Will enough Latinos vote Republican in the midterm elections to capture the House of Representatives for the GOP? It’s an important question in the short term but ultimately irrelevant.

Whatever happens on Nov. 8, Latinos will exit polling booths having become a powerful and enduring force not just in politics but in all aspects of American life. And if Republicans have a good day at the polls with the help of Latinos, it won’t mean that Latinos are becoming more Republican. It will mean that we are becoming more American.

During every national election campaign, a cadre of election experts endeavors to read the Latino tea leaves. The metaphor on Latinos qua elections over the last half-century typically involves a “sleeping giant.” This election is no different. Today, the high viziers of Latino voting are predicting a turn to the Republican Party, especially in battleground states. A widely circulated academic paper released in July announced that “significant pro-Trump shifts among working-class Latinos and modest evidence of a pro-Trump shift among newly engaged U.S.-born Latino children of immigrants and Catholic Latinos.” 


Latinos confuse even Latino observers. Latinos are not a “race” Latinos are white, black, indigenous and, above all, the product of five centuries of “mestizaje” — mixing and blending. Neither are Latinos an ethnicity like Irish Americans. Latinos are old Americans (Spanish was spoken in what is now the United States well before English arrived) and new Americans (two-thirds of Latinos are immigrants or the children of immigrants). Latinos are people of faith, which often is confounded with conservative and Republican sensibilities, but even there, they escape easy generalization — we are Catholics, Protestants, even Evangelicals. We are also Jewish and observant of multiple Indigenous faiths.

“Latino” is a purely American phenomenology: Outside the U.S., we are Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican Dominican and so forth.

To reduce the varieties of the Latino experience to a predictable voting bloc is both vulgar and reductionistic.

While it’s true, most Mexican Americans lean Democratic, yet Cuban Americans lean Republican. Latinos are like Democrats in believing in the power of a muscular government to create opportunity and the common good; but they are like Republicans in believing that the economy is very important to their vote.

In the midterm elections next month for Latinos, it is the “ecomomía, estúpido” the top concern of Latinos (80 percent), followed by health care (71 percent), education (70 percent), and violent crime (70 percent). 

The influence of Latinos on American life is unmistakable, beginning with their sheer numbers. One of the fastest-growing groups in the U.S., Latinos now represent one in five people. The Hispanic population in the U.S. grew by 19 percent in 2021, easily outstripping the nation’s overall growth rate of seven percent.

That trend won’t change soon. U.S. birth rates are dropping — except among the children of Latino and other immigrants, the only group still rising . But Latino influence goes beyond simple population growth. Latinos are making outsized contributions across American life, from business to science to professional sports to the arts. With buying power of $2.5 trillion annually, Latino consumers can also move markets. U.S. Latinos’ Growth Domestic Product is expanding beyond that of Germany, the U.K., France and Japan.

What is driving Latino success in assimilating? The holy trinity of integration — learning English (faster than previous immigration waves from Europe), marrying outside their ethnicity and being strongly connected to the labor market.

Latinos are doing more than assimilating. They are helping to remake American society

So what does a “more American” Latino look like and what does that mean for American life? S/he is close to family, immersed in tradition, more likely than the average American to attend religious services, and a believer in a strong government supports, entrepreneurship and capitalism. As our numbers and influence continue to grow, that’s also what an American will look like.

Latino voters may or may not tip the balance for Republicans in next week’s elections, but what’s clear is that whatever the result, they will be decisive for decades in shaping what it means to be an American. The giant is wide awake.

Marcelo Suárez-Orozco is the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is author of many award-winning books and volumes including “Latinos Remaking America” (with Mariela Páez).

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