It Was Redistricting, Not Prop 187, That Turned California Blue

It’s the 25th anniversay of Prop 187, California’s infamous attempt to cut off public benefits for undocumented immigrants, so it’s getting a suddenly renewed wave of attention. For the record, Prop 187 passed but was then struck down by the courts, so it never took effect. Nonetheless, it inspired a wave of protest from Hispanics and led to the permanent downfall of the California Republican Party.

Or did it? Here’s a chart I put up a year ago:

Prop 187 has no apparent effect. The Democratic vote mostly just follows the rise of the non-white vote, especially after 2000. Now here’s congressional voting:

Once again, Prop 187 has no noticeable effect. From the mid-80s to 2002 the Democratic vote share is about flat. However, after 2002 it starts to rise at the same rate as the non-white population.

My (obvious) conclusion: The Democratic redistricting of 2000 finally gave the non-white vote its proper representation, and they voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, just as they always had. As a result, starting in 2002 Democrats received a steadily larger share of the overall vote thanks to non-whites making up a steadily larger share of the population.

It’s that simple. Prop 187 probably cemented Hispanic support for Democrats, but that was about it. It was demographics and redistricting that really made the difference.

If you believe in the demographic theory of presidential elections, the same thing will happen nationally when the non-white vote reaches about 50 percent. Unfortunately, that’s still a decade or two away. In the meantime, Democrats will have to continue winning a sizeable chunk of the white vote if they want to stay in business.

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