There has been much dialogue in political circles that the political system in the US has undergone a political realignment with the shift in power in the political landscape favoring the Democratic Party. The degree of this realignment has been subject to enormous debate. However, there is no absence of doubt that the Democratic Party has gained considerable traction among the American populacein particular among Hispanic voters. An indication of how important the Latino electorate is becoming is visibly seen in the impact that the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court may have in solidifying Latino support for the Democratic Party. In fact, the current success of the Democratic Party may be a long-term problem for the Republican Party. One can point to the future trends of the demographic characteristics of the US population to have some clarity on why this concern has grown in recent years.
According to the current US Census, the population of African Americans and in particular Hispanics, has grown considerably in recent years. Predictions by the Census have found that in the next decade, the population of these two groups will continue to grow at a considerable clip, particularly Hispanics. The population of Hispanics will grow by 15 million persons (15% to 18% of the US population), and African-Americans by over 6 million (from 13% of the population today to 14%). The population of White Americans is expected to grow less than 5 million, an actual decline in the share of population from 66% percent today to 61% in 2020. Since both African Americans and Hispanics historically have registered and voted Democratic nine out of 10 African Americans and two out of three Hispanics vote Democratic the problem for Republicans is that the party could, in time, be relegated to the status of political minority.
Evidence for this has grown if one looks at certain key states. The Democratic Party has begun to slowly gain traction in the traditionally Republican states such as Texas and Arizona. These historically more politically conservative states have seen a mobilization of new Democratic voters in 2008, in part as a result of the strong followership of Barack Obama. Additionally, at the state level, with the redrawing of legislative district boundaries to reflect population changes following the decennial census, it is probable that a number of states could naturally turn Democratic simply as a bow to changing population realities.
To some solace for the Republican Party, many Hispanics could shift to their party given the partys broad appeal to religious Americans. If the Republican Party were to shift its political platform to appeal to its conservative base, it is probable that many Hispanics could turn to this party, given Hispanics more conservative views when it comes to social issues. Further evidence of this could be seen with the passing of a ban (via state referendum) of same-sex marriage in a traditionally liberal state of California (in 2008). The working partnership of Republican Party and religious organizations in this state was largely responsible in turning this vote in their favor by appealing to socially conservative Hispanic voters. Since Hispanics are a growing populace in this state, and voted in larger numbers in the 2008 election, the political reality is that although this voting bloc votes Democratic in general elections the reality is their conservative ideology on social issues can certainly be tapped. If Republicans could transform this kind conservatism on social issues into voting behavior among Hispanics, the political consequences could be enormous and stunt the growth of the Democratic Party.
The reality here is that shifting population dynamics will continue to have major consequences in the future of our political parties. Such a change in population demographics could dramatically change the political landscape and cause a disruption in the political system not seen since Ross Perots Independent candidacy in the 1992 presidential election.
Emanuel G. Boussios is a visiting assistant professor of sociology at Hofstra University. Email: Emanuel.Boussios@hofstra.edu.
From The Progressive Populist, July 1-15, 2009
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