Friday, July 17, 2009

Will the GOP Continue to Lose Hispanic Votes?

Following Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court back in May, we commented that the GOP would be unlikely to filibuster her confirmation because of a fear of losing Hispanic votes.

Of course, with Sen. Al Franken being sworn in earlier this month, it is extremely unlikely that Senate Republicans could pull off a filibuster anyway. But even if they wanted to, as blogger Glenn Thrush said, “every GOP leader with a pulse knows that opposing her could accelerate the stampede of Latinos out of the GOP in the southwest, west and Texas.”

In fact, our very first post back in October explained how winning Latino support was putting then-Senator Barack Obama over the top in states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. The GOP has tried to be cautious of the growing significance of Hispanic votes.

Apparently, that fact is of no concern to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Ranking Minority Member, Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Since the confirmation hearings began earlier this week, Sessions has been in (what appears to be) full campaign mode against her.

Just watch his message consistency as he questioned her on Tuesday:

Sessions knows full well that nothing can derail a Senate Judiciary confirmation like charges of racism. When President Ronald Reagan nominated him to be a District Court judge back in 1986, the GOP-controlled Judiciary Committee rejected him upon the following stories:

Senate Democrats tracked down a career Justice Department employee named J. Gerald Hebert, who testified, albeit reluctantly, that in a conversation between the two men Sessions had labeled the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)… "un-American" and "Communist-inspired." Hebert said Sessions had claimed [the NAACP] "forced civil rights down the throats of people."

…Hebert testified that the young lawyer tended to "pop off" on such topics regularly, noting that Sessions had called a white civil rights lawyer a "disgrace to his race" for litigating voting rights cases…

…Another damaging witness--a black former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama named Thomas Figures--testified that, during a 1981 murder investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he "used to think they [the Klan] were OK" until he found out some of them were "pot smokers."…Sessions, he said, had called him "boy" and, after overhearing him chastise a secretary, warned him to "be careful what you say to white folks."

So, when you want to court Latino voters - as President George W. Bush did fairly well in his two national elections - letting a man like Sessions be the chief opponent of a Sotomayor confirmation seems like a particularly dumb move on the part of the GOP.

Why is Latino support so critical?

Hispanics are the second largest ethnic group in the United States, and they’re continuing to grow. As NBC’s Chuck Todd and Sheldon Gawiser pointed out in their book Why Obama Won:

"Young voters are more diverse racially and ethnically than older voters and are growing more over time. Just 62% of voters under 30 are white, while 18% are black and 14% are Hispanic…in 2000, nearly three-quarters, 74%, were white."

And as we all know, young voters were particularly supportive of Obama. The correlation is that as younger voters grow older - and more and more young people reach the voting age - Hispanics will become a more and more prominent voting bloc.

What makes Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination so important is that there are still few Latinos holding high offices in the U.S. government. Hispanics represent about 15% of the American population, but only about 6% of the House of Representatives and 2% of the Senate. Furthermore, in 2008, only 7.7% of federal employees in the civil service were Hispanic, with only about 3% holding senior roles.

This might be an important reason as to why Hispanics made up only 7.4% of the total vote in 2008 - they seldom have one of their own to support.

While there are many non-partisan groups for the advancement of Hispanics in public life out there - such as the National Association of Latinos in Elected Office, The Leauge of United Latin American Citizens, and La Raza - the most successful groups of these sorts would be partisan.

The reason is simple: those involved with the parties themselves are often more experienced and would have a greater incentive to build support by recruiting Latinos for public office (namely, building a base to win elections for their party).

And between their nativist stance on immigration and now Session’s stark opposition to confirming Judge Sotomayor, the GOP is becoming less and less likely to be the party to achieve this goal. Thus - despite their efforts to the contrary - it seems evident that the Republicans will continue to lose out on the growing Hispanic vote.

1 comment:

Adriana said...

Nice blog post. My view is that if the anti-Latino rhetoric continues, then yes, the GOP risks losing the Latino vote. However, a lot of that hinges on how we remain engaged.