Feature

Hispanics: Growing political clout

The Hispanic population is now 16 percent of the total population. In 2008, Barack Obama got two out of every three Hispanic votes.

“If demographics is destiny,” said Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post, then the nation’s rapidly growing Hispanic population poses a major problem for Republicans. This “reliably Democratic constituency” grew by 43 percent over the past decade, mostly through high birthrates, and now makes up 16 percent of the total population—that’s 50.5 million people—according to a new analysis of the 2010 census. The transformation is “downright frightening” for GOP strategists, because their party’s anti-immigration activists are driving Hispanics into the Democratic column. In 2008, Barack Obama got two out of every three Hispanic votes. That trend could get worse for the GOP, as the Hispanic population of traditional red states like South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas booms. You can put Arizona in that category, too, said Linda Valdez in The Arizona Republic. The census found that 43 percent of Arizonans under 18 are now Latino, and soon many of them will be voting. They won’t forget state Republicans’ “immigrant bashing” laws and complaints of “an invasion” by Latinos. It’s true that Republicans will face a “demographic emergency” if they don’t “change their tune on immigration,” said Linda Feldmann in The Christian Science Monitor. But as Republicans such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are pointing out, the party could dodge that crisis with a smart immigration policy that’s “tough on border security” but also provides illegals with a realistic “pathway to citizenship.” That would free up Republican candidates to address other issues Latinos care about, like the economy and education. The GOP could also easily change the political dynamics by picking a Republican Hispanic—like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio—as the vice presidential candidate in 2012.  Whoever captures the Hispanic vote in coming years, said Roberto Ramos in HuffingtonPost​.com, these census figures point to one clear conclusion: Hispanics are becoming “mainstream.” Corporate America is already trying to tap this thriving market, and we can expect “more Latino-influenced products” and TV shows like Dora the Explorer—a kid’s cartoon whose star is a feisty young Latina. Just as Italians, Irish, and Jews did in the 20th century, second- and third-generation Hispanics will move up the economic ladder, and become business and political leaders, movie stars, and media figures. “Detractors should fear not”—Hispanics will assimilate into the larger society, and add spice and “fresh cultural energy” to the stew pot that is America. 

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