Immigration and Latinos in Election 2010

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on October 6, 2010

The New York Times reports on how Latino voters may sit out the midterm elections (based on a Pew Hispanic Center survey). That's not surprising. Non-presidential years usually see lower voter turnout overall. And the party in the White House typically see fewer of its voters go to the polls.

Latinos disproportionately vote Democratic. About two Hispanics are Democrats to each one who's a Republican.

What's interesting about the expected low Latino turnout is that tough immigration stances by most Republican candidates haven't sparked Hispanic voters to action on Election Day. Rather, all the empty talk and unrealistic promises from President Obama to La Raza has disheartened this component of the Democrat base.

For the voter segments most actuated to get to the polls this year, immigration enforcement and opposition to amnesty have risen to salience on the voter issue agenda. The Times story notes:

"In every single race I'm looking at, candidates are being asked, 'Would you sign an Arizona-like immigration law?' " said Jennifer Duffy, an editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "It's now on the list of issues like a balanced budget amendment and a tax cut. It's part of the political lexicon and it fires people up.

The Times reported which issues are most important to Latino voters: "education, jobs and health care trump immigration as major issues." These constitute "aspirational" issues, subjects on which Latinos and Republican candidates are more likely to hold similar goals. Such issues hold great promise for the GOP to increase its share of the Hispanic electorate.

Instead of focusing myopically on pandering on immigration issues to pick up Latino votes, Republicans should focus on aspirational issues that unite that voting bloc with independent voters who are fed up with Washington. There are a lot more independent voters – and will be for the foreseeable future – than the Latino electorate. And independent voters are a whole lot more gettable until we reduce immigration levels and promote assimilation into the middle class.