My response to this San Stein story about the fast-growing Hispanic demographic reality that will imperil the GOP is that it’s a story, but maybe not as big as this makes it out to be.
On May 26, the Census released what an official at the bureau described as “the latest, most up to date data on the Hispanic population in the United States.” The numbers, culled from its 2010 survey, tell a remarkable — albeit anticipated — story: The Hispanic population is growing at a rate much faster than any other demographic.
“The new census data affirms that one of the great stories of the 21st century is the changing majority of America from a majority white country to a majority minority country,” said Simon Rosenberg, president and founder of NDN, a Democratic-leaning think tank that has focused heavily on Hispanic issues. “From a national political standpoint it’s a huge development.”
Currently, 50.5 million Hispanics live in the United States (roughly 16 percent of its 308.7 million population), a significant increase from the 35.3 million Hispanics in the country in 2000. The 15.2 million difference accounts for more than half of U.S. population growth during that same time period.
This growth is particularly acute in the South and Midwest, in addition to more established areas like the Southwest. It’s only a matter of time before this becomes a factor in elections.
But Democrats would have to earn any benefit from these demographic shifts. This will be a fickle electorate and a difficult one to get to the polls for the near future. Republicans are clearly doing what they can to alienate these voters, and maybe that will be enough to motivate them. But that’s not a given forever. By 2016, Republicans could run a Hispanic-friendly (Jeb Bush) or even a Hispanic (Marco Rubio) candidate for President. That “huge weapon” for Democrats comes from the same demographic that gave George W. Bush over 40% in 2000 and 2004. It’s just not a given, especially if Democrats overcompensate on near-term issues like border and worksite enforcement. In addition, kitchen-table issues like the economy will still drive a lot of Hispanic voters, as well as social issues where they mirror the views of conservative Catholics. Hispanics could easily decide that both parties are equally inattentive to their needs.
I would pay close watch to the skirmish between Rubio and the Tea party on immigration as a leading indicator. If the xenophobes still rule the Republican Party, they will miss out on this huge demographic opportunity. That doesn’t mean Democrats will capitalize, but it means Republicans won’t.