The Hispanic ascendancy
Published: November 9, 2012
ON THE right, President Barack Obama’s
surprisingly solid victory Tuesday is being attributed to his
success at buying the loyalty of low-income Americans by
expanding government benefits and handouts, while on the left,
it’s being celebrated as the long-overdue triumph of the
interests of the masses over the privileges of the few.
You could hardly come up with more divergent interpretations.
But one thing both sides agree on: His victory could not have come without the huge increase in the number of Hispanic voters in the country over the last 20 years.
According to exit poll data analyzed by the New York Times, in 1992, whites made up 87 percent of the electorate, a number that this year had fallen to 72 percent. Meanwhile, in just the past four years, 4 million Hispanic voters were added to the electorate, increasing their share of the vote to 10 percent.
And while 59 percent of whites supported Mitt Romney for president, 71 percent of Hispanics picked Obama. Combine the president’s support among them with the 93 percent of blacks and the 73 percent of Asians who backed him, and you had an unbeatable formula for Democratic success at the polls.
Obama himself agreed with this analysis.
“A big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community,” he told The Des Moines Register last summer, after announcing his administration would grant work permits to illegal immigrants who came to this country as children.
It’s long been true that a majority of whites vote Republican. The last time a Democratic candidate for president captured most of the white vote was in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson trounced Barry Goldwater. But only recently has the minority vote been large enough to sway an election.
The question for Democrats and Republicans today is: How long-lasting will the minority-Democratic Party alliance prevail?
Most analysts in the post-election debate are acting as though it’s permanent.
“The 2008 and 2012 Obama coalitions are no longer the exception to electoral politics. They are the new rule,” wrote Juan Williams in the Wall Street Journal.
“The conservative consensus that took hold of America with Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 is over,” trumpeted Bob Moser in The American Prospect.
And in New York magazine, Jonathan Chait called last week’s election, “the white right’s last gasp.”
Little mentioned in their analyses was the fact that Obama’s success also sprang from his solid support among low-income voters, not to mention the longstanding tendancy of people to start voting Republican as soon as they move out of low-income groups and start paying plenty of taxes.
Last week, 63 percent of voters with annual incomes less than $30,000 backed Obama, while Romney was the choice of 54 percent of voters who make more than $100,000 a year — proportions that have been evident in many elections.
Conservatives would say that the failure of Obama’s economic stimulus programs, and the colossal debt he ran up to implement them, will keep the country’s poor that way for a long time, not to mention add to their numbers. Free markets and individual intiative are the only forces that can lift large numbers of the poor out of their poverty, as they have done in many parts of the world over the last 200 years, Republicans say.
Meanwhile, Democrats claim that it’s the Republicans who perpetuate economic hardship among the masses, including Hispanics and other minorities, and that only liberal policies will provide a path to prosperity for them.
If the Democrats are right, now is their chance to prove it. But in the process, will they be saying goodbye to a lot of their voters?