Latino surge will affect 2012 election - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Latino surge will affect 2012 election

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Posted: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 11:17 am

Remember when "cognitive dissonance" was in vogue to explain why things didn't square? It's that queasiness you get from hearing conflicting ideas simultaneously. Experts say we are naturally moved to reduce dissonance and that might happen by changing attitudes, beliefs and actions.

That's one of the feelings I get as I see many jumping the gun and reading into the 2010 Census's Hispanic numbers as if they are fortune tellers. Some commentators (often partisans, I might add) are quick to point out that Democrats are now stronger than ever and Republicans are disadvantaged, maybe for decades, if they recover at all.

The release of the 2010 census got political analysts clucking about how one out of six people in the United States is Latino. Twenty-three percent of U.S. children under age 18 are Hispanic.

Given that nearly 6 million Latinos became eligible to vote in the past decade, the Latino voting potential will only increase for the foreseeable future. And party advocates, partisans and members of the political class began a new round of speculation about how the voting will sort out.

The speculation seems to me a little like going to get a custom-tailored suit made but deliberately having the tailor use measurements one wants to have instead of the body shape we actually possess. Like that, the census is a mirror that reflects, but it is not wish fulfillment. It is also a head's up to Republicans about how to shape a mainstream strategy instead of evangelizing to increasing numbers of fringe groups before the GOP mainstream becomes a bevy of marginal beliefs.

The 2010 census tally basically tells us that roughly 10 new congressional districts with Hispanic majorities will be carved out in various growth states. This will cause other states to surrender a like number of congressional seats, with the losing states having less electoral-college influence in 2012.

The jockeying is going to get intense.

For example, President Barack Obama, who won the battleground states of Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida in 2008, is projected by Latino Decisions, a voter-tracking group, to be in jeopardy of receiving 58 fewer electoral votes in 2012 than he did in 2008. The final count will depend on outcomes in such non-Obama strongholds as North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Ohio and the 2nd House district in Nebraska, which are possible Republican pick-ups in 2012.

Nor are the high-growth Obama states of New Mexico and Nevada necessarily safe ground. In 2010, they elected Hispanic Republican governors. And Florida, which Obama carried in 2008, elected a Latino Republican U.S. senator. Depending on which scenario one accepts, the numbers come perilously close to the 270 needed for re-election. That might explain why Obama announced his re-election campaign on April 4, well ahead of any major Republican contender, with a staggering potential of up to $1 billion in campaign spending.

In fact, the Latino vote has become so elemental that analyst Matt Barreto estimates, given a competitive statewide election, Latinos have the capacity to influence electoral outcomes in 24 states.

This is not electoral chump change. One would think that high-stakes politicians and parties would place topmost on their agenda issues that coincide with Hispanic interests such as immigration reform, the education Dream Act, more rigorous professional public-school standards, methods to help everyone with college credits complete their programs and home-finance reform.

Yet, offensive, even criminal, rhetoric goes mostly unrepudiated by national Republican leaders. And far too many Democrats are comfy that the Latino vote has nowhere to go but to them. Double-crossing Democrats and unresponsive Republicans basically want to lay claim to a bloc of votes but not pay rent. We are witnessing squatting as a political strategy and that doesn't make sense.

Consonance, unlike cognitive dissonance, is when a person is consistent in thinking, talking and doing. That's what is lacking -- a coherent link between politics, policy and outcomes -- to justify political support.

Lack of it is called cognitive dissonance.

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