By Enrique Acevedo
April 26, 2016
Over the past two decades the Latino vote has grown into an influential force in presidential politics. Now, millions of new voters are showing up at the polls, driven to a great extent by the anti-immigrant sentiments espoused by Republicans.
Back in 1996 an unprecedented 72% of Latinos voted to reelect Bill Clinton over Republican candidate Bob Dole. It was a race that marked the birth of the modern-day Hispanic electorate. Clinton’s edge was propelled by opposing an anti-immigration ballot initiative in California known as the “Save Our State,” or Proposition 187.
The California ballot measure, supported by Republican Governor Pete Wilson, denied services such as public education and healthcare to undocumented immigrants.
Democrats understood immigration issues as a major part of Latino identity and a cause that unites the Latino vote. Republicans didn’t get it. Consequently, California, which at the time was considered a swing state, became solidly blue. Today, registered Republicans make up less than 28% of the electorate in California. Arnold Schwarzenegger is only Republican who has been elected on a statewide ballot since Proposition 187.
More than a decade later Republicans still didn’t get it—or were simply too timid to stand up against the most reactionary elements of GOP, such as the Tea Party crowd. Between 2010 and 2011, Republican-controlled state legislatures around the country approved more than 160 anti-immigration laws, including the infamous SB-1070 in Arizona and Alabama’s HB 56, which racially profiles undocumented immigrants.
Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s call for self-deportation during the 2012 presidential campaign hammered the last nail in his coffin. Latinos responded by reelecting President Obama with a record 75% of the Hispanic vote.
And still, history continues to be ignored.
Trump kicked off his campaign last June by blasting Mexican immigrants as drug-traffickers and rapists, calling for mass deportations and the construction of a “beautiful” wall across the U.S.-Mexico border paid by the Mexican government. Trump’s campaign recently outlined it would pressure the Mexican government into paying for its ridiculous plan by preventing undocumented immigrants in the United States from sending money back home to their families.
Two of Trump’s senior advisors, Senator Jeff Sessions and Kris Kobach, helped to orchestrate the 2010-2011 state legislative push to pass anti-immigration laws across the country.
The GOP finds itself in more of the same this election cycle. Internal divisions have allowed loud voices from the radical fringe to hijack the party once again. If 1996 sparked the Latino political revolution, 2016 will mark its fastest spread across the country as a record number of Latinos seek citizenship and register to vote against Trump.
According to the New York Times, naturalization applications increased by more than 10% last year. A new poll released last week by America’s Voice and Latino Decisions found that 48% of Latinos are more enthusiastic about voting this year than they were in 2012, and 41% said their enthusiasm is driven by their opposition to Trump. The latest Univision Washington Post poll revealed 8 out of every 10 Latino voters have an unfavorable opinion of Trump.
To Hispanic America, Trump is the new Proposition 187.
More than 13 million Latino voters are expected to cast their ballots in November. Latinos could decide key races in states like Florida, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia.
Still, Republicans insist on swimming against the current, even after their own post-2012 autopsy urged them to alter course.
Make no mistake, Latinos will come out to vote in record numbers in November. And their vote will prove, once again, that in this new American reality no one can get the White House without a broad and diverse coalition that includes Latino voters.
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