There’s a famous lyric from Leonard Bernstein ’50s classic West Side Story.
“Life is all right in America…If you’re a white in America.”
It’s a line that captured the cultural struggles and injustices that preceded the civil rights era of the 1960s: The “Jets” versus the “Sharks”…”Whites” versus “Blacks”…”Them” versus “Us”.
Since the 1950s, the nation has made enormous strides toward equality, but fueling those movements has been a series of demographic changes across the country, including a boom in minority populations.
New data from the U.S. Census out Thursday shows the minority boom displays no signs of stopping.
The share of the white U.S. population has dropped to a historic low, according to new population estimates. The number of white deaths is outpacing the number of white births for the first time ever and the nation’s minority population is growing 21-times faster than the white population.
The impact: the non-Hispanic white population in America now comprises just 63% of the country, down from 80% in 1980.
Behind the numbers are some very real political implications.
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrats lost the white vote by some 20 points, but made for up it thanks to huge margins across all minority spectrums, including Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, according to data from the Brookings Institute.
The GOP’s conservative base, led by firebrands like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, are moving the party’s center further to the right.
But it’s a double-edged sword for conservatives: on the one hand, the party is desperate for fresh-faced leadership. On the other: the nation’s demographics are pointing towards a country that, on its face, is poised to move further to the left.
The real question is: can the Grand “Old” Party change their message in an effort to attract “new” recruits.
Or, will they miss the long-term war in favor of short-term battles and entrenched philosophies - - like the movie says: “Once you’re a Jet, you’re Jet all the way.”