Across the country, white voters placed Donald Trump in office by a margin of 21 points over Clinton. Their backing helped the GOP gain control of a vast swath of local offices nationwide. But in California, racial politics are pushing our general politics the other direction, way to the left.
Some of this reflects California’s fast track toward a “minority-majority” state. Along with a few other states — Hawaii, Texas and New Mexico — California is there now, with minorities accounting for 62 percent of the population, compared to 43 percent in 1990. The shift in the electorate has been slower but still powerful. In 1994, registered Democrats held a 12 percentage-point margin over Republicans. By 2016, the margin had widened to 19 points.
The racial shift does much to explain why Trump lost some largely affluent suburban areas like Orange County, where 53 percent the population is Latino or Asian, up from 45 percent in 2000. Perhaps most emblematic of potential GOP problems was Trump’s — and the GOP’s — loss in Irvine, a prosperous Orange County municipality that is roughly 40 percent Asian.
California’s unique racial politics
Ideology plays a critical role in California’s emerging politics of race. Hispanic and Asian voters outside California — for example, in Texas — have tended to vote less heavily for Democrats. In 2014, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott won 44 percent of Texas Latinos. Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott garnered 38 percent of the Latino vote in his successful re-election campaign. In contrast, that same year, Neel Kashkari, Jerry Brown’s Republican opponent, won only 27 percent of the Latino vote in California. Only 17 percent of California Asians voted for Trump, nearly 40 percent lower than the national rate (27 percent).
These differences, ironically, have become more evident as California has become relatively less attractive to immigrants. Since the 1980s and 1990s, as California’s economy has become increasingly deindustrialized, the immigration “flood” has slowed, particularly among Hispanics. By the 2010s, other cities — notably Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston — were emerging as bigger magnets for newcomers.
Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, was published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.
Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), Senior Fellow for Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California). He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.