November 8, 2004


Hispanics for Jorge: Another immigrant group wanders off the Democratic plantation. (MICHAEL GONZALEZ, November 8, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

This was the election when Hispanics came of age. Two were famously elected into the Senate, providing a powerful symbol of their political advent. To Ken Salazar in Colorado, and to my fellow Cuban-American Mel Martinez in Florida, I send congratulations. But to my mind, much more important are the following numbers from pollsters: 72, 62 and 54. These are, respectively, the percentage of Hispanics that voted for Clinton in 1996, Gore in 2000 and Kerry last week. Two more figures, 50% and 40 million, are, respectively, the increase in Hispanic voters in 2004 over 2000, and the number of Hispanics now in the U.S., a country of 280 million.

Two more stats are really important (and then I'll stop). The first is that 22% of Hispanics told pollsters they were voting for the first time. Of these, the party split was even. This might be the most ominous number for Democrats, since party loyalties are cemented early.

But for the Republicans this is unadulterated good news. It vindicates "Jorge" Bush's hunch that aggressively pursuing the Hispanic vote would pay off. His familiarity with Mexican-Americans in Texas formed in him an instinct. Here was a people who believed in family members looking after each other, who shook their heads in disbelief at the thought of homosexual marriage, and who saw flying the flag as noble. As they owned homes and became middle class, the lure of affirmative action dimmed. And they were still voting Democratic?

Conversely, the emergence of the Hispanic Republican disproves apocalyptic warnings that it could never happen from nativists like Pat Buchanan. It is yet one more sad reminder of the wreck Pete Wilson left behind him in California. Maybe Arnie, with his pro-immigrant ethos, can fix this, too.

The Hispanic entry into Republican ranks comes, for many, at an earlier phase in their American journey than for other immigrant groups. Just think of the Irish, Italians and Jews, who generations after arrival on these shores can still reflexively pull the Democratic lever. Their vestigial loyalty is the result of what has been the Democratic Party's strategy for over a century. The bargain back in the days of Tammany Hall was: We give you the fire and police departments, you give us your vote.

A party that has no power can obviously not pay the patronage to keep groups whose particular interests are fundamentally opposed to each others in line.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 8, 2004 4:46 PM

Good news for George P.'s run for the White House in 16-20 years.

Posted by: Bob at November 8, 2004 5:04 PM

George P. Bush may be the first hispanic president. A lot of women find him very attractive, a huge plus in contemporary politics.

Posted by: Vince at November 8, 2004 5:29 PM

The Italians in New York are really mostly republican. The only Italian politician who has ben a Democrat is Cuomo. LaGuardia, Guliani, DaMato Republicans.

The Irish were Democrats and they dominated the city and the Church. The Italians resented it.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 8, 2004 10:43 PM


That's the same reason the French Canadians in
New England trended Republican for a time. As
a reaction to the Irish hold on Church and State.

Posted by: J.H. at November 9, 2004 9:21 AM