Major 2010 Census data was released yesterday and there's a familiar refrain: the Hispanic population in the United States is largely on the rise, particularly in comparison to other demographic groups. The response is familiar as well: though some see the shifting demographics as problematic, a number of politically-minded folks are just scrambling to see how they can be used to tip the balance in various states when it comes to the ballot box. It's fairly standard for left-leaning folks in particular to conclude that increased minority voters will bolster Democratic ranks in the coming years.
One of the takeaways of the last Census was that Latinos were on the rise in certain parts of the country, and in 2003 the Census Bureau released some widely-reported figures that showed Hispanics passing blacks as the nation's largest minority group. Around the same time in California, information came out that the majority of children born in the state were Hispanic beginning in the middle of 2001. In September of 2001, the Associated Press's David Pace wrote: "Both political parties are keenly aware of the Latino potential to change the political landscape. Republicans and Democrats are aggressively courting Latino for the 2002 congressional elections and the 2004 presidential race." The assumption of Democratic advantage when it came to Latino voters has also been around a while. Slate's Chris Beam covered the conventional wisdom in a larger post about ethnic group politics in 2008. "Will Growing Number of Latino Voters Turn Texas Into A Blue State?" asked a Huffington Post headline for an ABC News story in November of the same year. Or take a look at February 2009, when Michael Barone, while expressing worry over political agendas in the coming Census in U.S. News, admitted that he still wasn't quite "prepared to charge that Emanuel or anyone else in the White House is determined to diabolically cook the Census in search of gains for the Democratic Party or the Black or Hispanic caucuses." The idea that someone would charge this, of course, is revealing.
Now back to the blogosphere this week, where many were equally quick to view the Latino rise as a potential gain for the Democrats. In a post titled "Hispanic Population Surges; Bad News For GOP?" Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway wrote that "there is substantial evidence from states like California that Latino voters have rejected the GOP even more since the 2008 thanks in large part to the party’s stance on immigration issues and the refusal of hard-line conservatives to compromise one inch on immigration reform legislation in the Senate." MSNBC's First Read noted that "Latinos are already a serious political force in America and their influence will only get bigger. And that could be problematic for Republicans on a presidential level, because overwhelmingly right now, they prefer Democrats," while noting that Obama won 67% of Latinos in 2008. Suzy Khimm at Mother Jones was quick to point out that "changing demographics cast a shadow over the GOP's prospects, particularly given the party's hard right turn on immigration in recent months."
Like every other demographic group, of course, Latinos' political preferences aren't necessarily that simple or that fixed: what if the rising Latino population shapes the political debate beyond simply red vs. blue?
Many early Obama supporters were caught off guard for instance, when Latinos came out overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in a handful of key Democratic primaries in 2008; there was surprise that Hispanics didn't support Barack Obama as a fellow person of color, and some went as far as making claims that Latinos were averse to voting for a black man.
Or take the Hispanic population around Miami, with it's sizeable community of Cuban-Americans, who tend to be a big exception to the Latino-Democratic trend. Miami's Cuban-American population's can be one of the more conservative--and influential--demographics in the country. Recall, too, that Alberto Gonzales--the country's first Hispanic Attorney General--was a staunch Bush loyalist.
Is the rising Latino population going to dye red states blue? It's possible, though there are certainly counterexamples to the theories behind these predictions. The relentless media coverage of the Latino rise and its political implications, though--and confident proclamations from the interested parties--that, it appears, you can count on.