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November 11th, 2008
08:30 AM ET

Jose the Voter: Realigning the electoral map

Maria Teresa Petersen
Founding Executive Director, Voto Latino

When you consider how Barack Obama remade the electoral map, flipping red states to blue, it's clear that John McCain should have been talking about Jose the Voter instead of Joe the Plumber. And with Latinos constituting the fastest growing group of Americans, it's clear Republicans need an emergency plan to win back Latino voters, or this realignment may be long-lasting.

In 1992, 5 million Latinos voted; this week, approximately 12 million voted, and the trend is up, up, up. Given that there are 46 million Latinos in America and only 18 million are eligible to vote today, as younger Latinos reach voting age and others become citizens, we are facing a cresting wave of Latino voters that will continue well through the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections.

For many Latinos, this was the week they cast their first ballot. After a divisive immigration reform debate which many Latinos saw as disrespectful in tone, Latinos turned against the GOP and Obama outperformed Kerry among Latinos by 13 percentage points. Obama won the Latino vote 2-1 and that's what put him over the top in tight elections in Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, and Florida. As Latinos migrate beyond the coastal states of California and New York, in coming elections, Latino voters will mean the difference between winning or losing traditionally red states like North Carolina and Georgia.


In fact, when you put together the solidly Democratic African American electorate with the newly leaning-Democratic Latino electorate, many more red states – including in the Deep South – could become blue in the coming years. This is quite literally an existential threat to the GOP as we know it.

Of course voters don't always stick to one party for the long term, and Latinos are no monolithic community. But Republicans who seek to rebuild their party must recognize that America has become a diverse country and the GOP needs to reflect that. Republican leaders in the House need to move toward reasonable immigration reform while denouncing hateful language that has defined their party among many Latinos. They must support Republican Latino candidates in red states and push for federal support to close the Latino education gap.

If they do this, they will be doing it against the backdrop of a Democratic party that will likely be seeking to solidify Latino voters the way they solidified African American voters during the Johnson Administration. President-elect Obama would be wise to include a Latino Agenda among his top policy priorities in the beginning of his term. He would also do well to appoint several Latinos to the highest-level positions in the government, perhaps including Governor Bill Richardson as Secretary of State.

The fight over Latino voters may well define the nation's electoral map for the next twenty years. To the extent this battle for a key voting block leads to reasonable immigration reform, a closing of the Latino education gap, and the engagement of millions more Latinos in the democratic process, it's a battle America and both political parties should welcome

Here are some photos of Voto Latino doing GOTV and Registering people to vote in Denver:

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Great idea KY John!rouble!

    John that is the best idea that I have heard in a while.. Heck most people only need $200,000!! Pay everything off and get normal everyday Americans out of trouble

    R in Cali
    ____
    Make the map all blue and solve the economic ill’s. Instead of a bail-out costing 700 billion or another economic stimulas package costing 150 billion, why not give each and every of the 306 million American’s just one lousy million? The average american could pay off their house (mortgage crisses solved) pay for college, cars, (if only we had a chioce besides gasoline) credit cards AND put a nice bit into savings. Let US solve the crisis! Price tag $306,000,000.
    John in KY

    November 11, 2008 at 8:09 pm |
  2. Alex, Fl

    It is interesting to observe how many ethnic groups are going to take credit for electing Barak Obama. In my view, the reason was not the 12 millions Latinos that had voted or the 96% African American for Obama as oppose to 4% McCain. I, as a Republican (Moderate) voted for him as many others Republican (Jews, Asians, Whites). We voted for Obama for the failed last 8 years of Mr. Bush in power. We voted for him for the hijacking of the GOP by the neo-conservative. We voted for him for Mr. Bush foreign policy failures; as many of you recall his Secretary of State abandon him. More is the failure of 2 wars with no ending in sight.

    Mr. Obama’s did not get elected to the Presidency by one ethnic group. He was elected based of the promises he made, such as ending the Iraq war and bringing the troops home. He was elected to repair the image of the USA abroad, in addition to repairing the economy. He was elected for correct choice of Biden as oppose to Palin. There is many, many reason which is too long to state.

    As a Republican, I have voted twice for a democrat (2004 and 2008).
    The GOP should have taken notice in 2004 when they lost the house and senate.

    November 11, 2008 at 6:53 pm |
  3. Melissa, Los Angeles

    McCain actually was a huge illegal immigrant sympathizer but received a lot of flack for it which is why he had to back off. Too bad the Latinos weren't paying attention to know that.

    November 11, 2008 at 5:18 pm |
  4. jim

    It is true McCain failed to focus on the latino and the religious right. votes. He ran an awful campaign. I thought he was purposely trying to lose the election. He should have at least defended Bush's record considering he inherited a recession fro DEMOCRAT Clinton and 9/11 which was mostly caused by President Clinton's inaction on the first WorldTrade Center attack and the USS Cole..The current economy is better than it was inthe Jimmy Carter Administration. If all this was brought up at the debates, Barack Obama would not have been elected.

    November 11, 2008 at 4:41 pm |
  5. Diane - IL

    It's about time the Republican party woke up. McCain thought that Joe the Plumber would help him win middle class votes, but to me, Joe appeared to be a bit of a redneck. Maybe if Joe were Jose, Jumoke or Jin, we would have been able to connect with the plumber. The face of America is changing and we no longer will sit by idly. The nation has spoken. Change has come.

    November 11, 2008 at 1:31 pm |
  6. John

    Make the map all blue and solve the economic ill's. Instead of a bail-out costing 700 billion or another economic stimulas package costing 150 billion, why not give each and every of the 306 million American's just one lousy million? The average american could pay off their house (mortgage crisses solved) pay for college, cars, (if only we had a chioce besides gasoline) credit cards AND put a nice bit into savings. Let US solve the crisis! Price tag $306,000,000.
    John in KY

    November 11, 2008 at 12:15 pm |
  7. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    Interesting article. One thing the Republicans do that offends is their Spanish language ads! The Republicans lead the cry in the "English Only" battles, yet when they need our vote, they speak Spanish!!

    Most Latinos see the Republicans as major hypocrites. All one has to do is listen to the Republican-mouthpieces of Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly and others, to know that the far-right hate Latinos and would love for us all to be deported!

    Why would any Latino vote for a candidate whose party, wants to destroy their culture and their language?

    November 11, 2008 at 10:47 am |