Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Latino Vote

They’re considered a minority in the United States, composing a rapidly growing sub-set of the population. The majority are immigrants; public sentiment, aroused by nativism, is sometimes hostile towards them. They vote heavily Democratic, but because many are immigrants they turn-out in numbers not as great as the share of the population they compose.

I’m not talking about Latinos. I’m talking about white Catholics in the early 20th century.

Today, Democrats hope that the Latino vote will be an essential part of a permanent majority, the keys to an unyielding period of Democratic dominance. Latinos were a major part of Obama’s victory in states such as Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado. They’ve turned California blue for the foreseeable future. Red states Arizona and Texas are home to millions of Latinos, who represent a threat to the Republican character of those two states. Opportunity beckons.

Or so it seems.

In reality, however, it seems that the path of the Latino vote is the same as that of the white Catholic vote. The more Catholics that entered the country and the more time that passed, the more assimilated they became. In the early 20th century, Catholics were seen as an “other,” as Italian and Irish immigrants not fully part of the Unite States. Today, however, such sentiment is long gone. We regard white Catholics as normal, dull. The days of anti-Catholic discrimination are long gone.

With it has disappeared the Democratic hold over the Catholic vote. JFK won nearly 80% of Catholics because he was Catholic, and because in that time there was still anti-Catholic sentiment. 40 years later, John Kerry lost the Catholic vote, despite being a Catholic.

Will Latinos follow the same path? It seems likely. A large part of what connects Latinos to the Democratic Party is that they are an immigrant community – and Democrats have always represented immigrants. If – when – they assimilate, and the word Latino becomes just another synonym for white, Latinos will behave much as white Catholics do today. Which is to say that they will vote no different from the rest of America.



  1. Someone just recently (gosh, I think it was you) was making the point that the Democrats are typically the party of the disenfranchised, while the GOP is the party of the established.  That is the basic nature of “liberal” and “conservative” under most circumstances.

    Liberal has an even bigger challenge inherent in itself.  When it’s progressive goals of change are achieved the need to defend those achievements – to “conserve” the gains made – makes the focus of conservation more of an, um, conservative task… ;~)

    However, politics are a temporal game.  In the movie “White Christmas” a character jokes that something being “as hard as finding a Democrat in Vermont”, which apparently was a rare creature in 1954.  For a generation or more, I think, the Latino vote will remain largely in the Democratic camp.  After that it’s someone else’s problem to worry about filling the rolls.

  2. Although it depends on the latest immigration pattern holding to historic patterns. That may, or may not, prove to be the case. It also depends on not only assimilation, but on acceptance. That may prove slower then other groups.

  3. HappyinVT

    it’s an interesting idea but maybe just a bit simplistic?  One is a religion with certain core beliefs spread through many groups of people; the other is a group of people with a variety of religious (or not) beliefs.

    My knowledge of the relationship between Catholics and the Democratic Party is limited at best but I would think that some of the cornerstones of belief have a lot to play in the shift.  The Catholic Church is institutionally anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage.  That’s enough to cause a significant rift.

  4. DeniseVelez

    but I will add this – many latinos are brown people (actually they are amer-indians with Spanish surnaames. Other’s are clearly phenotypically of african, or mixed african ancestry.

    Melding them in to the ever stretching boundaries of socially constructed “whiteness” may not be easy to do, with the exception of those who look more European.


    I’m going to bed.  The keys on the keyboard are blurring.

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