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Anthony J.

Yarnall - POL S 359 11/30/2016

Escalator Vote
Essay #2 ~ Prompt #1
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During the contentious federal elections of 2016, 27.3 million Latino Americans were

eligible to vote. From a more engaging perspective, this number comprises a staggering 12% of

the American voting population (Pew, 2016). One might theorize that a group this prodigious in

number would form a formidable voting bloc, with individuals translating their common stance

on relevant issues into de jure policy with their votes. At this juncture, it seems this wave of

Latino political power has yet to fully substantiate. According to figures reported by Professor

Jordan-Wallace during a lecture at the University of Washington, only 53.6% of Latinos voted

during the 2012 federal election. The potential numerical power of the Latino population is

stymied by low (but generally increasing) turnout, spurring many pundits and political scientists

to deem the group a sleeping giant. Is this nomenclature applicable when referencing

Americas young and ethnically heterogeneous Latino constituency?

To better investigate whether or not a defined Latino electorate actually exists, one might

examine the political choices, demographic qualities, and social attitudes of the greater ethnic

group. Political scientists have indirectly communicated a criterion composed of several requisite

traits that qualifies a group as a potent sleeping giant. If one is to analyze relevant literature on

the subject, a large constituency that features a cohesive group consciousness seems to have been

identified as the definitive attribute of an archetypical sleeping giant. American Latinos surely

satisfy this requirement (Sanchez, 2006; Fraga, 2010) and several other, more situational

adjuncts of giant potential: majority support for a single party, large residencies in swing states,

specialized outreach from candidates, and a high growth rate (Wallace, 2012; Bejarano, 2014;

Ramirez, 2013; Sanchez, 2006). When these components are analyzed in detail, the latent power

of a Latino constituency (sleeping or not) becomes readily apparent.

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The concept of group consciousness suggests that the effects of group affinity and

collective orientations are felt within Latino sub-groups, as well as the broader pan ethnic

grouping of Latino (Sanchez, 2006). This may come as a slight surprise to one with even a

general understanding of Latino ethnic heterogeneity. From Cubans, to Mexicans, to

Dominicans, and beyond, the cultural practices and life experiences of individuals from these

distinct groups would seem to create a broader pan ethnic grouping (Sanchez, 2006) without

unifying political tendencies.

However, the research asserts that is not the case. [P]erceived discrimination is the

dimension of group consciousness that plays the greatest role in determining Latino public is clear that the predicted probability of supporting the pro-Latino stance on [a]

policy issue increases with greater perceived discrimination (Sanchez, 2006). It seems as though

distinct Latino sub-groups share enough overarching commonalities to generate a uniform

ideological front on a variety of policy areas. In reaction to exogenous shocks, Latino residents,

citizens, and voters demonstrate political agency in the various ways that they respond to

political threat from organized marches to canvassing and voter education (Ramirez, 2013). I

contend that the California immigration rights marches of 2006 were events that both

exemplified Latino group consciousness and consolidated it among a younger generation of

Latinos. Each month 50,000 Latinos become eligible to vote by reaching the age of 18, a fact

that adds to the groups electoral prominence on paper (Wallace, 2012). Atypical political

participation such as rallies, marches and grassroots voter motivation campaigns do much to

promote the pan ethnic Latino ideal, generating group salience on pressing issues and motivating

young Latinos to head to the polls.

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What other catalysts besides perceived existential threat and overt discrimination might

motivate Latinos to vote in the United States? Descriptive representation is an outstanding

method of growing the Latino vote. When a viable co-ethnic candidate is present, Latinos will

turnout to vote at heightened rates, and in some instances vote at rates greater than those of other

ethnic and racial groupsincluding whites (Barreto, 2007). Latinos respond positively to

candidates that share their ethnicity for reason similar to their compulsion to vote in the interests

of their pan-ethnics: if one is a Latino, they are more likely to understand the preferences and

struggles of the group and adequately advocate for them in the political arena.

Taking the American electoral college into account when assessing a voting blocs

potency is paramount. The concentration of the African American population within the South

has dismal electoral consequences for their constituency, especially in contrast with the high

population distribution of Latinos in swing states (Abrajano, 2010). Latino voters are

considered a key group of swing voters that can significantly influence the direction of an

election since they generally provide a majority of voter support to the Democratic

party...therefore, shifts in the political behaviors and attitudes of Latino[s]...can have significant

electoral consequence (Bejarano, 2014). As previously established, Latinos make up a sizable

and growing constituency within the American electorate. Individuals within the group tend to

vote for Democrat candidates, allowing the party to encroach on areas in the South and

Southeast; territories traditionally held by Republicans but increasingly populated by Latinos.

One knows they have achieved status only when they are treated as such. The Latino

constituency was first courted by John F. Kennedys campaign in 1960. Kennedy sought to

directly appeal to Latino voters and create a political culture invested in the importance of
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political participation by running Spanish language ads in Texas and Illinois that may have

given him the edge he needed to win the election (Wallace, 2012). The Latino vote can act as a

lynchpin in propelling a (typically Democratic) candidate into the White House. In Florida,

Latinos were 11 percent of the electorate and Obama was able to win the state [in part due] to a

majority of its Latino voters. This feat is signicant because Florida has only been won two other

times by Democratic presidential candidates since 1968 (Wallace, 2012). However, the prospect

of courting the Latino vote has motivated Republicans to make overtures to the constituency as

well, such as John Mccain in Arizona. The RNC chairman Reince Priebus reported that the

Republican party believes that its crucial to involve Latinos at every level back in 2012

(Bejarano, 2014). How might the Republicans win Latino support back from the Democrats in

the future?

The most effective method in stimulating Latino support is targeted outreach. As outlined

previously, President Kennedy was able to garner a record 85% of the Latino vote in the 1960

election after running simple Spanish language ads (Wallace, 2012). Effective outreach to Latino

voters has even garnered success for Republican candidates. The presidential race between Bush

and Gore in 2000 exemplifies the power of Latino outreach. Gore lost Nevada (a key

battleground state) to Bush after the Republican wisely outspent his opponent in the Spanish

language media market. Bush also racked up endorsements from Latino elected officials

throughout the Southwest, adding to his clout (Abrajano, 2010). In similar fashion to Nevada,

many political analysts believe that a stronger Latino outreach effort in Florida would have

handed that state to Gore in place of Bush (Abrajano, 2010). Gores advisers speculated that

Latino support was a foregone conclusion, much to his detriment. The federal election of 2000
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proves that affective Latino outreach and engagement (regardless of ones party) can have

positive and substantial influence on an election. To the chagrin of Latinos and other voters, the

Republicans have seemingly abandoned their pro-Latino stance during the 2016 federal

elections, a choice that will be to their future detriment.

Notably, Latinos have shorn up a major bulwark in the Democratic arsenal by turning

California dark blue. Over a span of 16 years, Democrats have[won] every statewide office

[in California] (Ramirez, 2013). California carries a staggering 55 electoral votes because of its

large population. The Democrats have the Californian Latino population to thank for this

electoral gem. Despite these numerous demonstrations of Latino political power, Ramirez states

[t]he Latino vote is rarely decisive (Ramirez, 2013), pointing to the fact that Latinos have yet

to instigate a major electoral upset all on their own. Despite Ramirezs contention, the sum of his

article and the others cited above screams of the potential political power of Latinos, lending

credence to the claim that the Latino vote is a sleeping giant. In the past, the effective

activation of the Latino vote has changed the face of the electoral map, but I foresee future

elections will elicit a veritable deluge of votes from Latino individuals. In the case of the Latino

vote, the past is merely prologue.

With this in consideration, outreach strategies remain prudent resource expenditures: the

rising size of the Latino population has netted more and more voters during each successive

presidential election, culminating in an all time high during the 2016 federal election. 13.1

million to 14.7 million Latinos cast ballots in the 2016 election...a significant increase from the

11.2 million Latino votes cast in 2012 (Sanchez and Barreto, 2016). Latino votes have been

courted since the 1960s and voter turnout has grown with each election. Sadly, it took Donald
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Trumps derisive rhetoric to coerce Latinos out to the polls in such large numbers. One would be

remiss to believe Latinos will shy away from voting during the next election cycle, especially

after suffering through the likely abortive Trump administration. Perhaps the sleeping giant is

now fully awake

What is to be done to continue to increase number of active Latino voters? More

antagonism? I think not. As the Latino population continues to mature and benefit from social

mobility, candidates will have to reform their outreach methods and draft policies that actually

benefit Latinos. The proportion of non-policy messages is greater in Spanish ads than in English

ads...candidates are more likely to rely on character appeals, targeted Latino appeals, and simple

policy messages when appealing to Spanish voters (Abrajano, 2010). Such outreach is based on

the assumption that Latinos typically do not have the educational attainment necessary to

understand or engage with more policy-heavy ads. Additionally, many candidates have made the

mistake of pigeon-holing Latinos as a single issue electorate based on their resounding support

for immigration reform. This has been proven to be a grave misconception (Wallace, 2012;

Sanchez, 2006).

Additionally, candidates should make moves to take Latino issues seriously. President

Obama made many promises to his Latino constituency that were not honored (Wallace, 2012).

Though they still supported his reelection campaign, an idealist such as myself feels Latinos

should receive more than just empty promises in return for their votes. Only if Latinos are

engaged from the same intellectual standpoint as whites will the sleeping giant awaken. Only if

Latino voices are heard and answered through policy will Latino individuals feel that their votes
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are worth casting. Perhaps low Latino voter turnout stems not from ambivalence but from


Work Cited

1. Abrajano, Marisa. Campaigning To The New American Electorate: Advertising To

Latino Voters. Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, 2010. Print.

2. Barreto, Matt.A. S Se Puede! Latino Candidates and the Mobilization of Latino

Voters, American Political Science Review, 2007. Print.

3. Bejarano, Christina E. "Latino Gender and Generation Gaps in Political Ideology."

Politics & Gender 10.01 (2014): 62-88. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

4. Fraga, Luis Ricardo. "Growing Presence of Latinos in the US." Latino Lives in America:
Making It Home. Philadelphia, PA: Temple UP, 2010. N. pag. Print.

5. Krogstad, Jens Manuel. "Key Facts about the Latino Vote in 2016." Pew Research
Center, 14 Oct. 2016. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

6. Ramrez, Ricardo. Mobilizing Opportunities: The Evolving Latino Electorate and the
Future of American Politics. Charlottesville: U of, 2013. Print.

7. Sanchez, Gabriel, and Matt A. Barreto. "In Record Numbers, Latinos Voted
Overwhelmingly against Trump. We Did the Research." Washington Post. The
Washington Post, 11 Nov. 2016. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

8. Sanchez, G. R. "The Role of Group Consciousness in Latino Public Opinion." Political

Research Quarterly 59.3 (2006): 435-46. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

9. Wallace, Sophia J. "It's Complicated: Latinos, President Obama, and the 2012 Election."
Social Science Quarterly 93.5 (2012): 1360-383. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.