For a while now, I’ve written about how the demographic increase in the size of the Latino American and Asian American populations will inevitably also lead to increased political, economic, and cultural power and influence as well. I also hypothesize that one example of this burgeoning political power was how Latinos and Asians voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in the presidential election and as a result, helped to put him over the top.

In other words, Latino and Asian American voters are becoming increasingly important as voting blocs — a sizable constituency group that, if mobilized to voter overwhelmingly for a particular candidate, can make the difference between victory and defeat in a close election. For years, groups such as African Americans, Jewish Americans, and “NASCAR dads” have been important voting blocs.

To reinforce this notion of the increasing political power of Latinos and Asian Americans, as first mentioned by Seth Hoy at the Immigration Impact blog, the Census Bureau has just released detailed voter data from the 2008 election and among other things, they show:

  • Latinos represented 7.4% of all Americans who voted in the 2008 election (about 9,745,000 out of 131,144,000 total voters). This represents an increase from being 5.4% (about 5,934,000) of all voters in the 2000 election.
  • Asian Americans represented 2.8% of all Americans who voted in the 2008 election (about 3,627,000 out of 131,144,000 total voters). This represents an increase from being 1.8% (2,045,000) of all voters in 2000.
  • Non-Hispanic Blacks comprised 12.3% of all voters in the 2008 election, an increase from 11.5% in the 2000 election.
  • Conversely, non-Hispanic Whites made up 76.3% of all voters in 2008, a decline from 80.7% in 2000.

The data comparisons between 2000 and 2008 clearly show that Latinos and Asian Americans (and to a slightly lesser extent African Americans) comprise an ever-increasing proportion of the American electorate. Just as important, their power as a voting bloc are increasingly becoming evident as well, as noted by the following quote from the Immigration Impact blog post:

In Indiana, Obama won by roughly 26,000 votes, and received the votes of nearly 24,000 more Latino New Americans than John McCain. Similarly, in North Carolina, Obama won by approximately 14,000 votes, yet received the votes of nearly 26,000 more Latino New Americans than McCain.

We should note that Whites are still the largest racial voting group by far. Nonetheless, the rise of Latinos and Asian American is likely to become even more pronounced as both both groups continue to increase in population size, particularly among those who become naturalized citizens and the second generation (the U.S.-born).

The other interesting trend to note is data that shows Latino and Asian American voters are increasingly voting Democratic as well.

With these demographic and cultural shifts in mind, the fundamental nature of the American political landscape is likely to continue to change for generations to come.

Like millions of Americans, I am anxiously awaiting noon on Tuesday, January 20. This is the hour when Barack Obama is scheduled to take the oath of office and officially become the next President of the United States.

I’ve written before on the sociological and personal significance of this momentous event and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. But in the meantime, my Vietnamese American colleague Andrew Lam of New America Media has written a very eloquent post about what Barack Obama’s inauguration means to him.

Andrew begins his piece by recounting the plot of Daniel Defoe’s The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and how Crusoe “saves” an indigenous man, names him “Friday,” and basically teaches him the ways of acting “civilized” according to White, European standards. Andrew then relates the story to his own experiences:

[W]hen he was christened, when he called Crusoe “master,” Friday essentially lost his autonomy and his past. When he was taught a new language, Friday lost his bearings and the articulation and the enchantment of his old tongue. . . .

For a while, as a Vietnamese refugee to America, I grieved. Then I resigned myself to the idea that I was fated to live at the empire’s outer edge, living in a world in which Friday’s children were destined to play subservient roles and sidekicks. I knew this because I saw it on TV nightly.

Friday became Tonto, Mammy, Pocahontas, Kato, and (play it again) Sam. I saw too, the complexity of my own Vietnamese past ignored or, worse yet, simplified and reduced to faceless figures in black pajamas and conical hats, to serve as props or to be gunned down by American GIs, the wielders of history. . . .

Five hundred years after European conquest began, the glory of Crusoe continues to play out. “The Swiss Robinson Family,” and “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” and dozens more movies were direct spin offs but its mythos provides the backbone for tv shows like Star Trek, where the captain is white and his crew are ethnic and aliens, and contemporary films like Men in Black, Jerry McGuire, Pulp Fiction, and Lethal Weapon, just to name very few. In them the ethnic sidekicks help make the main character who he is, reinforcing his centrality. . . .

Who knows then when the story began to shift? . . . It may very well have begun with Frederick Douglass. . . . [H]e learned the alphabet from his master’s wife. He stole books. He learned how to read and write. He taught others. He became an abolitionist, editor, a suffragist, author, and the first African American nominated vice president in 1872 on the Equal Rights Party ticket with Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President of the United States. . . .

For this is the way the new power lies: Those who once dwelled at the margins of the Commonwealth have appropriated the language of their colonial masters and used it with great degree of articulation as they inch toward the center, crossing all kinds of demarcations, dispelling the old myth. If Crusoe contends that he still is the lead actor, Friday is far from being content to playing subservient and sidekick any longer. . . .

[O]n that fateful Tuesday in November 4, 2008, Friday spoke up loud and clear and eloquently, and declared himself an equal, and the whole world danced. He tells us to dare to dream big, even this once considered impossible dream: Son of Africa becomes the new patriarch of America.

I think Andrew captures the sentiments of many of us very accurately.

There’s not much more that I can say that others have not said already regarding the significance of Barack Obama’s election as our next President: historic, monumental, amazing, inspiring, emotional, and quite simple, awesome. As a sociologist and demographer, I’d like to offer a few statistics on his election to be our next President:

  • 136.6 million Americans voted, representing a 64.1% turnout rate, the highest since 65.7 percent in 1908.
  • Obama is the first Democrat to receive more than 50 percent of the popular vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

From CNN’s exit poll tabulations:

  • Obama received 49% of all the male votes (vs. 48% for McCain) and 56% of the female votes (vs. 43% for McCain). But once you break it down by race, Obama only received 41% of the White male vote (vs. 57% for McCain) and 46% of the White female vote (vs. 53% for McCain).
  • 95% of African Americans, 66% of Latinos, and 61% of Asian Americans voted for Obama. Along with the previous statistic, what this tells us is that while large numbers of Whites supported Obama, ultimately non-Whites helped put him over the top.
  • 66% of voters under the age of 30 voted for Obama.
  • 52% of voters making $200,000 or more voted for Obama (vs. 46% for McCain).
  • By level of education, the groups that voted for Obama the most were those at both ends of the spectrum — those who have no high school degree and those with a postgraduate degree.
  • 54% of Catholics voted for Obama (vs. 45% for McCain), although among White Catholics, 47% voted for Obama while 52% for McCain.
  • 50% of voters living in the suburbs voted for Obama (vs. 48% for McCain).
  • Among voters who felt that their taxes would go up if Obama were elected President, 43% still voted for him.
  • 64% of all voters felt that McCain unfairly attacked Obama, while only 49% of all voters felt Obama unfairly attacked McCain.
  • 47% of all voters felt that, regardless of who is President, race relations are likely to get better in the next few years, and of those, 70% voted for Obama. In contrast, 15% felt that race relations are likely to get worse and of those, 70% voted for McCain.
  • 9% of voters said that the candidate’s race was an important factor and of those, 53% voted for Obama.
  • 58% of voters said that issues, rather than personal qualities, were more important to them and of those, 60% voted for Obama. In contrast, 59% of those who believed personal qualities were more important to them voted for McCain.

For me, the most telling and interesting of these statistics is first, that shows 52% of voters making at least $200,000 voted for Obama versus 46% voting for McCain. In my opinion, that is pretty astounding — those in the upper 6%-7% of the nation in terms of wealth supported Obama more than McCain, even though their taxes are likely to go up slightly. I give these voters a lot of credit for supporting Obama and goes a long way to counteract the stereotype of them as caring only about their wallets.

But perhaps the most significant statistic is how Obama captured almost all of the African American votes and a huge percentage of the Latino and Asian American votes and how, most likely, this was likely a big factor in helping to put him over the top.

It is certainly true that White votes still outnumbered non-White votes for Obama and that in the end, the scope of Obama’s victory shows that he has significant, broad-based support from Americans of all racial backgrounds. Nonetheless, I think it’s pretty clear that the Latinos and Asian Americans did constitute a crucial “swing vote” and ultimately, they overwhelmingly rallied to Obama’s support.

While observers, commentators, and scholars will debate this particular issue for the foreseeable future, it does appear that, combined with their continuing population growth, Latino and Asian American voters are poised to have this kind of potential impact and power for years to come.

I’ve written several times recently about how the issue of race has affected the presidential campaign. Much of the conventional wisdom, on which many of my posts are based, is that Whites who hold racist views would never consider voting for Obama. However, as CBS News reports, a new study argues that “racism” not so cut and dry and that quite surprisingly, many Whites who hold racist views actually support Obama:

The poll asked voters whether they agreed with the statement that “African Americans often use race as an excuse to justify wrongdoing.” About a fifth of white voters said they “strongly agreed.” Yet among those who agreed, 23 percent said they’d be supporting Obama.

“This result is reasonable if you believe that race is not as monolithic an effect as we might easily assume,” Franklin said, noting that 22 percent of those who “strongly disagreed” said they’d be supporting McCain. . . .

Some argue that elements of Obama’s story and persona make him specifically acceptable to voters who hold broadly negative views of African Americans. “Not all whites associate the generic African American with Obama,” said Ron Walters, an aide to Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns. “They give him credit for having half a Caucasian ancestry, and give him credit for his education, and give him credit for his obvious ability to take complex subjects and parse them.” . . .

“Obama’s personality – his speech, his look – he provides [white voters] with a non-threatening way to move forward on this issue, and that’s a very positive development,” said David Waymire.

Those last two paragraphs that I quoted above are worth highlighting. They suggest that while many Whites hold racist views of African Americans, they don’t see Obama as a “typical” African American — he is not uneducated, or on welfare, or a street criminal like what they tend to see in the media.

Instead, they see Obama as “not like the rest of them” — he breaks the mold of their traditional, stereotypical image of Blacks.

In fact, my guess is that many Asian Americans have probably been in situations in which Whites may be criticizing Asians/Asian Americans but will turn to them and say, “But you’re not like them — you’re different.”

Obama seems to be in that position. Combined with economic concerns being at the topic of the list for many White voters, that may explain why so many Whites who would otherwise have quite racist views of Blacks are willing to support Obama.

So the question becomes, is this situation good or bad for American society? Does the fact that so many “racist” Whites see Obama as an “exceptional” Black mean that the glass is half full or half empty?

To be honest, I’m still thinking this through. In the meantime, let me know what you think, and whether that means American society is becoming less racist, or just more of the same kind of racism.

I’ve received several emails seeking to publicize the candidacy of various Asian American political candidates around the country, so I’ve decided to group them all together in this post.

As always, these links are provided for informational purposes only and do not necessarily imply my endorsement of the candidate and/or his/her beliefs and policies.

Ed Chau (California)
www.edchau.com

Hank Eng (Colorado)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMls9vWuAlA

Sue Chan (California)
www.suechanforfremont.com