Livin' it up, American style

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The growing Latino vote is up for grabs. Who's going to get it?

Buried under a subheading on the Washington Post's homepage was an article about Latino voters and how they voted in the last election. It said that 30% of Latinos voted for the Republican party, down from the 45% of Latinos that voted Republican in the 2004 presidential election. Latinos have historically been a Democratic leaning party, but were basically a small voting segment just taken for granted. Neither party actively courted the Latino vote for decades, but that has been changing recently, as Latinos are a quickly growing bloc that are becoming more active in politics.

Bush is largely responsible for the Republicans winning almost half of the Latino vote in 2004. His nephew is part Mexican, and Bush was well known for speaking in Spanish at public events. He knew that as a largely Catholic group, the Latinos would identify with the more socially conservative Republican party. For a few years, it looked like the Latino vote would trend Republican, giving them the coveted votes of this growing demographic.

But this latest election showed that the Republicans may be isolating and losing its Latino voters. This is mostly due to the Congressional Republicans' stance on immigration. They have come out supporting more restrictive measures to control immigration and make it harder to legally stay in America (Ironically, President Bush supports fewer restrictions on immigration). An anti-immigration stance plays well with many Americans who somehow feel cheated that Latinos are taking all the good jobs cleaning toilets and mowing lawns. But this policy also alienates the immigrant community, which while currently commanding less votes than African-Americans, is growing more quickly. If one party consistantly suceeds at winning a decisive majority of the Latino/immigrant vote, they may become the dominant political party in American politics.


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