Following their stinging losses nationwide a few weeks ago, it was clear that there would be “soul searching” in the Republican Party, as many news sources put it. Well, apparently, it didn’t take very long for a consensus on one point: it’s time for the GOP to earnestly reach out to Latino voters.
This comes in the wake of a slew of sources trying to make sense of the election results, mostly by slicing up the American electorate to generalize a narrative about it. Do we as Americans enjoying being categorized and then generalized about? No. But I think, at this point, demographic groups are still just one of the best ways we know to digest large amounts of social data.
One of the most popular ways to examine ourselves is through the racial/ethnic lens: Obama had a lockdown on the black vote, with latinos breaking for him 71% to Romney’s 27%, and almost 60% of white voters preferring Romney. Jews were reliably Democratic, but perhaps becoming less so, and it seems no one bothered to count the Native American vote, even though they may have tipped some western Senate races to the Democrats.
Others have sliced the country up by age, gender, education, religion, or class. The gap between the parties on all of these (except maybe education) was quite wide. Mathis at The Atlantic thinks that almost all of these are really just facets of Republicans losing the urban vote.
With all these points of view, it makes a lot of sense that Republicans see their future with the Latino vote. Getting the youth vote would be very hard at this point, and would probably involve embracing gay marriage and some form of environmentalism, alienating the religious right and the business wing of the party. Winning over women would require flexibility on contraception, abortion, and the idea of “traditional family values,” all of which are rather central to the GOP’s current social platform. It seems they have all but written off blacks as Democrat cronies beholden to liberals for handouts, and with that attitude, they are unlikely to attract too many African American voters anytime soon. Same for the very poor.
Latinos, on the other hand, could be welcomed into the party with less painful policy changes. Although I hate the implication that they are one-issue voters, immigration reform is still very important to Latinos, as evidenced by exit poll responses. Shifting to a softer stance on immigration is not as hard because the business community and the libertarian wing of the party are already for it. The national security hawks will want strong border security, but could be convinced not to oppose citizenship reforms. The religious right will be heartened by the perception of Latinos as very religiously Christian. This just leaves the xenophobes and the “They took errr jobs!” folks who will be unhappy. But if the conservative thought leaders and talking heads start softening their rhetoric, I hope it might dull some of this sentiment. Either way, it’s not like those types of people are going to suddenly flee the GOP and vote Green Party.
There is already strong evidence of this shift. FOX News’ Sean Hannity immediately softened his hardline stance on immigration after the election, saying, “I think you control the border first, you create a pathway for those people that are here, you don’t say you gotta home. And that is a position that I’ve evolved on.” Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of FOX, signaled a new tack for the conservative network, tweeting: “Must have sweeping, generous immigration reform,make existing law- abiding Hispanics welcome. Most are hard working family people.” Charles Krauthammer, another anti-amnesty FOX hardliner, also softened his position while speaking on the air. John Boehner has signaled more willingness to work on the issue, and Republicans like Marco Rubio, Lindsay Graham, and John McCain, who have always favored a more open position towards Latino immigrants, are starting to find the wind at their backs.
I believe many Latinos, for their part, will be willing to reciprocate this change of heart. Some Latino communities lean conservative on social values, and are open to more libertarian economic principles, especially those that run small businesses or have been economically successful in the U.S. Others believe more strongly in economic justice and a robust safety net, even while they might sympathize with the GOP’s religiosity and focus on a strong family unit. In this way, working class Latinos are not that different from the rest of the U.S. working class, and purging racist/xenophobic sentiments from the Republican Party would make some Latinos feel like they have a legitimate choice between ideals. Latinos come from such a diversity of backgrounds that there really is no reason for them to behave like a bloc… unless one party systematically treats them that way to their detriment. At the same time, Republicans may have an overstated view of Latinos’ “traditional values,” since a majority now support gay marriage, and in general Latinos are less likely to vote based on social issues. This is especially true of younger folks.
Despite some flaws in their theory, however, this pragmatic shift in the GOP is a good thing. It means immigration reform might be the first major issue in recent memory where we see bipartisan cooperation. There will still be many disagreements on the details, but for the first time, both parties seem to have major incentives to get something done, and appear to building the will to do so.
Still, it feels like something is missing from my little analysis here… did I forget to mention something or someone? Oh that’s right…
How come everyone leaves out Asians when talking about voting blocs? Maybe because they are so diverse, coming from so many different countries… wait, same for Latinos. Ok, maybe it’s because they don’t vote as a bloc? Well guess what: Asian Americans voted for Obama by an even larger margin than Latinos. 73% of Asian Americans chose the Obaminator, decisively handing him a victory.
The GOP’s relationship with Latinos is extremely important, but I think they are missing a huge wakeup call from the Asian community. Bill Clinton only won 31% of the Asian vote twenty years ago, so this is a constituency that Republicans have been steadily losing, despite it representing on average the most affluent racial group.
And the cherry on top: Asians are now the fastest growing immigrant group in the United States. This has not been widely circulated, so I’ll give it a moment to sink in. Read that again: Asians are now the fastest growing immigrant group in the United States. Despite the way everyone talks about Latinos, they are not the fastest growing immigrant group anymore. When our immigration policies are changed, the changes will be mostly affecting Asians, for as long as this trend continues.
So that means that while the GOP is scrambling to whip out their “Learn in Your Car” Spanish tapes, they should also consider talking a little less crazy about China. Because 3.4 million Chinese Americans probably don’t like it when you sound like you want to kick their home country in the balls while shouting, “America, f*** yeah!” Supporting more Asian Americans to run for office and not taking the Asian community for granted probably wouldn’t hurt either (for both parties).
And that is the extent of the analysis I feel like doing on the election and it’s aftermath. Good day!