Why Latinos Are Indeed A Potential Electoral Sledgehammer

While I don’t know if Republicans will play a tangible price in November for their lurch to the right on immigration policy, it’ll happen eventually. And that price could be going up every day.

Gary Segura, co-author with Matt Barreto of an important new book, Latino America: How America’s Most Dynamic Population is Poised to Transform the Politics of the Nation, was interviewed by TNR’s Juan David Romero, and had this interesting thing to say about the most striking changes he’s observed among U.S. Latinos over the last decade:

There are two really striking changes, one political and one social. The political change is that Latinos are highly more Democratic than they were just ten years ago. About 40 percent of Latinos voted for George W. Bush. Historically, about one-third of Latinos do not vote Democrat. In the last two presidential and congressional elections, we’ve been getting Democratic numbers in the 70 to 75 percent range. … The social change is the sense of pan-ethnicity. Back in the 1990s, relatively few Latinos thought of themselves in the Latino or Hispanic category and instead thought of themselves as Mexican or Puerto Rican or Cuban. What has happened since is that a huge percentage of Latinos now identify with the pan-ethnic term. … Over one-third say that it is their primary identity, that they put that before their national origin.

Both trends could be bad news for Republicans who imagine Latinos as a “swing electorate” that can easily be swayed by “social issues,” and/or who think certain sub-categories of Latino voters–most notably Cuban-Americans and Protestants–are “theirs.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.