The dancing in the streets has subsided since Tuesday. Of course, I remain stunned that we had dancing in the streets at all. Seriously, does anyone remember this kind of orgiastic response over election results? Before this, the standard imagery was supporters in ballrooms laughing and waving signs, but now we see impromptu parades and ecstatic outbursts on street corners and strangers hugging each other in every city in the world. But maybe it just overwhelms in comparison with recent history, because the last two elections provoked either muffled wailing or smug insinuations that God had spoken.
Among last week’s celebrants were Hispanics. Anyone tuning in to more than twelve minutes of television coverage heard how the Latino vote was key to Obama’s win. We even got more air time and credit than the fabled youth vote.
The facts are that Hispanics favored Obama by more than two to one over McCain (67 percent to 31 percent, according to MSNBC). Looking at it another way, Latino voters accounted for 11 percent of Obama’s vote and 6 percent of McCain’s total.
In addition to crunching the raw numbers, MSNBC ran an analysis under the particularly ominous headline “What if there were no Latino voters?” (Indeed, many Republicans are probably muttering that exact phrase).
The analysis found that the Hispanic vote was the difference in New Mexico and Indiana, which means that in a Latino-free world, Obama would have still won the electoral vote but in less decisive fashion. However, being the swing group in two states is pretty cool, and Hispanics continue to exert their prominence in places such as California and Texas.
More interesting still is the fact that the biggest percentage increases in Latino voters happened in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada – all battleground states and all now freshly blue. As the GOP well knows, those states are getting more Hispanic, and those Hispanics are getting more Democratic, especially the younger generation.
Speaking of younger Latinos, they helped Florida become Obama country this year. Our new president won 57 percent of the Hispanic vote in that state, which is astonishing when one considers that the large Cuban American population there has been, in the past, so hardcore Republican that they make Rupert Murdoch look like a gay vegan folksinger in comparison.
Perhaps second- and third-generation Cuban Americans are tired of hearing how voting for the GOP is the only way to stick it to Fidel. They either don’t believe it (Castro is hanging on to power with his last, frenzied breaths and will only be removed through a natural death) or they simply have more pressing concerns, like job losses and collapsing education systems and shoddy health care and a thousand other American issues that have nothing to do with the unresolved, dusty battles of their grandparents.
One final bit of intriguing news comes courtesy of the Pew Hispanic Center. They found that 8 percent of this year’s voters were of the brown-skinned variety. Truthfully, this could have been better, considering that we make up about 14 percent of the population.
Regardless, it’s clear that Latinos, like just about every other demographic except for white evangelicals, were caught up in Obama frenzy this year. The long-term implications for Republicans look grim, as we get younger, more numerous, and more liberal.
And now that we have our first minority president, isn’t it just a matter of time before someone whose last name ends in Z takes the oath of office? It may be years away, but it’s coming.