US Latinos Show Their Strength

The morning after Barack Obama’s election victory, a message was posted in Spanish on his website: “Together,” it said “we have reached our goal. Together we have demonstrated to the country and the rest of the world that change is possible”. It was a clear acknowledgement of the significant role played by the US Hispanic community in the battle for the White House. An estimated 130 million Americans cast their vote. Around ten million of them (8% of the total electorate) were Latinos – three million (32%) more than in 2004 and almost double the number in 2000. This reflects the fact that 1.5 million Latinos have obtained US citizenship over the past two years. In 2004, Democratic candidate John Kerry obtained 56% of the Hispanic vote and George W. Bush 44%. This time, however, Obama won 66% against McCain’s 33%.
In Florida – traditionally a Republican power base – he was supported by 57% of the State’s Latinos, who (so it seems) now attach more importance to Obama’s health care proposals than the removal of the Fidel/Raul Castro regime in Cuba.

The US Hispanic community is “currently pre-occupied by two factors: the economy and immigration reform” (Clarissa Martinez de Castro, Immigration & National Campaign Director of the Consejo Nacional de la Raza). Over 800,000 Americans – 372,000 of them Latinos – have had their homes re-possessed in 2008. According to Frank Sharry (Executive Director of ‘America’s Voice’), perceived Republican hostility towards Latinos in general and Latino immigrants in particular drove ” This fast- growing group of new voters…into the hands of the Democrats”. In Colorado, registered Latinos increased from 8% (2004) to 17% (2008). Of these, 73% favoured Obama. It was a similar story elsewhere: New Mexico’s Latino electorate (41% compared to 32% in 2004) chose Obama by 69%-30%. and also helped local Democrats win two Congessional and one Senate seat. Nevada ( Kerry 60% – Bush 39% in 2004) was even more emphatic, giving Obama a 78% – 20% margin as well as a Congressional seat to the Democrats.

Some US commentators consider that even Republican States such as Texas and Arizona could eventually change sides if the new Administration succeeds in defusing the ‘anti-immigrant mood’ prevailing in parts of the country and reduces raids on ‘indocumentados’. Failure to do either, however, could lead to disillusionment throughout the US Hispanic community. “We have to continue fighting for our cause” (Martinez de Castro). Barack Obama didn’t take Latino support for granted during his campaign and is unlikely to do when he becomes President.

Filed under: Politics | Posted on November 5th, 2008 by Colin D Gordon

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