There’s much to be puzzled by when it comes to U.S. politics, but for me one of the biggest is the underappreciated the Latino vote.
TIME’s cover recently featured a collage of Latino faces (and a Norwegian-Chinese-Irish one; oops), along with the words: Yo Decido. The cover story, written by Michael Scherer, is “Why Latinos will pick the next President.” He looks at national politics, but focuses his writing on things here in Phoenix. Simply put, Latinos are changing not only this state, but also the face of the country, and they will change its politics. Currently about one sixth of the total population, by 2050 one in three in the U.S. will be Latino. That’s a big piece of the pie.
But Obama, who won in 2008 with two-thirds of the Latino vote, failed to deliver on promises to pass immigration reform during his first year in office, and instead stepped up deportations like never before. The Republicans, meanwhile, are going to great lengths to outdo each other in anti-immigrant rhetoric (without much interest in differentiating between those with documents or without) that sees immigration as a simple problem with simple, if costly and/or strange, solutions. The most creative solution proposed by a one-time leading candidate entailed an electric fence at the border, guarded by alligators; he later called it “a joke.”
While Latinos are not a homogeneous voting bloc, they tend to be young and socially conservative. And immigration is far from the only issue on the table. Latinos have suffered disproportionately during the recession, and while the national unemployment rate holds steady at 8.3% — happily a three-year low — unemployment remains above 10% among Latinos. The economy matters a lot to all of us this time around, but even more so to Latinos.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, says in the TIME story, “We really look like Republicans on paper, but they don’t want us. The Democrats don’t look like us on paper, but they really want us.”
I blogged about this strange phenomenon last month, quoting Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio as Republicans who seem to get it and are pleading with their party to stop being so irresponsible and foolish. A little respect would go a long way. Sensible policies wouldn’t hurt either.
Though the cover story itself is unfortunately by subscription-only on TIME’s website, they do offer a photo essay with faces and quotes from different Latino voters here, and there’s another photo essay on being Latino in Arizona here. Finally, it’s interesting to note that while Mitt Romney won big in Arizona’s primary, and while he has said he favors “self-deportation” for undocumented immigrants, 63% of Republican voters in this state disagreed (36% thought they should be able to apply for citizenship, and 27% thought they should be allowed to stay as temporary workers). If the numbers are that high in Arizona, they’re certainly higher elsewhere, and if he becomes the nominee he’ll have no choice in the fall but to find a more moderate position. But by then, will he be able to rebuild the bridges he and others in his party have burned?
I’ll have more to say in future posts about civility and citizenship, two themes more timely than ever, but I’ll leave it there for now.
If you’re Latino, what do you plan to do in November? Has any party or candidate won your vote? What do you wish politicians, or any non-Latinos for that matter, understood?