May 17, 2011


Hispanics' Ascent Drives Early Moves in 2012 Race (GERALD F. SEIB, 5/17/11, WSJ)

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that Democrats retained control of the Senate last year—even while losing control of the House—because of the Hispanic vote. Hispanic voters clearly saved the job of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada, and likely the job of Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet. They also were crucial for a few other Democrats, including Barbara Boxer in California and Patty Murray in Washington—and all that in a year when Hispanic turnout wasn't exactly stunning.

Demographic trends mean the Hispanic vote could be decisive in the coming presidential election, especially because the 2012 vote figures to be closer in some key states than was the 2008 election that brought Mr. Obama to power. A few statistics make the point.

The 2010 Census showed that the country's Hispanic population grew by 43% over the previous decade, while the white population grew by less than 6%. The median age of the Hispanic population is 27.4; for the white population, the median age is 41.2, and for the country as a whole 36.8. [...]

The obvious question, then, is what the two parties' relative strengths and weaknesses are among Hispanics. Democrats have the historic and more natural appeal: They are the party with a far larger share of minorities in its base, and the party that champions social programs important to many low-income Hispanics. The Democrats' mainstream position on an immigration overhaul—more open, for example, to paving a path to citizenship for illegal aliens who have been working and paying taxes for a long period—has given them a more friendly feel to many Hispanics.

Yet the problem for Democrats is that they haven't turned this hospitable population into the kind of electoral force it might be; the 31.2% of eligible Hispanics who voted in 2010 compares to 48.5% among whites, according to a new report from the Pew Hispanic Center. Moreover, it is possible a recent Obama administration crackdown on illegal aliens in the workplace could engender a backlash.

To them, Republicans' message will be two-fold: Jobs are the most important issue to Hispanics, and we are the job-creating party, and Republicans share the conservative social values predominant in the Hispanic community.

The difference, of course, is that if conservatives are true to themselves they embrace their new neighbors, whereas if liberals are true to themselves they reject them for their cultural beliefs.

Posted by at May 17, 2011 3:36 PM

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