There is no doubt that Latino participation in elections has grown over the past 20 years. In fact, in 2008, Latinos played a significant part in deciding who would be the next president of the United States, ultimately becoming the largest demographic swing vote of that election.
In fact, in states like Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, and even Indiana and North Carolina, Latinos did their part in deciding who won the electoral votes. Latinos are no longer a regional voting power, but a group of voters that has a significant effect on elections across the nation.
Fast-forward to 2010, and Latinos are again poised to be a big factor in the midterm election equation. They will play a deciding role in California, Florida, and New Mexico, and their turnout will be closely monitored in Texas and Arizona. No party should ignore Hispanic voters, the fastest-growing segment of the electorate. While some politicians demonize Latinos, others believe they need not do anything to get our support; both approaches are ill-conceived.
The factors driving Latinos to the polls this time around are a point of debate in the media, but standing up to vote for respect may be the biggest reason. The motivation is crystal clear: As recently as this month, groups have been airing ads asking Latinos “not to vote” in the election, because the issues that matter to Latinos have been left on the backburner since 2008. As frustrated as we may be with congressional inaction, no group has ever effected change by staying silent.
This holds true today. The Hispanic community is under attack, as evidenced by the tactics of this election season. Politicians have demonized Latinos and immigrants, called for “micro-chipping” immigrants, proposed placing landmines at the border, threatened to do away with birthright citizenship, and, in general, created an atmosphere that is anti-Hispanic and un-American. Latinos have a long and proud history in America, and we need to leverage our history of participation to stand up and support the millions of hardworking Latinos who are part of the fabric of this nation.
This is why the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) has launched the Vote for Respect campaign. The campaign includes work with community-based organizations in 22 states, a voter participation pledge, celebrity and community public service announcements, and a single by Grammy Award-winning multicultural fusion band Ozomatli that calls on Latinos to show up on Election Day for their community and their country.
Now, more than ever, the Hispanic community needs to stand up and be heard.
Clarissa Martínez De Castro is Director of Immigration and National Campaigns for the National Council of La Raza, the largest national Latino civil right and advocacy organization in the United States.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog by our guest elections columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of California Forward or our Leadership Council.