For years, there has been discussion and debate about the potential impact of Hispanic/Latino voters on the political landscape of elections. A record 11.2 million Latinos voted in the 2012 presidential election; that’s 48 percent of Hispanic eligible voters, according to the Pew Research Center. Latinos were also a larger share of the nation’s electorate in 2012, making up a record 8.4 percent of all voters, up from 7.4 percent in 2008.
For Hispanics, the high share of the younger-than-18 population of the U.S. means that we will become a more important voting bloc in future elections. Hispanics are 17 percent of the total U.S. population but 24 percent of the under 18 population. Each year, an estimated 800,000 Latinos turn 18; overwhelmingly, they are U.S.-born citizens and automatically eligible to vote.
Clearly, both Democratic and Republican parties realize that if they want to win elections for their respective candidates and parties, they must appeal to Latino voters. However, the “atole con el dedo” disingenuous efforts demonstrated by both parties have become transparent to Latinos.
For example, a simple Spanish language translation of political platforms and proposed policies is not an effective Latino outreach effort or strategy. Latinos hunger for political ideologies that resonate and incorporate our cultural values and traditions. These ideologies must also address the challenges and opportunities that impact and improve our overall quality of life.
There also must be recognition that our community is not monolithic in ethnicity or in policy. We’re not all Mexican-American, and while immigration reform is absolutely crucial to the success of our morality and nation, we are equally concerned with economics, education, health care, transportation, sustainability and environmental issues.
Putting forward a Latino puppet, pawn and/or surname as your party nominee also won’t guarantee you the Latino vote.
As an Austinite and Texan, I’m subject to the political party hysteria related to the “Let’s Turn Texas BLUE!” and/or “Let’s Keep Texas RED!” campaigns. On a daily basis I hear about proposed plans for new field offices and the deployment of new dedicated, full-time outreach workers put into action to target young, non-white voters. Yet too often the outreach consultants themselves aren’t bilingual, lack culturally relevant messaging and don’t look like me.
And finally, as Latinos ponder the next election cycle, we are further insulted with new voter suppression laws that clearly insult our integrity. Are both political parties alienating a potentially powerful base of voters?
We can’t turn the “red” page or evolve the political landscape of a “blue” Texas without engaging and not taking for granted the “BROWN.”