The political error of the 21st century
Adam Newman | Thursday, November 15, 2012
No demographic shift may matter more to American politics than the growth of the Latino population.
Currently, Latinos are the fastest growing racial group and the largest minority group as well. In 2010, there were 50 million Latinos, making up 16.3 percent of the population. By 2050, it is projected that the Latino population will grow to 132 million and make up 30 percent of the population.
This shift is a blessing for Democrats since Latinos historically vote heavily Democratic. President Obama won 71 percent of the Latino vote, while Mitt Romney won a meager 27 percent. As white middle class voters became disenchanted with Obama, the Obama campaign looked to engage Latinos, especially since the number of eligible Latino voters increased by two million from the 2008 election, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Many of the key battleground states saw massive increases in their Latino population. According to U.S Census data, between 2000 and 2010, Pennsylvania’s Latino population grew by 83 percent, Virginia’s by 92 percent and Ohio’s by 63 percent. This helped lead the President to his victory, and served as a massive wake-up call for Republicans.
When it comes to Latinos, the Republicans have major issues. For decades, the Republicans relied on white, working class voters to deliver elections. This allowed Republicans to hold hostile views towards Latinos and immigration reform to please their base. Many Republican analysts note that Latinos can relate to the social values of the Republican Party. However, this is not enough to make up for Latinos’ favor for Democratic policies on domestic issues and the Republicans’ hostility.
Ed Gillespie, a savvy former Bush advisor understands the importance of this growing demographic. He said recently: “If the Republican nominee in 2020 gets the same percentage of African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American votes that Senator McCain got, the Democrat will win by 14 points.” Gillespie goes on: “If we’re not thoughtful as a party and we’re not thoughtful as we talk about policies, [the changing demographics] will be a real long-term challenge for us as well.”
Republicans often say that it is wrong to paint Latinos as single-issue voters obsessed with immigration policy, and they are correct. A recent poll conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center showed that amongst registered Latino voters, the issues considered “extremely important” were jobs (50 percent), education (49 percent), health care (45 percent), taxes (34 percent) and followed by immigration (33 percent).
But, what Republicans do not understand is that by not offering a strategy for comprehensive reform and vilifying illegal immigrants they are doing incredible damage to their brand.
For Latinos, Republican acceptance of comprehensive immigration reform is not just about policy, but a symbol of Republican acceptance of Latinos themselves and not seeing their growth as an opportunity, rather than a threat.
America’s demographics have always been in a process of constant change, and the 21st century will be no exception as Latinos increase as a percentage of the population. This newfound strength will give Latinos more leverage to not just demand comprehensive immigration reform, but respect from those politicians that have ignored them in favor of more conservative white voters. This means that if the Republican Party cannot evolve from the party of “Sheriff Joe” to the party of “Jose,” it can say “adios” to the idea of any political dominance in the 21st century.
Adam Newman is a junior finance major. He can be reached at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.