By Alex Gonzalez
Latinos in America need to stop complaining about voter rights and voter ID laws, and get serious about voting. They should also shake off the idea that Latinos are being victimized with laws to suppress their Vote. I am not suggesting that there is no harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric in some circles, or that there is no voter suppression; the veneers of American politics if filled with those facts – from the Protestant wanting to suppress the Irish catholic vote, to southerners wanting to suppress the black vote. And there is abundance of evidence that underlines that in the southwest, states have codified laws to discourage the Mexican-American vote. So voter suppression is part of American politics, let’s not be naïve about it.
As historian Cal Jillson wrote in his book Lone Star Tarnished
Race and ethnicity have been profoundly important in American and Texas history. Distinctions of race and ethnicity were written into every U.S. immigration statute from the 1790s through the 1950s and remain central to our discussions of immigration today. Similarly, Texas used its constitutions and laws to define who was welcomed, who was excluded, and with what degree of force.
But if in fact there is voter suppression in places like Texas, and other states, such laws are not what is hurting the Latino community. It is the idleness, or apathy, among Latino voters that is really at fault.
Last week the Economist had 15-page especial report about Hispanics. One article titled “ is not our thing” was in reference to the dismal Latino turnout.
True, concerns among Latino organizations and political activists, from both parties, that Republican, especially in the House of Representative, are pandering to hardliners on Immigration; and that is a valid argument since even some Republican in the House have voiced these concerns publicly, and they voted against repealing DACA. And this is an impending disaster for Republican presidential candidates in upcoming election of 2016 with Latinos voters who. And here is why.
Hispanics are a powerful, growing bloc in terms of the popular vote and the Electoral College. They exceed their share of the overall population in only nine states, only three of which could be considered swing states (Colorado, Florida, and Nevada). So their vote, as group, is essential in swing four states – Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada – to get 270 Electoral Votes; and these are states where Latino turnout is higher than in states like “Red” Texas or “Blue” California.
The issue of immigration is going to be at the hot wedge issue for GOP candidates wanting to stir the base. However, Latinos have the power and the numbers to change the tone on immigration and, if they would vote more. But Latinos suffer from a self-inflicted wound: voter apathy. see graphs below.
I made these graphs showing the demographic Latino “wave” and how many millions are eligible to vote. The graph at the bottom shows Latino participation in presidential and mid-term election. The fact is that voter turnout among Latinos is dismal, especially in mid-terms elections.
There is no reasonable argument, other than apathy, to explain how out 25 million of eligible voter, only about 7.6 million voted in 2014 and 11 million in 2012. ( Note: the U.S. Census will release the actual numbers on turnout in late April or early May. the 7.6 million is an exponential estimate based on previous trends )
Thus, Latinos have to take responsibility for this, because as it stands, apathy is the greatest enemy of Latinos in Texas and the U.S. And voting apathy is a greater enemy than any tea party group, more detrimental the voter ID laws and redistricting, and more detrimental than populist tea party politicians like Ted Cruz that uses immigration to stir the base. Sure Democrats love to blame the tea party, but Latinos need to be held accountable for their apathy as well. Latino voters have no one to blame but themselves.
Latinos have YOUNG VOTERS problem.
With its diverse population, and correspondingly lower education and income levels, Texas abounds in factors that dampen turnout. Chief among them: politically apathetic youngsters.
“The Hispanic bloc is large but politically sluggish. Texas is a “majority-minority state” with a large, fast-growing Hispanic population. But that group tends to vote in lower percentages than non-Hispanic whites and blacks. Though other large states have somewhat similar demographic profiles, none faces the same challenges as Texas, said Rice University researcher Steve Murdock. The median age here is 33.6, lower than Florida’s 40.7 or New York’s 38“.
In the 2014 mid-term election, only about 12% of voters between the ages of 18 to 29 voted. So this is not only Latino apathy problem but a young problem also because about 33 % of all those Latinos eligible to vote are in that age bracket. According to the Pew Hispanic:
Low voter participation rates among Hispanics are due to many factors. First, the relative youth of the Hispanic population may impact overall Hispanic voter turnout rates. Young people turn out at rates lower than that of older eligible voters. This is true among Hispanics….young people are a larger share of eligible voters than they are among other groups. In 2014, 33% of Hispanic eligible voters are ages 18 to 29. By comparison, among white eligible voters, 18% are in that age group.
So the numbers are there for Latinos to shake up the political establishment in big states like Texas and California and nationally, but they just need to stop napping, and young Latinos need to get more involved.
Perhaps, if Latinos would stop with the whining of voter ID Suppression pushed by black leaders like Al Sharpton and white progressive liberal that insist that Latinos are a victimized needy minority. the politics of “victim-hood” is bad for Latinos because once Hispanic-Americans are socially categorized as a needy brown minority; their opportunities are limited to what they can achieve under that needy minority stigma; instead, they need to become active voters.
There is a reason why Republicans fear the Jewish vote; Jewish-Americans are the more civically engaged ethnic group and have the highest turnout than any other voting ethnic group. There is a reason why Republicans in Florida fear the Cuban vote; Cubans are the most civically engaged ethnic groups in the state with the “Cuba issue,” even if they are turning Democrats.
American Plural Democracy is not for wimps; in Plural Democracy, groups fight for political power and representation in government. And nobody is going to relinquish power voluntarily. So Latino need to get serious about voting and play less the “minority” label and the politics of grievances and be more active. Latino voters have no one to blame but themselves if they don’t come out and vote.
And sure Latino will have clout in swing states like Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida, but in swing big states like Texas and California Latinos need step up their turnout to elect candidate to Congress that will advance their interest.