I Told You So! Latino Power Surge Decades in the Making

By Dr. Henry Flores, NewsTaco

¿Sabes que?  “I Told You So!”  I told you all that the Latino vote would play a decisive role in this presidential election.

I first noticed this possibility when I was working with census data in preparation for the 2001 congressional redistricting in Texas.  What I noticed was that the Latino electorate, Latino registered voters, resided in just a few states.  In 2001, 89.9% of Latino registered voters, resided in just 15 states.

So, you say, this doesn’t look like enough of a situation to swing a presidential election!  Yeah but given the way the Electoral College is structured it turns out that Latino registered voters resided in 15 states that accounted for 295 Electoral College votes and it only takes 270 to elect the president.  Of the 295, President Obama won 251 electoral votes or 13 of the 15 states where Latinos are important voters.

Since 2001 much changed including an exploding Latino population that saw us officially becoming the largest racial/ethnic minority group in the nation and expanding beyond the 15 states we predominated.  As of the 2012 election 90% of all Latinos who are eligible to vote reside in 17 states, with Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia among that group.  These Latino voters reside in states that account for 313 Electoral College votes.  Of these Obama won 14 states accounting for 233 electoral votes.

Besides the demographic changes that occurred between 2001 and 2012, the decade also found increasing animosity on the part of the extreme right wing toward Latinos nationwide.  Driving the animosity were several occurrences and issues but fundamentally it revealed the racism deeply embedded in the nativism that historically has been at the heart of right wing jingoism throughout the history of the United States.

Jingoism, chauvinism include racism, homophobia, misogyny are based in a fear of the unknown and of losing one’s place of privilege in society.  The rapid growth of Latinos in the United States over the past thirty years which has become more and more obvious across the country has spawned increasing acts of racism both overt and hidden.  Overt racism is easy to detect while hidden racism is more difficult because it becomes institutionalized in the manner in which we argue and pass laws and various types of public policies are implemented.

The fear of losing political place and space has driven the right wing to push legislation at all levels of government instituting more stringent voter registration methods, voter identification card issuances, changing early voting dates, use of language in public spaces, barring use of financial aid and education to the children of undocumented persons and so forth in efforts at limiting the growth of the Latino electorate.

That’s correct.  ¡Si señor!  That’s what I am saying.  The right wing has been busy pursuing nationwide efforts at passing any kind of law, doing anything within their power to suppress the votes of Latinos.  I’ll write about this in a forthcoming column.

Many Republicans were perplexed at the degree of support President Obama received from Latinos in the 2012 election.  Some Republican apologists pointed out that Latinos were/are natural Republicans because we are conservative about most family and religious issues.  We’re also very patriotic and proud of the many veterans who have served this country in every war going all the way to the Revolutionary War.  So what’s the problem?  Why can’t the Republicans attract us?  The answer comes in two parts and makes perfect sense.

The first reason is that the right wing jingoism that Republican and conservative operatives spewed toward immigrants and non-English speakers throughout these last several years reflects how unwelcoming these folks really are.  They simply do not like Latinos and don’t want them in their homes regardless of how conservative we are.  They just don’t like us because we are who we are.

The second reason is very simple.  The Republican Party’s position on the economy and social issues such as health care or education does not resonate with Latino voters.  Immigration policy is “icing on the cake” for us it’s the other issues that don’t work for Latinos combined with the perceived hatred of the right wing Republicans who dominate the media rhetoric.

The Republican Party is on the threshold of becoming irrelevant nationally.  If the GOP does not change its tune and rid itself of their right wing wackos they run the risk of being washed away by demography.  Keep insulting Latinos and they will vote more and more for Democrats.  Keep insulting Latinos and you will find winning the Presidency and United States Senate almost impossible.  Keep insulting Latinos and you will wither away and become a third party headed for extinction.

[Photo By nathangibbs]

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