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.