Biden’s Pursuit of Racial Balkanization Will Further Divide the Country

COMMENTARY Progressivism

Biden’s Pursuit of Racial Balkanization Will Further Divide the Country

Feb 1, 2023 4 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Mike Gonzalez

Angeles T. Arredondo E Pluribus Unum Senior Fellow

Mike is the Angeles T. Arredondo E Pluribus Unum Senior Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
U.S. President Joe Biden gives a speech on January 31, 2023 in New York City. Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Biden is now reviving former President Barack Obama's idea of adding yet one more racial category to our Balkanized nation.

It is the relentless drive for a racial “majority minority” nation that has long been the Holy Grail of the Left, which relies on demographics to win them elections

These categories may be synthetic at first but then take a life of their own.

President Joe Biden came into office promising to be a unifier, but make no mistake, he’s rapidly becoming the divider-in-chief. He is now reviving former President Barack Obama's idea of adding yet one more racial category to our Balkanized nation and effectively turning Hispanics into a race, not an ethnicity.

In a document from the Office of Management and Budget, published on Jan. 27 in the Federal Register, a working group of the U.S. Census Bureau proposes to create a category for people who can trace their origin to Middle East or North African (to be called MENA). Secondly, it proposes to collapse the current two questions on ethnicity and race into one.

Currently, and since 1980, the constitutionally mandated decennial census asks two questions. The first is whether you’re Hispanic or non-Hispanic. The second one asks which race you are and gives you the choices of white, black, Native American, Asian American, or Pacific Islanders.

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This arrangement, known as the “ethno-racial pentagon” among some demographers, has been in place since the last revision of the census in 1997. As now proposed, however, there will be one combined question. One of the proposals looks like this:

image001.png

The reason two questions have been used is because “Hispanics” (used inside scare quotes on purpose, as it is a bureaucratic term that leftist activists invented in the 1970s) can be of any race. With this Biden proposal, however, that effectively ends—at least for government purposes.

Biden’s proposal to add an additional race is also significant because the government has, for more than a century now, considered Americans of Middle Eastern descent as white. While looks may differ among people, many in the United States of Arab descent, including New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, or former Rep. Donna Shalala, would not strike anyone as members of minorities. Nor, given their illustrious background (and that of countless others), would they be recognized as marginalized victims. For example, one of the wealthiest members of Congress is Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).

And yet, a drive for a Balkanization is clearly afoot. As NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang, long a breathless supporter of these changes, noted in an article on Thursday,

Research by the U.S. Census Bureau suggests both the addition of a "Middle Eastern or North African" box and a combined question about race and ethnicity could decrease the number of people who identify as white for the national head count.

Leftist administrations always say that these changes allow people to “find themselves.” But many people identify as Catholic or Presbyterian, and yet no question is asked on religion. Nor on family structure, for that matter.

It is the relentless drive for a racial “majority minority” nation that has long been the Holy Grail of the Left, which relies on demographics to win them elections as far as the eye can see. In their 2002 bestseller The Emerging Democratic Majority , (the peak for this type of thinking) John Judis and Rui Teixeira wrote that swelling numbers of “professionals, working, single, and highly educated women, and minorities” would vote Democrat in the new century. They wrote:

They are products of a new postindustrial capitalism, rooted in diversity and social equality and emphasizing the production of ideas and services rather than goods. And while some of these voters are drawn to the Democratic Party by its New Deal past, many others resonate strongly to the new causes that the Democrats adopted during the '60s. These new causes help ensure that these groups of voters will continue to support Democrats rather than Republicans, paving the way for a new majority.

To give them their due, Judis and Teixeira were pretty prescient, except when it comes to the so-called “minorities.” The number of Americans the census corrals as Hispanics voted 40-60 for the GOP in 2022, a high-water mark, and reelected Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) by large numbers. Both Teixeira and Judis now, to their credit, admit they got that part wrong.

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But that is no reason to be sanguine. These categories may be synthetic at first but then take a life of their own. The Indo-European root of the word “census” means “to evoke in speech, almost to call a thing into existence by naming it,” according to the French historian Claude Nicolet. The census, in this manner, provides the demos to democracy. That is the Left’s big hope.

This is not the first time the Left has tried to make these changes. Obama, sure that Hillary Clinton would win in November 2016, made this exact proposal that year. Then history had a say, and the guy who was actually elected never moved on these changes. In fact, I and others played a hand in defeating them, as I explained in my 2020 book, The Plot to Change America.

Conservatives wrote many comments against this racial Balkanization at the OMB site for comments back then, as they must again. The link is here. And the next president can stop this from becoming reality in the 2030 census.

This piece originally appeared in the Washington Examiner

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