Home Virginia Politics Forget “Red” or “Blue” Virginia, How About “Brown” Virginia?

Forget “Red” or “Blue” Virginia, How About “Brown” Virginia?


A few years ago, Richard Rodriguez wrote a book entitled, “Brown: The Last Discovery of America.” In an interview on the PBS NewsHour, Rodriguez explained, “when I speak of the brown in America, of America, I mean the mixing of all of us.” Rodriguez added that this used to be “a black-and-white country,” but that “Hispanics were suddenly announced by the Richard Nixon Administration…as a new minority,” along with Asians, and “We were suddenly… there was suddenly these new colors — not simply white, black, but also red, yellow, brown.”

Last night and this morning, as I looked at the new Census numbers for Virginia, I thought of Richard Rodriguez and his book, “Brown.” Along these lines, NLS has been looking at the numbers, and what he’s found is fascinating. For instance, that “[a]t the current rate, Virginia will be a majority-minority state by the 2030 census. Much quicker than was expected.” Also, that “Over 60% of Virginians under the age of 18 are non-white according to the 2010 census.” And finally, that “When I say majority-minority in total growth I mean growth in all groups besides whites and [H]ispanics. That’s AfrAmer, Asians and Multirace.”

In other words, Virginia is turning “Brown” before our eyes, and at an extremely rapid pace. That’s fascinating in and of itself, as is watching the desperate, futile reaction by (mostly) Republicans to try and hold back the tidal wave (e.g., see Stewart, Corey and his infamous, Orwellian “Rule of Law” resolution in Prince William County). Of course, this is a progressive political blog, so of course we care about the political implications of Virginia’s changing demographics. I’ve got a few thoughts on that after the “flip.”

The question is, as Virginia moves from “white” and “black” to Richard Rodriguez’s “brown,” what does that indicate for whether Virginia goes “red,” “purple,” or “blue” politically? Obviously, if current voting patterns hold, it’s not good news for Republicans, as “brown” people tend to vote Democratic, usually by large if not enormous majorities. Thus, according to Pew, “Hispanics voted for Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden over Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin by a margin of more than two-to-one in the 2008 presidential election, 67% versus 31%.” Also in 2008, 96% of African Americans voted Democratic. Finally, Asian Americans went 62%-35% Democratic in 2008. In fact, whites were the only major racial or ethnic group to vote Republican in 2008, by a 55%-43% margin, but that wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the enormous edge Obama racked up over McCain among “brown” America.

But wait, you ask, what about 2009 and 2010, when Republicans won big, why did that happen if “brown” is going “blue?” Simple: because political participation among non-whites is lagging the (rapid) growth in their population, in states ranging from California to Texas to Virginia. Add to that the “enthusiasm gap” of 2009-2010, as well as a natural snapback from huge Democratic gains of 2005-2008, and that largely explains what happened in 2009 and 2010. In short, the key to Republican victories here in Virginia in 2009 and 2010 was that it was a completely different electorate than in 2008 – whiter, older (because young people – many if not most of whom are “brown” – also are trending strongly Democratic), less urban, and therefore more conservative and more Republican. If 2009 and 2010 had had the same electorate as 2008, the results would have been wildly different.

Eventually, of course, voter participation rates between “white” and “brown” are likely to converge, not just in “presidential” election years but also in “midterm” or even “off-off years” (e.g., 2011 and 2013 in Virginia). At that point, Virginia will be highly unlikely to be a “red” state (except, of course, in the unlikely event that Republicans drastically change their approach to issues of concern to African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians) and probably not even “purple,” but more likely a “blue” or “purplish-blue” Virginia that is simultaneously “brown.” I, for one, believe that day can’t come soon enough.

  • “majority minority.” No wonder why Corey Stewart is so desperate to push out “brown” people; he knows there’s no way in hell he can win with the 2008 Obama electorate.

  • Tom

    If the Dem. party had had any semblance of a Latino Outreach program last year, I am convinced that we could have secured at least another thousand votes for Gerry last year, which is why I’ve taken on the Latino Outreach task myself as a committee member is Prince William County. I’ve always wondered why Donald McEachin as DPVA vice chair for outreach never created a Latino Outreach program, he has seemed to always been focused almost exclusively on the African American outreach but I’ve never seen or heard him communicate anything publicly to the Latino community.

    That might change now that there is a Latino caucus in the DPVA, but we can’t wait for the DPVA initiatives to get moving and slowly filter down to the local level if we have any hope of beating Corey Stewart in his PWC BOCS chair re-election effort this year. Maybe that’s as it should be — start this at the lowest levels of the party and just let the DPVA follow our lead.

    One thing I have found so far through my initial contacts with Latinos is that none I have contacted have any interest at all in joining a committee, or even working with a committee. They only want to work directly for the Dem. candidates’ campaign, which again is o.k. since the vast majority of hard working volunteers I’ve worked with over the years have not been committee members. This makes sense considering that the average size of a local (magisterial) district committee is fewer than 20 members, whereas a campaign covering the same area usually needs at least 5 times that many volunteers, so any candidate who depends on the local committees members to do his/her volunteer work will never win. There is at least one committee in particular — and there may have been others — I’m aware of that was so short of volunteers (because they were almost entirely committee members)that they could not even cover all the precincts in their district last November. At least the candidates this year have learned from that mistake and I’m sure will not be so dependent upon committee members in recruiting volunteers.


  • Mike1987

    in the fear and loathing of the republicans toward people of color, gays, and apparently women now, is who will be supporting these fearmongers in their old age at nursing homes?  Who will be changing their diapers? Who will be paying taxes for their Medicare, Medicaid, and medications to keep them alive? Where will the social security money come from? Brown, Black, Asian, Gay, and Women.

    I wonder if those who stood on the sidelines in 2010 have seen enough? Heard enough? and had enough?

  • DCCyclone

    As an Indian-American, I’m quite well-versed in the animosity toward non-whites that is embraced in the Republican Party, but that census data will turn this state on its head thankfully sooner rather than later.

    But even sooner isn’t soon enough for me.  It’s going to be a potentially long decade if we don’t hold the state Senate this November, and we have to scramble to try to take the Governorship and hopefully A.G. in 2013.

    I do think 10 years from now Virginia will be well on its way to true blue.  But I turn 43 later this month, I’ll be going on 53 when the next round of census data comes around.  So it feels like a “brace yourself” decade to me.

    At least I live in Fairfax County which is a sanctuary for relative multiracial integration.  And my kids will have a blue Virginia by the time they’re voting age in 2024 and 2026.