The 2010 midterm elections are finally here and for all the lopsided attention the conservative media has given to white voters that support the Tea Party, perhaps the under reported story of the day will be the vote tallies reflecting the continously growing influence of the Latino vote when it comes to midterm elections. The voting patterns from the Latino community are bound to reflect the anger felt against those candidates that used dehumanizing rhetoric that demonized undocumented parents, cousins, uncles, friends, neighbors, and loved ones of Latino U.S. citizens.
Performance of the Latino vote will be key in races across the U.S., but besides the obvious heavily-Republican states like Arizona where the neo-nazi SB 1070 immigration law was born into existence and in Texas where Latinos have a significant share of the electorate, four states that are considered to be “swing states” will be of particular interest to track since they heavily influence Presidential election outcomes and may serve as warning shots to those crafting political strategies for 2012: Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico.
A recent presentation that was put together by the New Policy Institute summarized the political situation well (you can access the presentation here; PDF version). The following are some eye-opening tidbits from that presentation:
At 15% of the US population today, Hispanics are now America’s largest “minority” group. Over time this fast-growing population will grow to almost 30 percent of the total US population, and will be the central driver of turning America into a “majority-minority” nation by 2050.
This very rapid and profound population change is changing political alignments in the US. Early in this decade George W. Bush’s remarkable success with this electorate was critical to both of his Presidential victories. In 2005, however, the national Republican Party repudiated successful Hispanic strategy championed by the Bush family, and adopted a much more anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic strategy that was instrumental in fueling the 2006 immigration rallies, and swinging Hispanics significantly to the Democrats.
The 2008 cycle saw a continuation of this GOP narrative, and a Democratic Party embracing,
tentatively, the new demographic realities of the 21st century and one of its most visible battlegrounds– immigration reform. The Hispanic electorate stayed with Democrats: In six battleground states critical to the Electoral College – CO, FL, IN, NM, NV and VA – increases in Hispanic turnout helped tip these states for Democrat. This significant swing of Latinos votes, was instrumental in electing Barack Obama to the White House.
Say what you will of former President George W. Bush, but one thing that one can’t deny is the fact that he was savvy enough to go after the Latino vote aggressively, outperforming both Al Gore and John Kerry in terms of outreach. Here’s a few highlights:
• “In 2000 Governor George Bush’s campaign outspent Vice President Al Gore on Spanish-language media $2,274,000 to $960,000.
• From its inception, the Bush campaign promised an unprecedented Hispanic outreach program and an intention to run historic amounts of Spanish language television ads in key Hispanic states.
• In a decision that ultimately may have won Bush the presidency, his campaign and the RNC heavily targeted the Spanish-language television stations in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, and Tampa as part of an aggressive strategy to win the state of Florida.
• The entire team of top-level Hispanic media advisers to the Gore campaign and the DNC believed that the Gore campaign had not put a high enough priority on the Hispanic Campaign, according to interviews with staff members and consultants.”
The Democrats, not yet catching up to the Republicans in terms of outreach, were again outperformed in 2004. Here’s what the picture looked like:
To their own detriment, right-wing extremists in the Republican Party forced the GOP to do an about face during 2005 and 2006 and reject President Bush’s strategy with Latinos:
• The Sensenbrenner bill passed by the House in 2005 calls for making all undocumented immigrants felons.
• In 2006, this bill led to huge marches, the largest civic demonstrations in the United States in this generation.
• GOP House leader John Boehner refused to take up the McCain-Kennedy bill that passed a
Republican controlled Senate with 62 votes including 22 Republicans
• In more than a dozen states, the GOP ran ads comparing Mexican immigrants to Islamic terrorists.
This ended up costing the Republicans dearly in the 2006 midterm elections:
In 2008, you had a couple of dynamics that sealed Republicans’ fate: McCain virtuall turned his back on his own principles and virtually abandoned the Latino community, embracing the extremists in his party against immigrants and the unprecedented outreach the Obama campaign did to court the Latino vote was the largest that targeted Latinos in like, ever:
The Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee budgeted $20 million on a grassroots organizing and advertising effort aimed at shoring up the support of Hispanics.
The investments paid off for Democrats in 2008:
Republicans were denied all 3 of the highly Hispanic swing Southwestern states. McCain also lost Florida. The degradation of the GOP brand in the Hispanic community in the aftermath of the immigration debate proved to be disastrous in these important swing states.
Much has been made of the particular circumstances that drive the Tea Party movement’s influence during this 2010 election cycle. Yet, relatively little has been done in terms of in-depth media coverage on the particulars of one constant: the growth of the Latino vote and its effects on neutralizing the Tea Party vote. While it is true that Democrats have done a poor job of advertising just how much they have accomplished to advance the aspirations of the Latino community such as the confirmation of the first Latina Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the unprecedented number of Hispanics that have been nominated to Senate-confirmed positions that has exceeded that of any administration in history, the virulent anti-immigrant and blatantly racist stances that many Republican candidates took during this election cycle might just make up for the Democrats’ once-again overall slow reaction when it comes to marketing themselves to the Latino community.