White majority Protestant Christians on the way to becoming a minority
For decades now, one of the favourite talking points of America’s political analysts and pundits has been about the political and electoral transformation in the United States favouring the Democrats from an unstoppable diversification of the electorate due to immigration. Due to this trend, it is argued, the white majority Protestant Christian demography in the US will soon enter minority status.
A lot of evidence does support this view — after all, a major part of the reason why Democrats now own California is because of California’s transformation from the State of origin of Ronald Reagan to a majority Hispanic/Latino State. Democrats are even pointing to polls in Texas and Arizona to show how they can continue to make red states purple, then blue, thanks to demographic transformation.
But as this article is about to show you, that is only part of the picture. As a matter of fact, time and time again Democrats have naively assumed that the rising sleeping giant of minority voters will benefit them and only them. Prior to 2016, liberal media assumed a “beautiful brown wave” would come and that Latino voters would be loyal to Hillary Clinton. Indeed, Democrats have won the Latino vote consistently with Clinton winning 66 percent of the Latino vote in 2016 and Obama earning 71 percent of the Latino electorate in 2012. Elsewhere, black and Asian voters have consistently voted Democrat, which made many pundits believe before 2016 that America was about to enter a one-party Democratic hegemony in the 21st century.
But the rise of the Latino population is not the only demographic transformation in America. Turns out, the Republicans will also get shots in their arm and electoral boosts from groups you might have never heard of: Hispanic Protestants (evangelicals in particular), Haredi Jews, the Amish and their other ultraconservative Anabaptist brethren. Their demographic futures may well take away the guaranteed Democratic hegemony and make things continuously competitive for the GOP. The end of Christian white America may be nigh, but red conservative America may actually never go away and even make a demographic comeback.
In August 2020, the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released a report which shocked the Twitterati. Titled: “Are Hispanic Americans warming up to Trump?”, it showed a President who is actually gaining in favourability in the Hispanic electorate. Even the PRRI said this was surprising, given the pandemic, Black Lives Matter and endless “Trump racist” scandals that the media has been broadcasting 24/7/365.
In the report, Trump’s favourability increased from 28 percent of all Hispanic Americans in 2019 (roughly consistent with the percentage of votes he received from Latino voters in 2016) to 36 percent in August 2020. What is most surprising, however, is that Trump actually has a near-majority favourability among one often-neglected but increasingly influential group: Hispanic Protestants. In the survey, his approval among Hispanic Protestants is 50 percent.
Other polls and previous results have consistently proved the correlation and plausibility of these results. In 2016, Trump received just 28 percent of all Hispanic votes, but he received 41 percent of the Latino evangelical Protestant vote. A recent poll in Texas came up with a similar result: Texas Hispanics prefer Biden over Trump, but when you break it down significant discrepancies emerge: Hispanic Catholics favour Biden 60.6 percent to 32.7 percent, but that gets completely reversed when Hispanic Protestants are surveyed: they favour Trump over Biden 51 percent to 24 percent. Hispanic Catholics have consistently helped Democrats get a majority of the Latino vote, with Catholic Latinos voting 75 percent to 21 percent for Obama in 2012 and 67 percent to 26 percent for Clinton, in stark contrast to evangelical Latinos’ preference for the Republican candidate.
So why does this matter, I hear you ask. Aren’t Hispanic Americans overwhelmingly Catholic? And a 41 percent or 51 percent favourability for Trump among evangelical Hispanics is surely nothing compared to the 82 percent of votes he would get from white evangelicals? Well, here’s where things get really interesting, so buckle up.
It turns out that Hispanic Catholics are no longer a majority of Latino Americans. According to Pew Research, 67 percent of Latino adults identified as Catholic as recently as 2010, but since then breathtaking demographic transformation has taken place, with the figure falling to 55 percent by 2014, and to only 47 percent by 2019. Meanwhile, Protestant Hispanics rose from 19 percent in the 2014 survey to 24 percent in 2019. This means evangelical Hispanics are gaining and converting at the direct expense of Catholics. This is a direct correlation with the trends across Latin America, with Pentecostalism gaining as the Catholic Church bleeds members, converting previously overwhelmingly Catholic countries into future Pentecostal and evangelical majority nations.
So what does a quarter of all US Hispanics being Protestant translate into? It translates into 4-5 percent of all Americans. It is also a growing and young demographic, unlike the ageing and shrinking white evangelicals. One in three Hispanic Protestants are under the age of 30 and the median age of Hispanic evangelicals is 37. White evangelicals have a median age of 55. And yet they remain overlooked in electoral politics; in the 2016 Pew analysis of how the faithful voted, Pew listed Jews, black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics but did not even include Hispanic Protestants. But guess what? Hispanic evangelicals are double the population of American Jews.
They also live in states that matter. Hispanic evangelicals are 6 percent of Florida’s population, 8 percent of the Texas population and 5 percent of Arizona’s population. The electoral importance of these states is pretty clear. Democrats have for years wanted to flip Texas and Arizona, with some polls claiming Joe Biden currently leading and one of their main hopes lying with the growing Hispanic population in both States.
But given the fact that Hispanics are converting to evangelical Protestantism and also assimilating into mainstream American society, those Democratic hopes are not guaranteed. These Latino evangelicals are socially conservative on issues such as abortion and homosexuality, but liberal on immigration, making them a swing vote which is currently more in favour of Trump than Biden, especially among Hispanic/Latino men. As Hispanic evangelicals expand demographically, the Hispanic/Latino solid blue voting bloc may even become purple, directly affecting elections well after Trump and Biden.
Ultra-orthodox Jews may not be the first thing to come to one’s mind when considering a future major Republican voting bloc. After all, seven out of 10 Jews in the US vote Democrat. Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews also only currently consist of about 10 percent of the total Jewish population in the United States. But it is the future that counts and, in many ways, the future is already here.
Haredi Jews have become the kingmakers in Israeli politics. Frustrating secular Israelis for decades, Haredi voting blocs in Israel yield extraordinary electoral and political power by voting strictly on the rabbi’s orders, repeatedly forcing Netanyahu and Israeli politics to swing to the right. That is why Israeli secular Jews have a deep frustration and resentment towards the Haredim. As the fastest growing demographic in Israel now and for the foreseeable future, the rise of Haredi politics in Israel is unstoppable. And in some parts of the United States, that might one day become a reality.
In 2013, Pew estimated that 10 percent of American Jews were Orthodox, with 3 percent being modern Orthodox and 7 percent being ultra-Orthodox (Haredi). But when you look at the youth population, the trends become mind-blowing. Due to the fact that Haredi Jews have fertility rates far higher than the average Jewish American (Pew estimated the Orthodox fertility rate to be 4.1 which included modern Orthodox Jews. Haredi Jews are likely to have even higher fertility at around 7.1 based on Israeli statistics. In 2013, 60 percent of all Jewish children in New York City were already Orthodox.
At this rate, these Orthodox Jews will go from the current one million to 3.5 million by the second half of this century. They will become the majority of Jews in America, which is projected to have a total population of 7.2 million in 2093, growing only because of Haredi Orthodox growth as other Jewish populations dwindle.
So what’s in it for the Republicans? Well, Haredi Jews vote distinctively differently from the generally liberal American Jewish population. And like in Israel, they do vote, and they vote in large blocs. In 2013, 57 percent of Orthodox Jews preferred the Republican Party.
But that was before the Democratic Party elected Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib (both accused of anti-Semitism) and well before Donald Trump came to the presidency and moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Now, Haredi Jews prefer Donald Trump overwhelmingly. In 2020, 68 percent of Haredi Jews have a favourable view of Donald Trump. A total of 66 percent of Haredi will vote for him, completely contrasting themselves with the 70 percent of all Jews who vote Democrat.
This overwhelming conservatism among Haredi Jews is already reflected in local politics. Donald Trump’s home city of New York abhor him; he lost overwhelmingly there. But in parts of Brooklyn where huge populations of Haredi Jews live, he won overwhelmingly, making these areas red in an ocean of blue — 69 percent of Borough Park, Brooklyn (an overwhelmingly Haredi area) voted Republican in a borough that only voted 18 percent for Trump.
Moreover, Simcha Felder, the New York State Senator for the Borough Park area, is an Orthodox Jewish Democrat who regularly caucuses with Republicans. He is also a pro-lifer staunchly opposed to abortion, making him perhaps one of the only elected New York City Democrats who is pro-life in an age when the title “pro-life Democrat” sounds like the ultimate oxymoron.
But that doesn’t matter, you might say, because the Haredis live in NYC which will always vote Democrat, right? Well, the Haredim are spreading out of Brooklyn. They are aggressively expanding in settlements across New Jersey and upstate New York and even in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. Kiryas Joel, Lakewood and New Square are some of the youngest settlements in America in terms of the age of the local population, with Kiryas Joel having a median age of just 13.8.
In 2018, Kiryas Joel voted as a bloc for Republican Tom Basile in the New York State Senate Race, giving him 4,157 votes. In 2016, the “Trumpiest town” in all of New Jersey was the heavily Orthodox Jewish town of Lakewood, which voted 74.4 percent to 24.4 percent for Trump, giving him nearly 18,000 votes.
As a voting bloc, these towns will become pivotal in Congressional and local elections heavily favouring Republicans in deeply blue states. And when the populations of these towns are growing annually at 5 percent a year or more , a rapid shift in electoral demographics is going to take place very soon.
Everyone has heard of the Amish. These pacifist Luddites who often reject electricity may be very much apart from the outside world of what they call “the English”, but they are on their way to massive demographic expansion. The Amish have maintained exponential population growth for over a century now, doubling every 19.63 years.
As a sect that rejects all forms of birth control, the Amish have near-natural fertility of 6-7 children, with some ultraconservatives having an average of nine children. Currently, there are around 350,000 Amish living in North America. At this rate, by the end of this century, there will be anything from 6 to 10 million Amish people in the United States and by mid-century they will already have reached over the million mark.
The Amish are naturally sympathetic to Republican conservatism as they are deeply religious and family oriented. Of course, one could raise the point that 350,000 Amish are a tiny minority in America and that the increased strength to millions will only arrive much later this century, meaning any contributions they will make to the Republican voting bank will remain minuscule for years to come.
Another huge caveat is that the Amish actually don’t vote that much due to their “separate from the outside world” doctrine. But Republicans are already looking to get the Amish vote out, from the group Bikers for Trump giving Amish Trump supporters a lift, to pro-Trump rallies in Pennsylvania, to an Amish political action committee registering and recruiting voters for Trump.
But here’s the interesting part: Amish people live in a few of the most important swing States of the United States, with 63 percent of all Amish people living in the three States of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. Pennsylvania and Ohio are key battleground States and often must-wins for any US presidential candidate. And the electoral margins are often razor thin (Trump only won Pennsylvania by 44,292 votes). The world’s largest Amish settlements in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Holmes County, Ohio, may well hold the key to the White House if future elections boil down to one of these two States.
A few thousand Amish votes may be the only thing that makes the difference one day. It is already working out its power. In 2016, 1,019 Amish voters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, voted out of an eligible 15,055. In the 1990s, less than 450 Amish even bothered to register. Moreover, Amish people are migrating to other key swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin in large numbers, making them a future potential voting bloc in these States too.
As it stands, the Republicans are bound to benefit greatly from the above demographic transformations. This extends well beyond Trump, regardless of whether he steps down in 2021 or 2025 and will continue for decades to come. They will not guarantee a electoral majority for the GOP, but will definitely guarantee that the GOP will not be a disappearing party of just “old white people”. On the contrary, the Republicans might have a bright electoral future ahead of them in some regions. The GOP is here to stay.
William Huang is a product of the one-child policy as he is the only son in the family. Born and raised in China, it is only when he went overseas to study that he had an epiphany, realizing just how much… More by William Huang
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