It may not have been as apparent to everyone as when the great civil rights activist Hubert Humphrey spoke out to the Democratic National Convention in 1948 which secured the African-American vote. It is not as calculated as ‘Nixon’s Southern Strategy’ to win over disillusioned whites in the American south. But now and into the future, there has been another seismic shift in U.S politics and the country sits at a crossroads.
Why is this? Because of hard statistics. Every year, for the next 20 years, between 500,000-600,000 Latinos turn 18 in America. In a decade they have been estimated to make up a quarter of the electorate. This group is growing exponentially, while the white vote is shrinking.
This is an issue because Latinos have been aggressively pushed away by the Republican Party and brought in (to an extent) by Democrats. The first signs of this shift were shown in this election with the politically southern and conservative swing state of Virginia going to Obama, effectively with the new Latino vote.
The most liberal Candidate Mitt Romney, to get the nomination, castigated Texas Governor Rick Perry for giving education to illegal immigrants and said he favoured immigrants ‘self-deporting’ themselves. The hard-line Republican Governor of Arizona also introduced the most controversial anti-immigration legalisation-HB 1070. Come Election Day, the Latino vote was 71% for President Obama and 27% for Governor Romney- down from 40% (W. Bush) and 31% (McCain). Radio host Rush Limbaugh says they voted Democrat for ‘gifts’, Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly says they ‘want stuff’. The break between the two groups is almost a chasm.
On the face of it, this alienation makes no sense. Latino voters traditionally have conservative views religiously on issues like abortion. But what they vote on is for their self-interest not their views on abortion. What this means is they all want a path to immigration for illegal aliens and to have universal health coverage. Therefore only one party represents their interests. With the Republicans running out of ‘angry white men’, the picture looks dire. Even if they front their ticket with Marco Rubio, this would not solve their problems because:
1) 1) He is Cuban-American, if it’s only him, how can he connect with Mexican-Americans in Texas? or Puerto-Ricans in New York?
2) He may hold traditional Latino views on abortion but doesn’t hold the views on which Latinos vote.
At the current rate Democrats could dominate for the foreseeable future, as they did from FDR to LBJ. It says everything that the Democrats’ keynote speaker at this year’s DNC was a rising star, Mayor of San Antonio and Latino- Julián Castro. One party has more than just figureheads for Latinos; it talks to them as the hard-working people that they are. It is in sync with their principles. Perhaps most scary for the right is that Castro predicts in 6-8 years Texas could turn Democrat. If they can win Texas with California (definitely) and Florida (as in 2012) in future elections, they will have 45% of the electoral votes needed to win from three states. If the Latino vote isn’t tapped into, when do the Republicans ever get elected?
Like ‘48 and ‘68, one of the U.S political parties has a massive choice to make, become more conservative or change their views and embrace the massive Latino vote. So politically, to paraphrase New Hampshire’s motto, the question is: Embrace Latino voters or Die