The GOP’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy proposals may be awakening a sleeping giant of the American electorate. Latinos have consistently been less engaged in politics than average, as measured by voter registration and turn-out. The GOP’s punative proposals for immigration, such as making crossing the border without proper documentation a felony, may finally galvanize Latinos into becoming permanently mobilized. Expressions of Latinos frustration and anger at what they see, rightly, as an attack on their communities have sparked massive protests across the country with hundreds of thousands in the streets.
This vigorous and growing backlash against the demonization of the Latino community may be the great un-heralded factor in the 2006 elections. The GOP has made much of its efforts to court Latino voters on the basis of cultural issues for the past decade, and they have made significant inroads into that demographic. But I have to wonder if the GOP’s demogoguery on the issue of immigration isn’t going to undo much of that work and return many Latinos to the Democratic party as well as mobilizing previously unengaged voters in opposition to the GOP’s policies.
If just a few thousand current voters shifting from R to D is combined with higher new voter registration rates among Latinos, CD 8 could slip permanently into the blue. CD 8 has the highest percentage of Latino voters outside the Democratic strongholds of CD 7 and CD 4, so any swing of Latino voters toward the Democratic party and toward greater levels political participation will affect CD 8 disproportionately. CD 8 is already considered a very competitive swing district, it may soon become a ‘safe’ Democratic district, thanks to the policies of that faction of the GOP which sees immigration as an issue which they can use to mobilize their base. Politics have a certain physics, too. For every action there is an equal of opposite reaction.
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