GOP Needs to Build Stronger Relationships With Latino and Asian American Voters, Not Bigger Walls and Detention Centers
A new Pew Research report, released on the 50th anniversary of the landmark Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, documents startling demographic changes to the U.S. population and the American electorate in recent decades. The report’s summary notes:
“Fifty years after passage of the landmark law that rewrote U.S. immigration policy, nearly 59 million immigrants have arrived in the United States, pushing the country’s foreign-born share to a near record 14%. For the past half-century, these modern-era immigrants and their descendants have accounted for just over half the nation’s population growth and have reshaped its racial and ethnic composition.
“Looking ahead, new Pew Research Center U.S. population projections show that if current demographic trends continue, future immigrants and their descendants will be an even bigger source of population growth. Between 2015 and 2065, they are projected to account for 88% of the U.S. population increase, or 103 million people, as the nation grows to 441 million.
“…Non-Hispanic whites are projected to become less than half of the U.S. population by 2055 and 46% by 2065. No racial or ethnic group will constitute a majority of the U.S. population. Meanwhile, Hispanics will see their population share rise to 24% by 2065 from 18% today, while Asians will see their share rise to 14% by 2065 from 6% today.”
These demographic changes have already transformed our national politics. Consider these two facts: in the 1988 presidential election, Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis lost white voters by 19 percentage points, while only winning 111 electoral votes (of 538 total) in a blowout loss to Republican nominee George H.W. Bush. In the 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama lost white voters by an even greater margin than Dukakis, 20 percentage points, yet nonetheless won a resounding 332 electoral votes in his re-election victory over Mitt Romney. The reasons? Dominant Democratic performance among the growing share of the electorate comprised by Latino and Asian-American voters, along with historic turnout rates in the African-American community.
In 2012, Latino voters supported President Obama by a whopping 75%-23% margin over Romney, according to Latino Decisions Election Eve polling. Asian-American and Pacific Islander voters supported Obama and Democrats by a lopsided margin as well in 2012 – the media-sponsored national exit poll showed 74% of Asian-American voters supported Barack Obama, while an Election Eve poll of Asian-American voters conducted by Asian-American Decisions for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) showed a 72%-26% advantage for Obama. Latino and Asian-American voters weren’t always overwhelmingly pro-Democratic – as recently as 2004, George W. Bush received approximately 40% of Latino voters in his reelection campaign (winning a greater share of Latinos in some of the Latino-heavy battleground states), while in 1992, Democrat Bill Clinton only received the support of approximately 1 in 3 Asian-American voters.
The Republicans’ brand image as anti-immigrant and hostile to the demographic realities of today’s America is perhaps the biggest single factor in the Latino and Asian-American exodus from the Republicans. Now, by stoking fears of these new Americans in an attempt to appeal to a shrinking contingent of aggrieved white voters, Donald Trump and fellow Republican contenders seem poised to outdo the mistakes of Mitt Romney in 2012 and to destroy the GOP’s 2016 general election chances in the process.
On “60 Minutes” last night, for example, Trump continued to outline his vision of mass-deportation, telling Scott Pelley of CBS News that under a President Trump:
“We’re rounding ’em up [undocumented immigrants] in a very humane way, in a very nice way. And they’re going to be happy because they want to be legalized. And, by the way, I know it doesn’t sound nice. But not everything is nice.”
Trump’s radical, nativist vision is not falling on deaf ears. Instead, Latino voters and Spanish-language media are engaged and angry – and prepared to exert their clout at the 2016 ballot box. In fact, as Adrian Carrasquillo of Buzzfeed reports, “Spanish-language television giants Univision and Telemundo have given GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump more coverage than all of the other major [English language] broadcast networks combined.” As leading Congressional immigrant rights champion, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, recently stated: “The way we respond to racism is by voting and in Latino and immigrant communities, we are getting that message loud and clear.” Keep in mind the analysis from Latino Decisions that the 2016 Republican nominee will need to win between 42-47% of Latinos to win the 2016 presidential popular vote and recognize that the Latino voting bloc is growing more sizeable by the day – a recent article in National Journal highlighted that, “Every 30 seconds, a Latino turns 18 and becomes eligible to vote. That’s about 66,000 every month, or 800,000 every year, according to the Pew Research Center.”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “The Pew Study is a stark reminder to the Republican Party that to rebuild its brand with Latino, Asian Pacific Islander American voters, the Party needs to look ahead and not backwards. The current GOP primary season, with its talk of huge walls, mass deportation, ‘anchor babies,” and changing the U.S. Constitution deport millions, has been an unequivocal disaster. In fact, the Republican front-runner is openly calling for the mass expulsion of one quarter of the Latino population and seven percent of the Asian American population in America. The demographic changes that the Pew report underscores have already arrived, whether Republicans recognize this transformation or not. If they continue to appeal to the fears and resentments of the ‘other’ instead of recognizing the realities of the new American electorate, they will cease to be a nationally competitive party.”