Published November 12, 2012
The day after the election a friend posted on my Facebook page, the “Latino Vote –unfrigginbelievable.”
She’s right. Many factors contributed to President Obama’s re-election. But few are as important as the Latino vote.
Hispanics made up 10 percent of the U.S. electorate this year – doubling in the past 16 years.
The number of Latino voters rose to more than 12 million from 11.4 million in 2008.
With 75 percent of Hispanics voting for Obama, according to Latino Decisions study, they accounted for about 15 percent of Obama’s total nationally – and substantially more in swing states like Colorado, Nevada and most likely Florida. Hispanic voters not only handed re-election to the president, they helped determine the winner in close U.S. Senate races across the country.
As I predicted, 2012 would not only be the year that Latino voters emerged as a political force, but marks the beginning of a political trend that is shaping the direction of our country as this voting bloc grows in size and prominence.
By 2050, the Hispanic population is expected to nearly double, accounting for as much as 29 percent of the total U.S. population. Each month, 50,000 Latinos turn 18 and are eligible to vote.
What does growing Latino political power mean for America, and for our community?
First, it means that from this point forward, candidates and political parties will need to articulate policies that appeal to us but are not that different from those geared toward “mainstream” Americans.
We are deeply concerned about jobs, economic growth, education, healthcare and the other building blocks of the American Dream.
But make no mistake, immigration matters.
With many of us being part of mixed-immigration-status families, neighborhoods, and parishes, when a candidate disparagingly talks about “illegals,” tread carefully because you can be talking about our mamás. Or you just sound like a mean bully that picks on the smallest kid in the school yard.
Second, we will be watching to make sure the actions of those we helped elect match their rhetoric.
You cannot make a promise, not fulfill it, yet deport people in record numbers, including abuelas.
You also can’t eat lechón on the campaign trail pretending to be down with La Raza, yet praise the most anti-immigrant and anti-Latino laws in the country, their authors, and enforcers.
The road to the White House goes, not just through the barrio and the bodega, but classrooms, since 25 percent of public school students nationwide is Hispanic, and our nursing homes, as our population ages.
The seeds of political participation were planted in 2012 but will need to be watered, nurtured, at times weeded for it to take root and flourish, making our great democracy even greater.
The work has just begun --for Latinos, since our civic involvement can’t drop off; for Republicans, who can seize this opportunity after a total flameout to rebuild; and for the President, who is now tasked with the burden of making good on a promise that is four years overdue.