Magazine article USA TODAY

Hispanics Flex Their Political Muscle

Magazine article USA TODAY

Hispanics Flex Their Political Muscle

Article excerpt

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FROM THE TEA PARTIES to Independents, political pundits constantly attempt to draft the up-and-coming segment of the American electorate. Who will decide the 2010 midterm election? Which constituency will determine the outcome of the 2012 presidential election? What group will change the game? The answer lies embedded within the fabric of a critical domestic public policy debate. Forget soccer morns, Scott Brown Independents, Reagan Democrats, and Blue Dogs: the hottest commodity in the arena of American political engagement is no other than the Hispanic values voter and the central issue is immigration reform.

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How important is this community? Ask Pres. Barack Obama. Without the Hispanic values voter, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Florida would have fallen in the John McCain electoral count. Predictably, in the 2010 mid-terms and, more important, in the 2012 presidential election, the Hispanic values voter stands poised to impact the outcome significantly, not only in the aforementioned states, but in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Virginia. Hispanics, by sheer demographics alone, stand ready to change the U.S.'s social-political landscape.

How will the Hispanic faith voter transform our collective social political experience? By coalescing around values reflective of a community that cannot be framed in the archaic context of right or left political ideology, but rather one that stands in the nexus of a vertical and horizontal intersect. Accordingly, this voter delivers a commitment to transform society by renewing faith, broadening the values agenda, and ushering in a new social and civil rights era--all the while prompting the Democrats and Republicans to move more towards the center.

The Hispanic population is the largest minority group in the country at around 43,000,000, constituting 14% of the nation's total population. This does not include the 3,900,000 residents of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, nor the entire undocumented population. Accordingly, the total estimate stands at approximately 60,000,000. In addition, Hispanics are an ethnically and racially diverse population. For instance, the Latino population on the U.S. mainland is composed of Mexican Americans (64%), Puerto Ricans (10%), and Cubans, Salvadorans, and Dominicans (three percent each). The remaining 17% are of some other Central American, South American, or other Hispanic or Latino origin.

Further, this community exemplifies future growth capacity as made evident by the fact that 75% of Hispanics are under 40 years of age and 34% are 18 years or younger. Yet, the most striking piece of data demonstrates the need to contextualize a realignment of our national agenda incorporating the Hispanic chapter as a viable and sustainable component: the fact that one of out every six Americans is of Hispanic descent and, by the year 2020, the Latino population will total roughly 102,600,000 people, or 24% of the population.

Anecdotal extrapolation of recent research in the Hispanic community presents a community that truly embodies the faith and family agenda. Hispanics embrace the Christian faith. Not only do we embrace the faith, we live out our faith in the most private of corridors to the public square. Hispanic faith voters stem from the evangelical Christian community and the Catholic charismatic fellowships. For example, a typical voter profile from New Mexico will include the following descriptors: attends a Pentecostal church, mid 40s, middle class, and socially and politically engaged.

Correspondingly, Hispanic faith voters stem heavily from Generations X and Y, speak Spanish and English fluently, and resonate with a strong social conservative belief system, yet embrace a populist economic policy. Hispanics personify the message of the Christian cross. A cross that is vertical and horizontal. Our community reflects that symbol in our befiefs, culture, and witness. …

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