Ethnic Ironies: Latino Politics in the 1992 Elections

Ethnic Ironies: Latino Politics in the 1992 Elections

Ethnic Ironies: Latino Politics in the 1992 Elections

Ethnic Ironies: Latino Politics in the 1992 Elections


Ethnic Ironies describes the role of Latino electorates in national- and state-level politics during the 1992 elections. The book examines Latino politics from the top down- looking at the efforts of candidates and campaigns to speak to Latino concerns and to mobilize Latino voters- and from the bottom up- reviewing the efforts of Latinos to win electoral office and to influence electoral outcomes. Chronicling the campaigns and uncovering patterns of Latino influence, the core of the book consists of eight state-level analyses by experts who have observed firsthand the states with the most sizable Latino electorates. An overview chapter synthesizes and integrates the findings of these case studies, placing them in national perspective. Ethnic Ironies is the third in a series of studies on Latino electoral behavior published by Westview Press, including From Rhetoric to Reality: Latino Politics in the 1988 Elections and Barrio Ballots: Latino Politics in the 1990 Elections. This latest study also serves as a companion volume to Latino Voices: Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban Perspectives on American Politics and New Americans by Choice: Political Perspectives of Latino Immigrants.


At the start of each new presidential election cycle, political reporters engage in the ritual of writing background stories about the American electorate. In recent years, these include articles about the potential political influence of the Latino community. Will Latinos finally wield the kind of influence in the upcoming election that their population numbers suggest they should have, they ask, or is this the year that the Republican party will make significant inroads into the Latino vote? Often, the press looks to party operatives and political consultants for answers to these questions, and the professionals, ever mindful that expectations matter greatly in politics, "spin" their responses with careless disregard for the evidence of recent history.

In fact, the best answers to these questions lie in the results of the last couple of elections. While normal electoral patterns occasionally undergo sweeping and dramatic political shifts due to extraordinary events, major crises, or charismatic individuals, change tends more typically to be evolutionary and incremental. Fortunately for political scientists, groups and interests show remarkable continuity in their behavior over time even when individuals act less predictably. Recent history, it turns out, does contain lessons for those who are willing to learn.

The value of this volume and its predecessors is that they establish a historical record about Latinos and national elections that enables us to distinguish between constant and variable behavior from one election to the next. Also, instead of the projective spin that political operatives offer, the scholars in this volume have tried very carefully and dispassionately to determine precisely how influential Latinos were in the 1992 election.

There is much useful descriptive detail in the pages that follow, but at the same time, all of the authors have tried to do more than simply detail what happened in each state. They have also attempted to come to grips with the questions of what it means to have influence over an election, and whether Latinos met those conditions in 1992. Several themes emerge from the experiences of the states discussed in this volume.

The first is that the federalist structure of U.S. elections mediates the influence of Latinos in various ways, some positive and some negative. The presidential election itself has two components: the popular vote . . .

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