opinion | Democrats are having trouble sticking to their coalition
To maintain this block, “a delicate dance took place,” Meyerson continues:
Since the 1960s, three of the city’s 15 council districts, located in and around the heavily Black South Central, were unofficially designated as Black seats, and Latino political leaders agreed not to contest from them. of, even the black part of the city’s population dropped to less than 15. The percentage in the 1970 census rose to 8 percent in the 2020 census, and even the city’s share of Latinos rose to 48 percent in 2020.
I asked Raphael Sonnenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State-Los Angeles, about the history of racial and ethnic politics in Los Angeles, as well as the current situation. He wrote back by email: “Between 1900 and 1949, there were no city council members who were African American, Latino, Jewish or Asian American.” In 1949, Ed Roybal became the first Hispanic member of the council and remained in his seat until 1962, when he successfully ran for Congress, Sonnenshein said. But “then there was a long hiatus with no Latino members until 1985, all during the rise of the Bradley Black-Jewish coalition.”
Now, according to Sonnenshein, “there are three African American and four Latino ‘seats’ in the council,” with a strong likelihood of a fifth Hispanic seat based on the result of the November 8 runoff. Black Democrats have held three council seats every cycle since 1963, despite a sharp decline in the African American portion of the city’s electorate, the result, Sonnenshein wrote, “a longstanding Black-Latino detente and at times stronger coalition.” “
I asked Sonnenshein about the all-or-nothing element of redistribution in Los Angeles, and he replied that the unusually strong powers held by the city council make competition for seats particularly intense:
The conflict is further exacerbated by the unique nature of the LA Council. It is certainly the most powerful council in any city with a mayor-council system. The council’s relatively small size and the council’s visibility as the most public-facing body in city government make each seat highly valued. LA’s growing stature as a major political force in California and even national democratic politics has led to state legislators considering giving up their seats when council positions open. (Can you imagine that happening in NYC or Chicago?)
Conversely, Sonnenshein argued, there are two factors that underpin conflict: “strong incentives in communities to form and maintain progressive cross-racial and cross-ethnic alliances on the Tom Bradley model, and to bring members together in different communities.” crossing elite political alliances.”
Sonnenshein described the current state of Los Angeles as follows:
Mirror image of the 1990s. As the Latino population grew in what was then known as South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s and 1990s, there was considerable inter-group tension at street level. Jobs, housing, services, all played a part. It took some time for those tensions to rise to the political level.
David Sears, an emeritus professor of psychology and political science at UCLA, emailed his response to my query about racial and ethnic politics in Los Angeles:
The zero-sum character of redistribution certainly exacerbates intergroup conflict. In LA, such conflicts are normally barely below the surface. Especially black-brown. Large numbers of Latinos in LA have moved into historically Black neighborhoods and now outnumber Blacks in general. City council representation has not been adjusted to reflect that change. Black-and-brown political alliances are formed, but they may be fading, with tensions typically being with the subpoenas rather than publicly displayed.
In Peaceful Times, Sears wrote, “the principle of ‘common in-group identity’ argues that coalitions can form around a common superordinate identity. An example would be the Democratic Party in the California legislature” where “the idea of tying coalitions together.” There are a lot of pressures to do – for example, to maintain a majority.”
Sears cautioned, however, that “the identity of the subordinate group can sometimes breach that common identity when the identity of the subordinate group is predominant, as in redistribution (or ticket structure) decisions. The current dispute in these A textbook example of dynamics.”
Sears pointed to potential future developments. On one hand, he again mentioned “a lot of pressure to tie the alliance together”. At the same time, however, Sears noted that
Centrifugal pressures include upward mobility among Latinos, who are increasingly moving on as small-business entrepreneurs. The younger generation is becoming much better educated: for example, the number of Latinos admitted to UCLA is increasing rapidly. And intermarriage with whites is very common after immigrant generations.
“Expect more ethnic conflicts,” Sears concluded:
Despite the impetus for coalition building. Fragmentation of neighborhoods leads to fragmentation of schools. Many light-skinned Latinos have an easier path than African Americans in terms of upward mobility. I believe that broken families are still too common in the black community to have a cost.
Redistribution is the redistribution of political power, and political power determines the allocation of vital resources. Cecilia Menziver, professor of sociology at UCLA, emailed me her analysis about the role of scarcity in the struggle for power:
Ethnic conflict does not occur in the void of other social forces, particularly material resources such as income and especially inequality – in individual income – but also resources such as housing, and school funding, etc., which vary greatly from place to place. , neighborhood, etc. This is important because it is not just income and material resources but increased inequality – the unequal distribution of resources that shapes perceptions about the sense of scarcity that groups (and individuals) experience.
Income and access to resources and benefits are all key, Menziver continued, “but inequality, unequal distribution and access to resources and benefits to society, is absolutely important to consider here because it leads to unequal access, unequal distribution of benefits, etc. The assumption is that I see more than just the income distribution alone.”
Along similar lines, Bettina Wilkinson, a political scientist at Wake Forest University, emailed me to say that her survey and focus group data show that “for some blacks and Latinx, social, economic and Political opportunities are zero-sum because they feel that their socio-political power and struggle is comparable to that of other minority groups, that there are limited resources and opportunities and thus the other group poses a threat to them.”