Awash in the Mainstream: Latino Politics in the 1996 Elections

By Rodolfo O. de la Garza; Louis DeSipio | Go to book overview

8
Election? What Election?
Illinois Latinos and the 1996 Election

Louis DeSipio

Illinois Latinos were bit players in an election that largely passed the state by. Bill Clinton won the state's electoral votes and Dick Durbin won the state's open U.S. Senate seat with sizable majorities that would have only been slightly diminished had no Latino voted. In the state's one Latinomajority congressional district, the Latino officeholder held on to his seat -- without major party opposition. This victory, however, was clouded by judicial threats to the majority-minority districting rules that had spurred the drawing of this district in the first place. In sum, Illinois Latinos had few opportunities in 1996 to play an expanded political role. Their votes were only marginally important and no one -- neither Latino leaders nor non-Latino political institutions -- took a particular interest in mobilizing their votes in 1996.


Latinos and Illinois Elections

Illinois Latinos offer an interesting case through which to examine the future of national Latino politics. In all other states with sizable Latino populations, one of the Latino national origin groups has dominated; the Illinois Latino community, however, has been made up of multiple Latino populations since the 1950s. Certainly, the phenomenon of heterogeneity of origins within a given state or region is becoming a national one, but it happened in Illinois first and forced Latinos there to work in pan-ethnic coalitions long before Latinos did so in other states ( Padilla 1985). Panethnic Latino politics has not always been successful, nor has it eliminated the saliency of politics organized around Mexican American or Puerto Rican ethnicity. Nevertheless, pan-ethnic politics is deeply enough

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