The Latino Explosion in The South: Why The GOP Needs to Embrace Latinos ASAP

By Alex Gonzalez

Note: the term white and minority is intended only as it was used in “non-white birth” reports.     

The United States reached a milestone last year, when more “minority” babies were born than “white” babies.  But Texas and California passed this milestone back in 1989.  And while whites will remain a majority of the U.S. population for years to come, they are a minority in the Texas population, and have been since 2004. And this demographic trend nationally should not be a reason to panic, as some may want to argue. In fact, since 2004, when “whites” became the minority in Texas, and more “minority” births happened in the state, the economy of Texas grew 30% and managed to built a conservative businesses–friendly environment.  Thus, anyone wanting to preach economic laggardness, suggesting that the decline of “white” births nationally is a good indicator to predict that the country will suffer economically from this new trend, needs to look at Texas. Thus, what this new demographic shift can predict is where the country will grow politically if the GOP does not embrace these demographic changes. This are changes that can build new cultural and political voting bloc like in southern states, where states vote on social cultural values.

Among one of the most interesting characteristics of the new “non-white” births is that they are predominantly in the Southwest region, where the Latino population will predominate in the next 20 years.  But Texas and California have been on the forefront of this increasingly national phenomenon. For example, Texas will double its population from 25 million to 50 million in the next 20 years. The 2010 U.S. census estimated that 85% of population growth since 2000 was minority, which happened to be mainly Latino.  But in Texas, minority births in the state last year hit 68.5%. Consequently, at this rate, from Texas to California and Colorado, within a generation Latinos will be able to create a new regional ethnic bloc that can be converted into realignment similar to that in South in the 1960-79s when the South moved from Democrat to Republican.

Historically, there are three necessary prerequisites that will create a new political realignment in the country: one single ethnic group living in many states, continuity of states where this group resides, and specific issues important to that group.

In the South, the Civil Rights Legislation of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, created an exodus of Dixiecrats to the Republican Party.  Though some like to argue the economic mantra of low-taxes and “small governments” is what drove religious and blue-collar voters, in the South, but the reality is that social and cultural value voters consistently vote Republican for President–even if they are white and poor and enrolled in some type of welfare program.  They do so because of their religious values.  Consequently, this has been the case since Nixon built the “Southern Strategy.”

 

 

 

 

 

     Electoral Map 1960                                                 Electoral  Map 1972

Within 12 years—1960 to 1972—the entire South went from Democrat to Republican and has remained that way to this date; Bill Clinton won the in 1992-96 elections in Louisiana and Arkansas because he was a southerner. And, this political realignment occurred while the economic in these states remained poor compare to the rest of the nation.   Currently, in terms of regional poverty, the South represents a 40% share of all U.S. poverty.  Yet, Southern states continue to be a solid bloc base that votes Republican, owning to their social religious values.  So for the “social value voter,” it is not all about taxes and limited government in southern states, but rather for the conservative southerner it is all about social values and history.

Additionally, for this type of social realignment, the state’s continuity is essential because neighboring states tend to share similar cultural historical values (Scot-Irish in the South) and ethnic groups who build social political groups that embodied the group experience.  These values are the distinctive anti-federal government mind-set that predominates in the South;   This southern mantel extended across 8 states from South Carolina to Texas.  Moreover, in this  southern Republican corridor, voters care very little about low-taxes and more about their regional culture. Thus, southern Republican corridor was built on culture more than anything.

Currently, Republicans argue that Hispanics are not a monolithic group, and thus, should not be lumped together under a social conservative mantel but rather stick to economic issues.  This is partly true because as Latinos move into the middle-class, they too become more fiscally conservative and want low-taxes.  Too, as Latinos age, subsequently, they tend to become socially conservative.  But 80% Latinos in southwest—where all demographics are happening–also share the same cultural values and group experiences, Mexican-American. And since civic political groups form around the group Diaspora experience, Latino social values, in reality, can be more important in forming political ideology than simple tax rhetoric.  Some want to argue that Latinos should not  focus so much on being Latinos, but the reality is that successful political ethnic groups like the Irish, Jewish-American, and Cuban, built their political clout around their Diaspora identity in the U.S.  Therefore, like in the South, these groups too built their power on values, and cultural values are important  for Latinos, too. A new Latino South.

For example, the Pew Hispanic study shows that since four decades after the U.S. government assigned the terms “Hispanic” or “Latino” to classify and count U.S. residents who trace their origin to Spanish-speaking countries, the majority of people who make up the diverse group still don’t embrace the label.

Only 24% of Hispanic adults…About half said they identified themselves most frequently by their family’s national origin, saying they were Mexican, Cuban or Salvadoran, for example.. and 40% among those born in the U.S.

Thus, since Latinos are not embracing a Pan-Latino label, the Republican Party will have to find a way to woo Mexican-American into the GOP by directly addressing issues salient to Mexican-American in a new Southwest Latino Corridor .

If indeed California and Texas have been on the forefront of the demographic national phenomenon of minority births at 68.5%, as it was the case in Texas in 1989, Texas will double its population from 25 million to 50 million in the next 20 years.  Also, the 2010 U.S. census  estimated that 85% of population growth in Texas since 2000 was by minorities, which happens to be mainly Latino.  When the population of Texas doubles in 20 years, about 80% of the state population will be composed mainly of Latinos, Mexican-American. Therefore, the main question for the Republican Party will be how to lure at least 50% the share of this new Latino Southwester Corridor whose social cultural values may be more important than mere rhetoric of low-taxation and “limited government.”

Again, like in the South, and if Latinos are as socially conservative as many Republicans claim, social values are more important than rational economic tax conservative policies.  Republicans keep winning in the south even if those states have the higher poverty rates in the nation.  So in the south, the history (anti-federal gov’t) and religious culture is more important than conservative taxation rhetoric.  Thus, the real question is whether the Latino in the southwestern corridor may be a new social conservative religious bloc, even in poor states like New Mexico and Arizona.  The answer is yes. Religion often is more important for “social value voters” than issues of taxes.

Religion and historical experiences have a lot to do with the political social values formation for ethnic group, and Latinos are not the exception. For example, 75% of Latinos are Catholic.  But the good news for Republicans is at least 19 states in the nation where religion is very important for people the GOP lead in favorability, especially in the South.  Moreover, it also shows that the GOP and  Catholics are now building  a lasting bond,  in which  Latinos will have a great impact in the future of the Republican Party.

The other factor in this new political-religion-region triangulation is that Republican Party is becoming more Catholic.   When the map of Latino Catholics is shown the concentration mainly in the 8 states in the Southwest, from Texas to California to Nevada and Colorado, and in south Florida—the New Latino Conservative corridor? According to Robert Putnam who last year wrote American Grace: How Religion Unite us and Separate us, there is the direct overlapping between the Latinos population and Catholicism is concentrated in one single continuous region, another important prerequisite for conservative bloc.

Moreover, Putman underscores that there is triangulation between religion, ethnicity, and region because groups like to stay together and attend religious services in churches that they are familiar with. And, while there has been a “white flight” in the Catholic Church for the last 3 decades, Latinos have been the new pillar of the Catholic Church for the last 2 decades.  According to Putnam, Catholics are about 25% of the US population, a proportion that has remained steady for 3 decades. But, American Catholicism has experienced a dramatic change.  Over the last 3 decades, “Anglos”—non Latinos—Catholics have been dropping out and disengaging with the Catholic Church.  During the same periods, the numbers of Latino Catholics has grown tremendously transforming the American Catholic Church.

Therefore, though some may suggest that Latinos form of Catholicism foments a type of welfare humanitarianism; Latinos can be as social conservative as evangelicals. Conversely, what the new trend shows is that the Republican Party is now embracing Catholic tenets taught at Latino/Hispanic,  Mexican-Americans, kitchen tables throughout the new Latino Southwest Corridor.

The new demographic milestone underlining that more “minority” babies are being born than “white” babies is a Latino political tsunami, but it is not a reason to panic, since as Texas shows every since the state reach that 50% threshold of Latino “minority” births in 1989, the state economy has improve significantly. But it is a political tsunami because the new births are located in the Latino Southwestern Corridor and can be molded into a conservative social bloc if the Republican Party starts addressing issues important to Latinos, especially Mexican-Americans. In forming a new conservative Southwestern Latino bloc, the Republican Party will need to address social issues in the same fashion the Party did in the South during the Nixon and Reagan years. Therefore, The Republican Party needs to build a new Latino South.

This new demographic phenomenon is now more accelerated in Texas and California where the actual “minority” births are at 68%.   It will take only one generation to see that 68% of Texas and California of the population will be Latino voters seeking political parties that talk about issues important to them.

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