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Latino Voters Continue to Grow in Influence, but Still No Love From the GOP

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voting boothAs we’ve written about in post after post, a seismic demographic change is underway in the U.S., but both political parties still seem to be ignoring the facts and their electoral implications.

An article in today’s New York Times underscores the numbers:

Minorities accounted for 98 percent of the population growth in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas over the past decade, according to a new report, as the country’s white population continued to stagnate, and in many places, decline.

Hispanics and Asians led population growth in the country’s 100 largest metropolitan areas over the past decade, growing by 41 percent and 43 percent respectively. The population of blacks grew by 12 percent, and the aging white population was largely flat, increasing by less than 1 percent.

What does this population increase mean?  It means that immigrants are keeping America young and dynamic while the rest of the Western world is growing old.  It means that immigrants will help maintain a steady labor base as the extra-large baby boomer generation ages and retires.  And it means that the immigrant vote—in particular the Latino vote—will grow in influence, especially in key swing states like Colorado, Florida, and Nevada.   

What are these voters, with their newfound clout, going to be most interested in?  An ImpreMedia-Latino Decisions poll found that a near-majority of Latino voters rank immigration as their top priority, a greater percentage than those who named jobs/economy or education.  A second poll found that 53% of Latino voters personally know someone who is undocumented, while 25% personally know someone who has been deported or is facing deportation proceedings.

While the Latino vote typically skews Democrat, a 35% approval rating on how Obama has handled immigration means that the demographic is up for grabs.  Unfortunately, the Republicans, right now just kicking off a primary campaign full of immigrant bashing and border-fence-worshipping, are too pandering to the nativist flanks of their party to focus on the true demographic prize.  Even Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a leading architect of the Tea Party movement, had to comment on how the GOP is shooting itself in the foot:

Who in the Republican Party was the genius that said that now that we have identified the fastest-growing demographic in America, let’s go out and alienate it?…Republicans have got to get off this goofiness…Ronald Reagan said, ‘Tear down that wall.’  Tom Tancredo said, ‘Build that wall.’  Who’s right?

The next GOP primary debate has been set for next week, September 7.  That means the candidates can spend another two hours on television lamenting about border security and evading questions on immigration…or they can actually do the smart thing and put forth a decent, common-sense proposal on immigration reform.