Conventional Wisdom Wrongly Underestimates the Latino Vote — Again | Commentary

Posted September 12, 2014 at 2:58pm

We are still here. No matter how hard our opponents try to push us down, no matter how much the media tries to send us back into political slumber as election time comes around, the Latino community is alive and well and continuing to fight for our issues, such as immigration reform.

This is not idle chatter. Together, we represent successful online and on-the-ground campaigns that focus on Latino civic engagement. We work with the knowledge of two important facts: the Latino vote will continue to grow —there will be more Latino voters this November than in the last midterm elections — and the road to the White House goes through the growing Latino community.

The fact is, we have never left the arena. For more than a decade, the Latino vote has grown with each election — from one midterm election to the next, and one presidential election to the next. Citizenship, voter registration and voter mobilization drives are year-round efforts in Latino communities. Nor are we alone, as grass-roots organizations like ours have helped build partnerships with business, labor and faith communities. Ours is a permanent political force.

Perhaps it is a little too easy for prognosticators to overlook the passion and commitment of Latino voters and assume they are too angry and frustrated over the immigration stalemate to even bother voting this November.

Indeed, both of us remember the promise of immigration reform that came from President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012. That year, political analysts paid no attention to the Latino vote until days before the election. But, after our historic turnout, there was little doubt, as the polls closed across the country, that Congress had felt the push from the Latino community to enact immigration reform. The Latino vote — the longtime sleeping giant of the electorate — had awakened with a loud roar demanding immigration reform and respect.

Congress stalemated the issue, creating frustration in the Latino community. Then, when the president delayed using his authority to provide temporary relief from needless deportations until after the 2014 elections, it took only seconds for political junkies to declare the Latino vote “dead” for 2014.

Not so fast. The Latino community is already on the move toward Nov. 4.

As Hispanic Heritage Month gets underway, more than 40 organizations, including the Spanish language media, have joined forces to remind Latinos to rise above our political differences and unite as a community by registering to vote.

When our community votes in November, it will be a well-informed electorate. It will know how each member of Congress supported or stood in the way of immigration reform, based on the 2014 National Immigration Score Card developed by national Latino leaders.

Latinos know they are the reason the immigration debate got started. After our record turnout in the 2012 election immigration reform legislation received strong bipartisan support in the Senate. The legislation was taken to the Senate floor by the majority leader who owed his 2010 re-election to Latino voters who demanded a seat at the policy table and a Senate vote. The re-election of senators in Colorado and California that year also solidified the support for immigration reform.

The Republican-controlled House cowered to nativists who oppose immigration and blocked the legislation, falsely believing they could ignore the Latino electorate. The decision angered our community because it killed the best chance we had in years to fix the immigration system. That move by House leaders will have long-term consequences with the Latino electorate.

This November, more than 7.8 million Latinos are expected to vote, up from 6.6 million Latinos who voted in the last midterm election in 2010, according to projections by National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

We will stand tall because we have pride in our culture and we recognize the growing power of our vote. We realize that the only real way to force political change to with a strong showing at election time.

The Latino vote will keep growing and we will win enactment of immigration reform. And we will keep fighting for our other priorities: growing our economy while safeguarding workers’ rights, and protecting our environment so that our children can live healthy and productive lives.

We will keep voting. After all, the next presidential election is only two years away.

That’s why we are still here and we will be a major political force for years to come.

Maria Teresa Kumar is founding president and CEO of Voto Latino; Ben Monterroso is executive director of Mi Familia Vota.