Corey Arvin, Staff Writer
To outsiders, the name “California” often will summon up images of surfboards, laid-back attitudes, and steep bluffs that overlook crystal clear oceans that are as blue as its electorate. To insiders, some of the state’s grand appeal is true. However, the notion that California is the strong, Democratic-centric populous that people idealize is as much of an overstatement as everyone here grabbing a latte for lunch or driving a convertible in the Summer.
I recently attended a New America Media (NAM) briefing in Los Angeles on Oct. 17 where ethnic journalists from California analyzed a number of key voter issues for this November’s elections. The briefing was moderated by NAM Executive Editor and Director Sandy Close who reminded us that if not for the minority vote, California would be a red state.
California as a Republican-leaning state is hard to imagine, but a strong reality if African-American, Asian, and Latino voters didn’t tip the scales to the Democratic Party.
What’s more is Latinos are likely to be a boon to Democrats as the electorate continues to grow. In addition, according to Karthick Ramakrishnan, associate professor of Political Science at University of California Riverside (UCR), who attended the briefing, white voters will probably decline from being the majority voting bloc within the next two Presidential elections.
As much of a benefit to the Democratic Party as the growing Latino voting bloc may be, not all minority electorates vote in unison and sometimes their divergence on issues contrast greatly, said Ramakrishnan.
In fact, according to an August report titled “Latino Likely Voters in California” released by the Public Policy Institute of California, “Latinos tend to be Democrats, but many are politically conservative.” The section of the report goes on to note that “Latino voters are about as likely to identify themselves as politically liberal (34 percent) as they are to call themselves middle-of-the-road (33 percent) or conservative (33 percent).”
“With these different populations there are different reasons why these electorates are important. African-Americans, it’s very clear Democratic Party identification, and very strong, very off-the-charts support for different progressive issues. If you look at death penalty, African-Americans consistently tend to be on left on issues like that. It’s the valance of how their vote goes that gets them attention and their strong involvement in the Democratic Party,” said Ramakrishnan at the media briefing.
“… For Latinos, it’s isn’t as strong of a Democratic party, but among the non-white populations, they are the biggest and they’re growing. It’ll be a long time before they become the biggest share where outpace whites in terms of their share of the electorate. If I had to guess, it would be beyond 2050 for that to happen,” he added.
So, although Latinos and minority voters are keeping California a blue state to the delight of Democrats – and will continue for the foreseeable future – the Latino electorate can sway on progressive voting issues, emphasizing the varying attitudes of Democrats as a whole.