Friday, January 27, 2012

Not their grandmothers' electorate

Apparently tonight the participants in the latest Republican clown show debate bumbled and stumbled around over which presidential hopeful would be more eager to deport undocumented grandmothers. No kidding.

It's not surprising that the essential futility of these guys comes out in Florida over immigration issues. The Republican party has had a good long run since Richard Nixon at being the bastion of frustrated white resentment, but their country is not the country we live in, in many places today and everywhere going forward. The country is changing.

Florida is one of the places where demographic shift is happening fast. According to the 2010 census, Florida's is about 58 percent white, 22 percent Hispanic/Latino of any race, and 16 percent Black. Unlike any other group of Latinos in the United States, Florida's Cuban immigrants tend to be Republicans, but these days they are more and more balanced out by Democratic-leaning Puerto Ricans, Mexican Americans and others from countries to the south.

Contemporary Republicans have nothing much to say to Latinos, aside from anti-Castro Cubans. Their white base won't let them deal sensibly with the fact of 11 million people who live here without papers. So we get the kind of nonsense Mitt and Newt traded tonight.

In the Boston Review, Stephen Ansolabehere pointed out some less obvious ways the electorate is changing that bode ill for Republicans:

Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, and other states have recently enacted measures calling for stricter enforcement of existing immigration laws. Some of these measures even aim to deny birthright citizenship to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. These initiatives, overwhelmingly supported by Republicans, drive Hispanics to vote increasingly for the Democratic Party.

… Most of the demographic change in the American electorate today comes not from waves of new immigration but from the echoes of past immigration: the children of immigrants and their children. Nationwide roughly 21 percent of white citizens are under eighteen years old, compared to 44 percent of Hispanic citizens. Over the coming decade, aging alone will increase the number of Hispanics who are eligible to vote by 25 percent.

Hispanic voters will continue to emerge in Texas, California, and other states where Hispanics have long been gaining in numbers. But the tide of Hispanic citizens is rising in some surprising places as well. The states with the highest percentage of Hispanic citizens under eighteen years old are North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, and South Carolina.

And closing the borders will not appreciably affect the increasing numbers of Hispanics and Hispanic voters in the United States for a simple reason: the Hispanic population is already sizable and has a much higher birth rate than the white population. The policies that the parties pursue now on immigration, education, and other matters that particularly affect Hispanics will define electoral politics for generations to come.

Today Markos Moulitas of Daily Kos, himself of Greek-Salvadoran ancestry and so quintessentially a modern citizen of the U.S., mocked the idea that Republicans were going to pick up Latino votes.

Latinos may be disappointed in the lack of progress on immigration reform the last few years. But they saw who voted against the DREAM Act in Congress, and they see who is still campaigning against the DREAM Act. They see who is demagoguing Mexico and kowtowing to the notorious Latino-hating Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and they see who is passing anti-immigrant laws in places like Arizona and Alabama. They know that Romney wants to make things so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they "self-deport."

There may be disappointment in Obama and the Democratic Party among Latinos, but … there is zero opening for Republicans with this key, growing, demographic.

Note to discouraged white progressives: people of color have a lot of experience with making disheartening lesser evil choices. For most of U.S. history, that's all that was on offer -- none of the available politicians really represented them. Grown ups make the best of bad choices -- and then know that political participation doesn't end when the election is over. Why sometimes, people have to go on to Occupy ...

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