New Class are non-White and foreign-born, but in their lifestyles, tastes, and affluence, they are indistinguishable from SWiPs (even, to a degree, from the SWiPLs of old). Contrary to Ann Coulter’s claim that the Democrats will be defined by “needy” immigrants demanding “big government,” they will instead be defined by wealthy Whites and New Class immigrants who administer big government, big business, and big finance. This Managerial Elite benefits from mass immigration (at least for the time being), and at the very least does not see immigrants as threatening the cozy environs of suburban sprawl, luxury apartments, and chain restaurants.
Make fun of the SWiPs all you want. But such people will vote Donald Trump out of office in 2020 and administer Democratic hegemony for some time to come.
- Derbyshire speculates further: “My first guess was that to the degree there is anything racially distinctive about the sensibility on display in Lander’s book, it is Jewish.” ↩︎