The Latino Vote: Did the Sleeping Dragon awake?

Everywhere you turn these days people are hyperventilating to “the Latino vote” and how pivotal it was during this election. Latino voters accounted for 10% of the electorate during this election, which is no small number, but one of the downsides is the fetishizing of Latinos as a consequences — both in politics and especially in the media.

The truth is, Latino voters as a bloc helped President Barack Obama win Florida, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Virginia and several other states, according to political science professors who study Latino voters. And Latinos voted for President Barack Obama in margins upwards of 70%. So, the facts are that Latinos not only voted for the president, but they voted for Democrats and their agenda, which is to say that both the Democrats and Republicans understand now more than ever the importance of pandering to this group.

What does that mean for us, Latinos who voted and will continue to vote and advocate for our community to vote in greater numbers?

First for me, it means that the media needs to get serious about including Latino professionals and sources in substantive ways. I’ll never forget how, on election night, white men who never touch on Latinos or Latino issues suddenly became experts on how they were voting, why they were voting, and what they were thinking. What’s more, demographers and political wonks who are quoted or appear on these media are also suddenly experts in Latinos.

That needs to change.

Secondly, it means Latinos need to recognize this power and work to develop it within our own communities. Look at what happened with the DREAMers — after years of organizing, President Obama created a policy to make a place for them. What we do, when we do it together, can matter.  If we stop acting like we are powerless or don’t matter, and begin to get involved and ask for things, we can make a difference.

Finally, I think the most important indication from this election is that it’s a sign of the future to come — where Latinos will be 30% of the population by 2050. That’s less than 40 years away, I will still be alive at that time, and so will many Latino voters and so when we cast our vote for the future of this country, we are casting a vote for ourselves and our children. If that doesn’t give you a reason to vote, I don’t know what will.

Copyright 2012 by Sara Inés Calderón.