Moreno: Latinos become political force nationwide

Laura Moreno

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Many people have feel that Latino politics is an ironic term because it doesn’t exist in the United States. But the expression “sleeping giant” surfaced in the early 21st century when the nation realized the significant political influence of the Latino population. Latino community is the “sleeping giant” because the lack of mobilization directed toward it, despite its rapid population increase.

Although the Latino population has played a minimal role in U.S. politics for most of the nation’s history, the past decade has revealed the strength of Latinos’ influence in elections – if awakened. Recent patterns in Latino population, political participation and interest in the Latino voting bloc indicate that the 2012 Presidential election will see the role of Latinos grow even more.

The 2000 Census reported that Latinos had broken 10 percent in population and had become the largest minority in the U.S. at 13.2 percent. The 2010 Census found Latino population in the U.S. has reached 16.4%. Recent studies have also indicated that the most rapid population growths are occurring in the south. Latinos’ influence is no longer concentrated in the southwest and northeast, but is spreading over the entire country. This will further balance out voting patterns in future elections, especially at the local level. As the Latino population grows, its demand for political clout grows. Latinos’ population growth serves as their most useful weapon in this arena.

The most effective way of awakening the “sleeping giant” is by targeting Latinos with public outreach and political consideration. And campaigns have begun to incorporate these tactics into their programs. John McCain’s 2008 Presidential campaign invested $12 million in Latino outreach, while Barak Obama’s campaign nearly doubled that with $20 million during the 2008 Presidential election.

Obama dedicated entire days near the end of his campaign to Spanish-speaking advertisements – a gesture which 67 percent of Latinos across the nation rewarded with their support. Obama also targeted sub-ethnic groups in his advertisements, which were distinguishable in their messages and their cultural references.

Although Latinos have shown interest in politics throughout history, now is the first time that politicians have taken this much interest in Latinos. Latinos only hope that this relationship continues to mature as their needs multiply.

Laura Moreno is a Weinberg freshman and DAILY blogger. She can be reached at lauramoreno2014@u.northwestern.edu.

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