Why Bill O’Reilly is Wrong about Minorities ‘Wanting Things” & the Election

Bill O’Reilly set the frame for an “angry white male” understanding of the bath Mitt Romney took at the polls Tuesday night, even before it was entirely clear to Fox Cable News that their guy was going down.

O’Reilly, for all the world like a liberal arts assistant professor, explained it in terms of class, race and gender. He said that the “white establishment” is no longer the majority, and that African-Americans, Latinos and Asians are now 50% of the electorate and they, along with white women, “want things” from “the government.”

Here is O’Reilly’s rant.

O’Reilly’s premises, that “whites” are “50%” of the population and don’t want “things” from “the government,” are false. Euro-Americans considering themselves “white” are 72% of the national population.

Moreover, it is well-known that the Republican “red states” receive the most Federal aid. These states are less racially diverse than the highly urbanized “blue” states, and so are full of white people.

Further, the business elite of the US, the ‘top 1%’, is disproportionately “white.” The Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans include just one African-American. This white elite receives massive tax breaks and other government perquisites largely denied to working people of color. “United for a Fair Economy” points out:

“Tax policy is tilted in favor of the wealthy members of the Forbes 400 list.

Tax rates on capital gains have been slashed, which especially benefits members of the Forbes list. The richest 0.1% receive half of all net increases in capital gains.
Drastic cuts to the federal estate tax passed in the Bush tax cuts and the 2010 Obama tax deal allow the Forbes 400 to pass on more of their massive fortunes to their heirs, contributing to the growth of inequality and entrenching a class of super-wealthy heirs.

Class comes into O’Reilly’s analysis when he says that “the white establishment is now the minority.”

What is the “white establishment?” Perhaps O’Reilly is referring to the WASP elite, or the self-described White Anglo-Saxon Protestants who dominated business and government for the first 170 years of the Republic. That elite has been losing its virtual monopoly on power for some time. (WASP, by the way, as historians originally used it, did not refer to just any white Protestant of English heritage, but rather to a specific set of extended Northeast families; poor English-heritage Baptists in the South were not WASPs and neither were German-Americans. On the other hand, puzzlingly, Scottish-Americans were part of the elite, even though Scots were not thought of as Anglo-Saxons).

Of course, O’Reilly has expressed himself poorly. The “white establishment” he dreams of was never a “majority.” It was a small elite. So it cannot now be said to be “no longer the majority.” Perhaps by “majority” O’Reilly meant “hegemonic” or “dominant.”

It is ironic that O’Reilly, whose father’s family was from County Cavan, Ireland and whose mother’s family was from Northern Ireland, should pose as a champion of a WASP establishment in decline. When the Irish, Poles, Italians, Jews and Lebanese first came to the US from the 19th century through 1924, they were not treated socially as “white” by the Protestants even though they enjoyed the legal status of whiteness for the most part. Roman Catholics of Irish descent faced significant discrimination in the US in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries In short, who is considered fully “white” has drastically changed over time in the United States. In reality, there is no white “race” (or any biological races at all in the 19th century sense of race– we’re all 99.9% the same genetically). America’s arbitrary racial categories are fluid and changing social constructs.

With the election of John F. Kennedy and subsequent developments, some Catholic Euro-Americans were allowed into the white elite (they now account for six of the Supreme Court Justices and both vice presidential candidates this year). And maybe it is this joint Protestant-Catholic Euro-American elite of more recent vintage whose demise O’Reilly regrets.

Except that if we look at the composition of the 2010 Congress, for instance, we find that it was 57% Protestant and 29% Catholic and 7% Jewish. The general population is 51% Protestant and 24% Catholic, so that these two branches of Christianity are actually over-represented in the political class. And, Episcopalians and Presbyterians, the members of the old WASP denominations, are over-represented among the Protestants. Only 43 members of that Congress were African-American, i.e. less than 10% and less than their proportion in the general population. 28 members were Latinos. Women held 90 seats, or about 17% and were obviously grossly under-represented in favor of men.

If Congress is an indication of the political class’s make-up, then the white establishment seems well ensconced. Likewise in the Supreme Court and in state legislatures and other state high offices.

So what is really going on is that a small male, Euro-American elite along with white constituents in the Red States have been robbing the rest of us blind and dominating our politics for decades.

The white vote was 72%, of which Obama won four tenths, or 29 percent of the total vote. That 40% of the white vote, though, was very disproportionately white women. Then of the 21 percent of voters who are non-white, Obama picked up all the African-Americans and 2/3s of Latinos and Asians. (Some 7% of the voters appear to have refused to identify in exit polls as white or non-white and I suspect Obama got most of them, too). So that gave him the lead over Romney.

It is true that Obama could not have won with only 40% of the white vote, and only 33% of the white male vote, in 1996. But what has changed is not that minorities are now half the electorate or that minorities plan to loot the government. What has changed is that the rest of the country is asserting itself against a small, patriarchal and oligarchic class that had unfairly dominated politics and business and received the lion’s share of government largesse.

What has happened is that America is democratizing, and people want a fairer system than dominance by male WASPs.

Posted in US politics | 32 Responses | Print |

32 Responses

  1. Wonderful piece. Excellent point about the red states receiving far more federal aid than their blue counterparts. This election never was about welfare and entitlements, as the right so desperately wanted it to be. Nor, as Boehner said today, are social safety nets the source of our deficit.

  2. Nice, as usual. We notice that the ‘red’ states (we fought the ‘Reds'(!) for how many years?) are also the former ‘South,’ the Louisiana Purchase, and – for the most part – the ‘cowboys and Indians’ former territories, perhaps the places where those who resisted urbanisation went into exile. There’s an interesting graphic that shows Barry’s appeal among voters, an appeal that perhaps more closely represents the actual demographics (ethnic make-up) of the U.S., provided for your consideration. It’s a couple of pie charts under the heading of “Dear Republicans: This is why you lost. Again.”
    link to dailykos.com

  3. Here is a link to a US Census Brief on our changing ethnic and racial diversity: link to census.gov

    Note that Table 1 shows that of the 27.3 million total population increase between 2000 and 2010, only 2.3 million was from the non-Hispanic/Latino white group.

    Another significant population which is growing is the Asian-American. Here is a link to a recent report on their voting preferences: link to naasurvey.com

  4. The ultimate significance of this election is that Obama beat the Lobby. The Lobby is now wounded, it’s no longer “omnipotent.”

  5. I think Reilly meant “white majority” when he said “white establishment” but then he was so full of bitterness that we can excuse him his confusion!

  6. O’Reilly conveniently omits stating how, starting with custom-tailored legislation and proceeding to Halliburton and the many other war profiteers, the rich, white man ensured their “receiving things” from the government.

  7. With nothing better to do for the moment….this post takes 800+ efficiently-written words to analyze and explain what happened, while (aside from the rant) O’Reilly’s explanation boils down to maybe 30.

    If someone is not going invest the mental bandwidth to understand a truer reality, they will just check-out, even as democracy is premised on showing-up.

    O’Reilly is a demagogue, and needs to be responded to as such.

  8. Frantz Fannon would not consider it surprising that Irish and otherwise poor whites would identify with WASP privilege, as they seek to be “More WASP than WASPS.”

  9. That’s telling ’em. They (non-poor so-called conservatives) insist on thinking that what they get from the government is not a “handout” but what the poor get, if they get anything, is a “handout”.

    In fact, as generally used, “conservative” means conserving the privileges and advantages that folks have acquired over the years — whether fairly or unfairly, whether deserved or not, whether “good for the country” or not. It means “I’ve got mine — often from the government or with its help — and it’s up to you to get yours.”

  10. Excellent analysis. Let the “white” male establishment compete with all the other demographics in the free market of ideas.

  11. Somehow I think the oligarchy will be OK. It’s not really white or protestant or whatever – those are just the people in it now. It could be made up of any ethnic or religious groups and it would still be the same i.e. capitalist.

    • You’re right, but how would the Tea Party demographic feel about capitalism the instant that they saw it no longer favoring their race over all others? America’s advantage over other capitalisms is that racial wedge that makes poor whites side with their masters.

  12. I am reminded of Simone de Beauvoir and her characterization of women as the Other (think of laxative ads stating “women are special”…because men are “normal”, I guess).

    I think for Bill-O and his ilk, whites and particularly white men are “normal” and the rest of us are the Other.

    Furthermore I’m thoroughly sick of those guys assuming I’m ignorant of casting my vote in a thoughtful way because I don’t agree with them. I seem to remember a study that correlated high IQs with a tendency to be liberal. I’m good with that.


    The following is to remind your readers of an honest (and entertaining)statement made during the 2012 Republican National Convention. At the Convention, “Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, commenting on the rising proportion of non-white voters, had this to say: ‘The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.’ Sen. Graham’s concern for Republicans is valid as Exit polls from 2008 showed that 90 percent of GOP voters were white, a homogeneity that has been consistent for more than 30 years, even as the percentage of the electorate that is white has fallen.” link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

    Part of the Fox News mandate has been to focus legitimate anger at the wrong targets.

  14. Left out of my first paragraph above, was the fact that the mass of the free population was also Protestant, and when the Catholics and Jews came over, they tended to a degree to adopt Protestant styles of worship and attitudes.

    That’s in dissolution, and a multicultural, secularized society is going to have many problems.

    • But Grumpy, 120 years ago the Protestant newspapers and clergymen and politicians were all screaming that the Catholics and Jews weren’t assimilating at all, and the Chinese were even worse. Prohibition was really a tool to demonize Jews and Catholics – alcohol was proof those people weren’t assimilating!

      I would argue that the urban immigrants and blacks of that era carried out a veritable Cultural Revolution, one we can’t see today because it was completely normalized by mass media (cities), movies (Jews), and the New Deal coalition. In other words, the new guys won and rewrote what it means to be American.

  15. ” even though Scots were not thought of as Anglo-Saxons).”

    Of course not and don’t call me one, cuz I’m Celtic and my name starts with a Mc. Wonderful piece Juan……..

  16. Professor, as you know, O’Reilly could not care less about what you (or the rest of us) think about him. He’s got a nice payday, and lots of nice places to live and hang out, and eats like a Saudi prince and has “people” to take care of his “stuff.” Not as big as Limbaugh, that pig of pigs, but right up there.

    He’s a nice demon demonstrator, but the problem is not individual personalities, it’s the disease of Stupid and Greedy, and the MORE-mon cult-think, that’s running us ever deeper into the ditch.

  17. So Bill o. where is your DD214?

    I don’t like the guy, he was one of the lead stooges concerning the 9-11 hoax!

  18. I was watching that jackass last night (something I NEVER do)and he was blaming Romney’s loss on not picking Marco Rubio for his VP candidate.

    I am not Latino but I am highly offended by his insinuation that Latinos do not care about the issues and would simply vote for the Latino guy.

    What an ass OReilly is. And he clearly clearly doesn’t “get it” at all.

    Newsflash OReilly. Latino’s go through the same selection process as every other non Latino and are perfectly capable of weighing the issues before making their choice.

  19. It’s curious to me how quick Americans are to label “welfare recipients” negatively and call what they get “handouts.”

    Both Tony F and Pabelmont above point at something very odd: why is it that all the incentives given to healthy industries such as oil and coal are not considered “government welfare?” Basically, it’s free money that is not tied to performance. And then there’s the insulting “windfall profits” the gluttonous oil industry gets over and above their normal operating profits.

    Seems like they all have their hands out begging for more and more. I guess the difference is these “rich white guys” do their begging in suits down the halls of the Capitol Building while poor people wait in line in government offices. Sure sounds like hypocrisy to me.

  20. I’m a low-income white man and I want things. I want health and dental coverage. I want to know that social security will be there.
    I don’t want rich Republicans trying to turn me against minorities.
    I’m also tired of wealthy progressives telling me I’m privileged.

      • White male privilege has been discussed for years by all types of people. Someone described it thus: imagine your playing “the game of life” on your computer. First, you need to set the default settings. “Staight white male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.
        The discussion of white male privilege is not so fascinating to white men who have not succeeded.

        • I’m surprised there are some leftist types who still use that phrase. It’s true that white males aren’t discriminated against for being ‘white males’. But to imply that all white males are priviledged is just wrong. Working class white males put Obama over the edge in the midwest. They voted their wallets. Any progressive coalition should constantly be seeking to add to its base, especially at a time the Republicans are going overboard to split ‘white’ and ‘minorities’ after this election.

  21. Looking at that Blue / Red map, extracted from the report from the Tax Foundation, I wondered what it meant. So, I read the actual report, which itself is light on details, at only 8 pages.
    link to taxfoundation.org

    I found Table 5, on Page 7, the most revealing, explaining what types of federal expenditures were factored into the rankings.
    It turns out that “retirement,” “disability” and “other direct payments” account for about 53% of expenditures.
    “Grants to state and local governments” (including tribal governments) accounts for about 21%.
    “Procurement” (federal contracts) is about 15%.
    “Salaries and wages” (federal employees) is about 10.5%.

    But to me the real story is in which of these columns there is the most variability.

    In the column for “retirement and disability,” only Alabama, Florida, Maine and Virginia were between 20 – 40% above the mean, and only West Virginia and DC were more than 40% above it. Only Alaska, California and Utah were more than 20% below it. Compared to the rest of the data, that’s very little variability.

    In the column for “other direct payments,” only Louisiana and Pennsylvania were between 20 – 40% above the mean. The Dakotas were each more than 57% over, and DC came in more than 194% above it. Alaska, Colorado, Hawai’i, Idaho, Nevada, New Hampshire and Wyoming were 20 – 40% below it. Only Utah was more than 40% below it. Little variability.

    To me, these are the only columns where it is accurate to call these expenditures wealth transfers from the taxpayers of one state to the taxpayers of another state. There is comparatively lesser variability in the columns analyzed above than those that follow.

    The far greater variability in the remaining columns shows where the Congress has decided to favor some states over others.

    In the column for grants to state and local governments, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Rhode Island, South Dakota and West Virginia were between 20 – 40% above the mean. New Mexico, New York, North Dakota and Vermont were more than 40% above. Wyoming was 109% above, Alaska was 217% above, and DC came in more than 376% above it. Colorado, Florida, Indiana and Virginia all got less than 80% of the mean, per capita. Nevada only got 67% of the mean.

    The most variability is in the column for contracts.
    Only 10 states are within 20% of the mean, plus or minus. MA, MO and TN are between 20 – 40% above the mean. 3 are between 40 – 100% above, Alabama, Arizona and Hawai’i. 5 states are between 138 – 335% above, AK, CT, NM, MD and VA, in ascending order. DC is at 2,044% above, more that $23,600 per capita in 2004.
    FL, GA, KS, LA, MS, NV, NH, NJ, ND, OK, PA, VT and WY are between 20 – 40% below the mean. 17 are more than 40% below, AR, DE, IN, IL, IA, MT, MI, MN, NE, NY, NC, OH, OR, RI, SD, WV and WI. Arkansas is last with only 28%.

    The payroll stats are also widely varied.
    18 states are within 20% of the mean, plus or minus. CO, GA, MT, OK, SD, WA and WY are between 20 – 40% above the mean. 2 are between 40 – 100% above, NM and ND. 4 states are over 100% above, MD, VA, HI and at 243% above, AK. DC is at 3,433% above.
    13 states, AR, DE, FL, IL, MA, NV, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA and TN, are between 20 – 40% below the mean. 6 states are more than 40% below, including CT, IN, IA, MI and MN. WI is 55% below.

    There is an explanation for each outlier. DC, for example, is a company town, and that effect spills into NOVA and MD. Some places get agricultural price supports; other states have military bases; etc.

    The data in the report do not support the authors’ conclusions that taxpayers of Blue states are subsidizing taxpayers of Red states through wealth transfers to individuals through the federal government.
    The report aggregates different types of data in a way that suggests inaccurate conclusions.

    • And yet the aggregate results just happen to nearly duplicate the factional split in the country right now. How do you account for this?

  22. Great article but I question why you would put religious denominations in the mix? While I agree with your stance I think one thing to add is that if the President were a white man Bill would not have a box to stand on. So, the old “because he’s” is again the cry of someone who is really rich. People want a responsible Government, Jobs, and for Businesses to be held accountable for their actions. Government should not create jobs rather they should make the grounds fertile for businesses to grow and expand. Folks want education and are willing to pay for it.

    By the way in states like AL,MS,LA,have some of the highest percentages of Black residents…I say this to point out as you stated that just those three states have some of the poorest economic conditions in the entire Nation…and the color of the poor is no color….Poor is Poor…hungry is hungry….

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