A long-expected day finally has arrived: Hispanics now outnumber White non-Hispanics in California, or will before spring turns into summer. The Golden State is the second state to achieve this, after New Mexico, but the Land of Enchantment is considerably smaller (and has always been its own socio-cultural-political curiosity), so this is a considerably more significant event.
Hispanics are not a majority in the state, just a plurality. They’re at an estimated 39%, to White non-Hispanics’ 38.8%. Asians are at about 13%, with African-Americans just under 6%.
Ruben Navarette has a slightly cheeky response to the news.
A state that was once controlled by Mexico, before Manifest Destiny came along and ordained that God wanted white folks from Kansas and Missouri to have it, is now heavily populated by the runaway children of Mexico and their offspring. An enormous swath of oceanfront property has been reclaimed without a formal declaration of war.
And somewhere Michelle Malkin, America’s most nativist immigrant-child is having a heart attack, or at least will probably pretend one to get more clicks. But Navarette’s talking about the irony of the situation, and here’s his real claim, the truth of which Malkin and her ilk (bad people always have an ilk, right?) refuse to accept.
Forget what you’ve heard about a reconquista: the fabled reconquering of the Southwest by Mexican-Americans on behalf of Mexico. That’s loco. Most Mexican-Americans are barely on speaking terms with Mexico. We (I am among them) understand that our neighbor had no room in its economy for our dark-skinned, uneducated parents and grandparents, who were forced to go north. Now, most of us reciprocate and have little room in our hearts for Mexico. Our loyalty is to the United States. Even if we were speaking to our Mexican brethren, we’d be conversing in different languages. Most Mexicans speak Spanish, and about 80% of U.S. Latinos speak English.
This is not a temporary event. Even absent further immigration, the differing direction trends of Hispanics and White non-Hispanics are only going to continue, based on the age demographics of the two groups
And of course this matters for U.S. politics, because California is the biggest prize in presidential elections, with 45% more electoral votes than 2nd place Texas. And after a couple of decades of both major parties fighting for the Hispanic vote, the Democrats are winning it hands down.
Hispanics are still a smaller proportion of voters in California than White non-Hispanics, but with a younger Latino population, and an older White non-Hispanic population, Latino strength is only going to continue to grow.
But Republicans’ Hispanic problem is not limited to California. The Hispanic population of Texas—which as we’ve seen has the second largest number of electoral votes—is poised to surpass the White non-Hispanic population, perhaps by the time of the 2020 presidential election. And while Texas Hispanics are somewhat more likely to be Republican than Hispanics nationally, they still favor the Democrats.
Since at least the early ‘90s, if not before, political strategists have been looking at the growing Hispanic population and hoping to harvest it. Although the Democrats traditionally have been the party of ethnic minority Catholics (Irish, Italians, Poles) Republicans have long thought they might be able to win Hispanics over on “family value” issues, particularly abortion, which in the ‘80s became a wedge issue for divorcing Catholics from the Democratic Party (Reagan allegedly said, “Hispanics are already Republican, they just don’t know it.”) And any Southern Californian whose been to the park on a Sunday afternoon can attest to the family orientation of the Hispanic community.
But it’s not going to work for the GOP. Hispanics aren’t wildly enthusiastic about abortion, but in a bit of politically wonky math, 77% identify as pro-life, and 72% identify as pro-choice. That is, large numbers of Hispanics identify as both. And support for legal abortion is highest among younger Hispanics and those who are second and third generation Americans.
They’re also relatively accepting of homosexuality, and they are more supportive than the general population of same-sex marriage. We normally don’t think of Hispanics as supportive of homosexuality. There is a tendency, I think, to focus on the conservativeness of Mexican culture, and perhaps to implicitly operate off the stereotype of the machismo that sometimes is prevalent in that culture. It’s time to start paying closer attention.
This is going to be a tough demographic battle for the GOP. I’m not a Democrat, so I’m not rejoicing, I’m not a Republican, so I’m not gnashing my teeth, and I’m not a Hispanic so I have no personal stake in the outcome. But I am sitting on the sidelines with a big bucket of popcorn, watching with great interest to see how this all plays out.