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DANIELS: Republicans and the New 'White Flight'

Lee A. Daniels | 10/23/2013, 3 p.m.
Lee A. Daniels

That’s why, as the nation’s cities have become more and more diverse, with more and more Americans of different backgrounds gathering in the same living space, the living space of the conservative and extremely conservative Whites who are the base of the Republican Party and its Tea Party faction is just the opposite.

As Ryan Lizza, the New Yorker’s political correspondent, noted in a recent article, “Where the G.O.P.’s Suicide Caucus Lives,” the districts of many Republican members of Congress “actually became less diverse (his emphasis) in 2012.” These districts, predominantly exurban and rural, where whites constitutes at least 80 percent of the residents, “represent an America where the population is getting whiter … and where the Republican Party is becoming more dominant and more popular.”

In other words, supporters of the GOP, and especially of the Tea Party are repeating in a slightly different way the “White flight” dynamic of the mid-20th century. Then, as more and more Southern Blacks migrated to the cities, more and more Whites fled their urban neighborhoods for lily-White suburban enclaves.

Today, the country’s demographic changes and Republicans’ deliberate Congressional-district gerrymandering have combined to effectively produce conservative Whites-only political “fortresses” that are, as the shutdown crisis showed, bastions of a voting bloc which values its “ideological purity” above the country’s political traditions and economic viability.

True, those kinds of voters have always existed in America. But it’s not a comforting thought to understand the last time such a group exercised significant political power was when the regime of Jim Crow ruled the South.

Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is "Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America."