My Biannual Prop 187 Mythbusting Post

I guess it’s time for my biannual Prop 187 mythbusting post.¹ This one is prompted by Daniel Donner over at Daily Kos, who says that California’s infamous Proposition 187, passed in 1994, was responsible for the decline and eventual death of the Republican Party here:

The high point for the California GOP came with the re-election of Pete “I Am Not A Racist” Wilson as governor as he campaigned for the indisputably racist Proposition 187, in 1994, the year of the Angry White Male (oh, hindsight). Prop 187 coincided with a shift in the political preferences of Latinos even more toward Democrats, and an increase in Latino political participation; while causation is difficult to prove, alternate explanations are hard to come by.

But there is an alternative explanation, and it’s really simple. First, though, here is Donner’s chart. I’ve added the arrow in green:

The main thing to notice here is that the black arrow distracts you from looking at the chart properly. In fact, nothing much happened in the two elections following Prop 187. The first big drop for Republicans came in 2000, six years later. So what’s going on? The answer is pretty simple: The non-white share of the population steadily increased starting around 1970 and the Democratic share of the congressional vote increased along with it. Here’s a chart:

As you can see, the Democratic share of the congressional vote increased along with the non-white population from 1980 to 1988, then dipped for a few years, and then closely followed the population trend again from 1994 to the present. Aside from the odd 1990-94 dip, the only explanation you need for this is the growth of the non-white population. More about that here.

It’s likely that Prop 187 helped cement Latino opposition to the Republican Party, and might well be responsible for a few additional points of Democratic vote share. In fact, I have a hard time believing that’s not the case. But you really can’t see it in the numbers. Basically, the more non-whites there are, the bigger the Democratic vote share. And that’s all there is.

POSTSCRIPT: In case you’re interested, you can see pretty much the exact same thing if you look at presidential vote shares:

¹Prop 187 denied public services to undocumented immigrants. It passed in 1994 with the overwhelming support of the Republican Party, but it was eventually struck down by the courts.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate