The election is over – now what?
Terri E. Givens
Latinos voted. Obama has won re-election, while the Democrats have held onto the Senate and made inroads into the Republican majority in the House. Obama won 75% of the Latino vote – not just on the issue of immigration, but on a variety of issues where the Republicans seemed tone deaf. However, both Democrats and Republicans have to face the reality that the Latino vote is now decisive for national elections, as shown in the analysis by Gary Segura and Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions. As I discussed in my previous blog post, politicians are more likely to respond to the interests of groups when they vote and have an impact on the outcome of an election. This was clearly the case in this election, and it’s an opportunity that should not be wasted.
When it comes to policy change, the election is just the beginning. Of course the top issue for all Americans is the economy. The negotiations over the budget will be difficult, and the President and Congress will need to hear from all of us on those issues, so it will be important to stay mobilized. The majority that Obama was able to pull together was the result of a lot of work on the ground. More young people and minorities voted in this election than the pundits, and certainly Romney’s campaign, expected. This energy needs to be maintained to help push for policy change.
Once the issues around the fiscal cliff are dealt with, comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM act should be top priorities. However, it will take more than goodwill to move forward on these issues. The election is just the first step in what is likely to be a long process of finding key legislators to take on these issues, and move them forward. Fortunately there are signs that comprehensive immigration reform is moving higher on the agenda. GOP leaders like John Boehner, and pundits like Sean Hannity have “evolved” on the issue, and say that it needs to be addressed.
However, it’s not clear that all of the GOP is going to support comprehensive immigration reform. Many have also indicated that they may not be as open to immigration reform as some of their leaders. What is clear is that the status quo is indefensible, as American Conservative Union President Al Cardenas has said. The GOP has many issues to deal with after this election, and if the party is to remain relevant, they will have to look at why they failed to attract more votes from women, young people and minorities.
This is also an important time for voters to stay engaged at the local and state level. If you have concerns about the long voting lines and issues around voter suppression, these have to be addressed in your own communities. We all need to push for policies that will encourage and facilitate voting. If we value our democracy, we should value the right to vote, and make it easier for those who are eligible to vote, not make it harder. It’s embarrassing to try to explain to my European friends why some Americans had to wait as long as 7 or 8 hours to vote on Election Day. Regardless of your political orientation, the ability to vote in a timely manner should not be an issue in 2012. We have the means to resolve these issues, and it should not be done in a partisan manner.
I look forward to the discussions to come around immigration, the DREAM act, and other policies that will help to fix our broken immigration system. I encourage those of you who care about this issue to stay engaged, I will continue to write about developments in this blog. As President Obama said, “we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.”