As the political machine of the 2012 election season churns forward, it is becoming increasing clear that this year may be known for two things, the proliferation of Super PACs and the rise of the Hispanic vote. It is the impending collision of these two phenomena in the rise of Hispanic Super PAC's, which truly highlights the incredible change this demographic growth is bringing to our country and our political process. Super PAC's, Political Action Committees, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of funds to support or oppose a candidate, are considered by some undemocratic. The main criticism is that they allow the few, corporations, and the super wealthy, to wield undue political influence over the many, through unlimited financial political support of individual campaigns. In some ways this paradigm is flipped when it comes to Hispanic Super PACs.
NDN has long contended Hispanic population growth in the United States will eventually shift enough of the country's voting population to the South and West forever changing the electoral map. This election season is showing this assertion to be correct. There are now enough electoral votes in the "Hispanic Belt," Florida, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona to decide the 2012 election. Both political parties are acutely aware that whoever carries some combination of these Hispanic-population-heavy states, will likely win the 2012 election. Yet, for the all of their growing political cachet, Hispanics are politically underrepresented in the electoral process.
This election cycle is unique because Hispanics are taking a more central role in ensuring that the political process, which has traditionally excluded them, is more representative of their views. Hispanics are gaining a voice by elevating a historically localized political process. Chuck Rocha, President of the American Worker Latino Project sees this as not just an opportunity to increase the Hispanic vote, but more importantly as a way to take back the House, keep the Senate, and the White House. Rocha acknowledges that more then ever it is important to elevate both English and Spanish voices in the political process. "In key geographical areas of the country, such as Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and Florida, redistricting and the increase in the Latino populations is making the Hispanic vote critical for both parties in this election."
Hispanics seem set to increase their numbers in Congress, yet the location of these potential gains is most significant. In Arizona, former Surgeon General Richard Carmona is the best chance the Democratic party has had in a generation to place a Democrat, let alone a Hispanic in the Senate. Arizona is shaping up to be a key state for both parties, which the Obama Campaign has indicated is in play. If the Democrats can flip Arizona, and keep some combination of Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado they will have formed a firewall in the southwest which could ensure them the election.
This election cycle is increasingly focused on the rise of Hispanic electoral power and the confluence of Super PAC's. Yet, as a society, our country is still negotiating how a representative Democracy, which does not reflect national demographic changes, negotiates the current political realities of a hotly contested election season. The reality is Hispanics will most likely continue to struggle with a political apparatus that does not reflect their overall population growth. With a converse representation in Congress, groups like the PODER PAC which focus on increasing Latina members of Congress, become more critical to ensuring that our federal legislative system better reflects our country. Catherine Pino, Co-Founder, recently pointed out, "There are only seven Latina Members of Congress out of the 435 Members. We think it's a travesty that in 2012 we have so few Latina Members."
Pino has a point, if the progressive community is committed to creating a more representative Democracy then much more heavy lifting is needed. The 28 Hispanics currently serving Congress make up six percent of the 435 total elected officials currently in office. Hispanic Super PACs have their work cut out for them if they want to help make Congress reflective of the 16 percent national Hispanic population. Diversity of thought and practice should not be just an abstract ideal, it should be the way of life for this country. At this juncture it is important to consider what Mark Twain once said, "It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races."