As we roll towards the anniversary of the Prohibition and we suffer from "Trump Derangement Syndrome" we'll raise a glass to America's changing demographics.
If you got together with friends and family for Thanksgiving, or plan to do so at Christmas, take an extra moment to savor that eggnog, or stout, or whatever the adult beverage of your choice is. Because exactly 100 years ago, folks really did have to savor their alcoholic beverages.
Once 1919 turned into 1920, the once-preposterous idea of Prohibition was actually going to become reality.
Not that this was bad news for everyone. A Chicago lad named Charles O’Banion—middle name Dean, or “Deanie” as he would come to be known—was already hatching schemes with fellow Irish American criminals like George “Bugs” Moran to figure out ways to use the ban on alcohol to make lots of money.
It was because of people like O’Banion and Moran that prohibition was enacted in the first place. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution was about banning alcohol, yes, but it was about so much more.
Support for prohibition rest mostly outside of America’s big cities, which were seen as pits of vice, sin, crime and, most importantly, ungrateful and un-American Jews and Catholics. In other words, folks like Deanie and Bugs.
It certainly didn’t help that the census results announced 100 years ago were the first to find that a majority of Americans were living in urban areas. This was a massive demographic shift, a radical departure from America’s agrarian past, which only exacerbated cultural tensions revolving around religion and education, immigration and assimilation.
It is fashionable, in 2019, to say we are living in two Americas—the big, blue cities and the vast rural, red plains. This has resulted in political rage that many say is unprecedented.
A recent issue of The Atlantic Monthly was dedicated to the theme of “How to Stop a Civil War.” Contributor Yoni Applebaum wrote “the biggest driver” of America’s much-discussed partisan rancor “might be demographic change.”
Applebaum continued, “The United States is undergoing a transition perhaps no rich and stable democracy has ever experienced: Its historically dominant group is on its way to becoming a political minority, and its minority groups are asserting their co-equal rights and interests.”
Except that that’s pretty much what happened 100 years ago when the Ellis Island immigrants rose to power in America’s big cities.
Failing to recognize this is not just historically ignorant. It’s very possible this historical ignorance might contribute to a Donald Trump victory in 2020.
Republicans love to mock Democrats for their Trump Derangement Syndrome—a fair criticism. (Which ignores the fact that this orange-headed knucklehead does a lot of things worth getting deranged about.)
But the funny thing is, anti-Trumpers also take great comfort in—wait for it—America’s changing demographics! The way things are going, many progressive folks believe, Trump voters will soon be extinct.
“The Republican Party is ... the party of a white majority that greatly fears becoming a white minority,” the great writer Ta-Nehisi Coates said in this week’s New York magazine, repeating a mantra that comforts many Democrats.
This is not only hogwash but also helpful hogwash to Trump. Democrats are doing the Republicans’ dirty work of spreading fears about America’s “unprecedented” changing demographics. When, really, things are much more complicated.
Yes, at some point in the next few decades, 50.1 percent of Americans will identify in some way as “non-white.” But since folks with (say) an Irish-Italian grandmother and Irish-Puerto Rican grandfather can identify as both white and non-white, will this really translate into “unprecedented” political change?
And does it merit the same hysteria that Deanie and his dangerous big-city gangsters did 100 years ago?
It didn’t then and it doesn’t know. By overstating America’s looming demographic changes, liberals are unwittingly aiding another gangster seeking reelection in 2020.