by Kristin Tate
The recent battle over a citizenship question on the 2020 census perked up ears and attention on both sides of the political aisle. Part of why there was the sharp division over this question comes from obvious partisan concerns. Governors of states with high numbers of illegal immigrants such as California and Texas realize that including the question would result in a loss of representation in Congress and the Electoral College, along with prospective federal funding changes. President Trump and his administration had wanted to return the historical question to the tally.
But there is also a fight over what the 2020 numbers tell us in terms of demographics and election results. The 2018 Texas Senate race and the stark transition of California into a Democratic stronghold intimates that changing immigration numbers could transform electoral politics for generations to come. Major alterations to immigration law since the 1960s have deprioritized migration from Europe and increased illegal entry at the border with Mexico. The Democrats are awaiting a majority minority nation, which could indeed become a reality over the next two decades.
Whites tend to vote Republican, while nonwhites tend to vote Democrat. This proved true in the 2016 election, when Trump carried white voters by 20 percent, while Hillary Clinton won 74 percent of nonwhite voters. With the number of Latinos living in the United States nearly doubling since 2000, it is not difficult to see why Texas could soon follow California, Colorado, and Nevada into the Democratic camp in the next 20 years.
Using the 2000 census and the 2010 census along with 2018 data, the electoral reality becomes more clear. The population of those under 18 will be majority nonwhite next year. Each of the major ethnic groups is expanding at different rates. By averaging the rate of annual population change between 2010 and 2018, we get an estimate of 2020 demographic figures. The number of Latinos will likely increase to nearly 63 million in 2020, an astounding 24 percent higher than in 2010. Latinos will comprise 19 percent of the overall population by 2020, up 50 percent from 2000. Finally, the proportion of whites as a percentage of the overall population will likely decline from 69 percent in 2000 down to 59 percent in 2020.
Should the demographic trends continue down the same path in future elections, there is a potential bloodbath for the Republican Party on the horizon. Due to the fact that the children of most recent immigrants are often under 18, modern elections actually underestimate the future voting potential of Latinos and other immigrant groups. In 2016, 29 percent of the electorate was nonwhite, but almost 40 percent of the country was nonwhite. Over the next decade, young nonwhites will reach the age of the majority of the electorate and begin their political participation.
Had the 2016 voter population reflected the coming 2020 demographic mix, the electoral outcome would have likely been strikingly different. Combining the 2018 exit polls and our next census estimate, the results shift dramatically from 46 percent Republican and 48 percent Democratic to a 42 percent Republican and 52 percent Democratic. Of course, these are estimates based on exit poll data. Variables such as candidates and other demographic shifts could yield dramatically different results. But recent history and census projections seem to point in one direction.
There are other potential changes this country could see over the next two decades. Many Latinos and Asians from mixed ethnicity marriages often identify themselves as white, especially if their families have long roots in the United States. What if census estimates do not reflect this identification in coming estimates? Moreover, not every minority group votes the same, considering that Republicans resoundingly won the Asian vote in the 2014 midterm elections. Cuban Americans and Venezuelan Americans also tend to vote more conservative than Mexican Americans.
While Republican strategists may see coming demographic changes as a crystal ball projecting their doom, it is not too late. If the party does not change its outreach, the results will be disastrous, but a combination of effective policy and messaging could make a key difference. Conservative fiscal policies have worked across the board for each group in the nation. The Latino unemployment rate reached a record low in the last year, as the strong economic policies of Trump have had a clear positive impact on the immigrants who run a fourth of the small businesses in the nation.
It is time for the Republican Party to redouble its efforts and explain how its policies have opened wide the door to the American dream that many immigrants, both legal and illegal, have come here to be a part of. Latinos and their descendants already make up a crucial part of our tapestry and are likely to be the electoral kingmakers in coming decades. Republicans represent the reasons why so many immigrants came to this country for economic opportunity, equality before the law, and no socialism. Can they communicate this message in time to save their own electoral future?
Kristin Tate is a libertarian writer and an analyst for Young Americans for Liberty. She is an author whose latest book is “How Do I Tax Thee? A Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off.” Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.