Why we need a black-brown political coalition now more than ever

OPINION - It’s no coincidence that voter ID laws have been popping up in states with populations of black and Latino voters that could swing election outcomes...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

It’s no coincidence that voter ID laws have been popping up in states with populations of black and Latino voters that could swing election outcomes.  These two groups of voters, particularly in swing states like Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania could be the difference between another four years under President Obama or a new era under a President Mitt Romney.

Republicans, apparently fearful of the impact of these two voting blocs, have strategically made it more difficult for many in these groups to cast their votes in the upcoming election. It’s the potential combination of black and Latino voters casting their votes consistently for Democrats for the next generation that elicits fear in the GOP and it’s this potential for electoral domination that is worth considering.

The most recent census data made it very clear. Whites are diminishing in numbers and will continue to do so over the next generation. Thus, their electoral impact has diminishing returns for candidates like Romney, who may have to rely on these voters. Demographic shifts are becoming a reality and for the first time ever fewer whites were born in the U.S.  That reality is connected to the Republican party’s future because black voters overwhelmingly support Democrats and they have so much self-inflicted damage with Latinos. Romney’s current approval among Latinos is a dismal 25 percent while President Obama’s approval among Latinos is 66 percent.

The recent shift on deportation of undocumented immigrants by the Obama administration is heavily favored by Latinos and while immigration is not their primary concern, it certainly allowed for a bright line to be drawn separating President Obama from Romney who supports extreme right policies like self-deportation. Romney’s low standing in this community can be taken together with state and local officials in the Republican party purposefully “otherizing” Latino voters and making them into a group deserving of ire from white voters frustrated with the current economic situation.

Black voters have a long history of being caricatured into the “other” to be feared and shamed for inaccurate depictions of levels of poverty, blacks on public assistance, and criminality.  It is the possibility of these two often demonized groups uniting to impact key elections that instills fear in Republicans, who appear mostly unwilling to put forth policies to help the marginalized.  The GOP’s rhetoric on immigration is just the latest issue for Latino voters; issues such as healthcare and affirmative action predate the current debate over the role of the federal government in assisting the lives of all Americans, including those who may not fit a stereotypical blueprint for white blue collar American-ness.

The steady growth of these two key groups since the 1992 presidential election has made Democrats much more competitive and they will remain competitive on the national level if Republicans don’t offer a viable alternative. Socially conservative black and Latino voters have voted for Democrats in recent election cycles despite disagreements over hot button issues like gay marriage and abortion.

The teaming up of these two key constituencies could allow Democrats on the national level to win elections and impact future generations by finally coming through with the ever-illusive and much-needed comprehensive immigration reforms and ensuring that the safety net so relied upon by members of both communities is not gutted by a Republican party dedicated to ending Medicare and Social Security.

The 2012 election is just the beginning.  The upcoming election will highlight these demographic shifts and project future results for both parties over the next generation and the teaming-up of black and Latino voters would certainly have a substantial and long lasting impact for Democrats.

Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @zerlinamaxwell