DEMOGRAPHY is destiny, or so the saying goes, but Latinos are learning this political season that destiny can take detours.
As their population in the United States surged from 35 million in 2000 to nearly 57 million, Latinos became the subjects of a feel-good political story that bathed a marginalized minority in the glow of demographic triumphalism. Acting as a cohesive political force, Latinos were supposed to power Democratic majorities for decades and enshrine the welcoming immigration policies they overwhelmingly favor.
Instead, the 2016 campaign is showing how viscerally the paranoia of a majority can take aim at those gaining ground. Rather than a moment of triumph, this could be the year of the Latino eclipse.
“Today we march. Tomorrow we vote.” That chant brought more than a million people into the streets in 2006 to protest tough immigration policies promoted by conservative Republicans. Since then Latinos have held to an ethnic empowerment strategy based on a single policy objective — citizenship for unauthorized immigrants — and a single tactic — becoming an essential constituency in presidential elections.