The gift we give
With the votes tallied, and experts polled, now we can answer the biggest question of the 2008 presidential campaign: Did Latino voters make a difference?
National Council of La Raza reports that Latinos turned out in record numbers. The organization says at least 10 million Latinos voted (out of a total population of 44 million), which represents an increase of 32 percent from the 2004 presidential election.
NBC News surveys showed that Barack Obama grabbed two-thirds of the overall Latino vote, and John McCain got 32 percent. George W. Bush took 44 percent of the Latino vote in 2004.
The Latino vote increased dramatically and hurt McCain in the battleground states of New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Florida.
In 2004, Hispanics accounted for about 8 percent of total turnout in Colorado, according to Andres Ramirez, vice president for Hispanic programs at NDN, a Democratic think tank. In 2008, they accounted for 17 percent. In Nevada, there was a turnout increase from 10 percent (in 2004) to 16 percent. And in New Mexico it went from 31 percent to 41 percent.
Obama took the majority of the Latin vote in Florida, where Cuban Americans have consistently voted Republican. But today Florida Latinos are more diverse as Puerto Ricans and Central and South Americans have shrunk Cuban Americans to a minority. And now Latino Democrats outnumber Latino Republicans.
And here in Arizona, where Obama didn’t make a campaign stop, 68 percent of Latinos voted for Obama, while 32 percent sided with native son McCain.
So what drove record numbers of Latinos to the polls?
Most experts agreed that it was the scary economy. A Pew Hispanic Center survey listed the top issues for voting Latinos as the economy, then education, health care, immigration and the overseas wars. But the wallet bumped other issues.
While this presidential election was exciting, one local expert on Latino politics advises that all elections – national or local – are important for Latinos to vote in and to run in.
“I’m convinced that there is a future presidential candidate in our midst,” says Raul Yzaguirre, former president of the National Council of La Raza.
So the answer is Yes, Latinos gave the country the gift of helping to clear the way for America’s first truly multi-cultural president.
Also in December’s Latino Perspectives, there may be some families out there wondering if the Grinch stole traditional nanas. In our monthly feature, writer Julie Amparano profiles modern abuelitas who break the grandmother mold.
As a gift to Arizona, we proudly unveiled an inaugural tribute honoring Dr. Pete R. Dimas and the veterans of Post 41 in Phoenix. Latino Perspectives and the Raul H. Castro Institute co-published the book The Faces of Post 41 that will be distributed in schools as part of our continuing mission of documenting Latino contributions to Arizona and to the world.
Feliz navidad y prospero año nuevo.