Significance of America's shifting population demographics

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 17, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


LARRY SABATO, POLITICAL SCIENTIST: Inevitably, there will come a point right after midcentury when minorities are a majority of the voting public. And that's going to change the calculus in America politics.


CHRIS WALLACE, GUEST HOST: Political Scientist Larry Sabato reacting to a report by the Census Bureau that whites now account for less than half of the new births in this country.

And we're back now with our panel. So what, Charles, is the significance of what's being called this demographic tipping point, America's first majority minority generation?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think it's less dramatic than people are imaging. Yes, there will be an increase in the number of minorities, immigrants, other ethnicities. It's not going to be dramatically different. Mathematically, it will be. But we already are the most multiethnic, racial society on the face of the Earth, and we've been successful.

The problem is not the composition of the population, how many races or how many ethnicities or nationalities. It's the fact that -- because that's a great strength. It gives us a strength no other country on earth has. The weakness is what we have -- what we are not doing in acculturation, Americanization. A century ago, everybody became American through the public schools, the civic institutions, you learn the language. You learn the history. You learn civics. You learn about America. It's not that you abandon your ethnicity but you are instilled with American-ness.

And now with the multicultural vogue, you get bilingual education, separatism, multiculturalism, which essentially says that being separate and having a hyphenated Americanism is the essence of who we ought to be.

I think it's a mistake and we will suffer. I grew up in Quebec where we had a bilingual society. It's really difficult and creates all kinds of things. And Quebec had it at birth. We are imposing it upon ourselves.

WALLACE: You're certainly right, Charles, this is going to be a gradual process, the fact that what we're talking about is in the last year the Census Bureau says more nonwhite babies were born than white babies. Having said this, it's still a majority white country, and it will be 2042 before the number of Hispanics and blacks and Asians and other so-called minorities become a collective majority that outweigh the number of whites.

But I mean, clearly, the trend is headed in that direction. And the question is, is there a significance politically, economically in terms of the culture of the country?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: I would say both. There's a significance economically in the sense that whites are having fewer children, and so there's always been this concern that we wouldn't have enough people to support the baby boomer -- the aging baby boomers. And so -- because they're having more children, it's actually going to be a good thing if we can educate them because they have much lower rates of going to college substantially, about half the rate of whites.

Politically, it puts the Republican party just on a collision course with these demographics because, at least right now, they have -- they are seen as being hostile to immigration and even if -- even if these people are here illegally, they have a lot of people in their communities, maybe even in their families who are struggling with wanting to become legal citizens.


JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: I think we're going to have a preview of what's going to happen because it's going to happen in Europe first where the birth rate of white Europeans is even less than it is here. And we're going to see what happens when the majority of minorities reaches an electoral age and it will happen in Europe about a generation before it happens here. If we are still a welfare state in this country, as I believe we are today when the majority is of minorities, then whoever can control the electorate will want the bigger piece of the pie and it will come to them. And those who are now getting the biggest piece of the pie in 2012 will find themselves on the other end of the pie in 2062.

WALLACE: Let me follow up with you, judge. The primary reason for this is demographic. It's because of the fact that the white population is getting older and they're not having as many babies. The Hispanic population is younger and there are more childbearing mothers in it so they are having more babies. Having said that, immigration is also a factor in this. Does this raise the stakes for the Supreme Court's ruling on the Arizona immigration law?

NAPOLITANO: I don't think -- great question, Chris. I don't think it will affect the views of the justices in the Arizona case but it certainly raises the stakes. I mean, a majority of whites in Arizona arguably curtailed the rights of nonwhites in Arizona. What happens when the nonwhites in Arizona become a majority? You might see the same type of legislation written with respect to whites. It's not going to happen tomorrow. It's not going to happen next week. But as Larry Sabato said, it could be happening 30 to 40 years from now. That would be very bad.

WALLACE: I just want to ask you one question in the minute that we have left, Charles, and that is to pick up on what Kirsten was saying about the politics of this, because the Republican Party is at least perceived as being less friendly to minorities, to Hispanics, to blacks. Are they going to have to change in some fundamental way?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think there's an assumption here in all this discussion that people are somehow completely defined by their ethnicity or race or nationality or previous nationality. I think that's wrong. I think whites are no more American or Republican or conservative than others are. I think as the generations become acclimatized and acculturated, it takes longer than it did 100 years ago, they'll act in different ways. The assumption that Hispanics will act one way and Asian-Americans in another way I think is completely mistaken.

So I don't accept any of the assumptions. Perhaps in the early -- the first generation, yes, but after that, no, as we've seen in our previous history of east European and pan European immigration started out different and ultimately became rather melded.

WALLACE: That's it for the panel.

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