Election 2012: Do Young Latinos Hold the Key?

Are you surprised that the Hispanic population is growing? I’m not. What does take me aback is how late political parties, the media, and some corporations are to the fiesta. You don’t need to be Latino, a statistician, or a census worker to see the changes happening all around you: the Hispanic population is responsible for more than half of the nation’s growth, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.  If this boom continues, by 2050, one in four Americans will be of Hispanic descent, according to projections by the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center.

Who are we? Super tech-savvy, U.S. born, English dominant, and young. In fact, 50,000 Latinos turn the voting age of 18 each month.

So here are some numbers that are a big political buzz kill. Voter registration among Hispanics, especially young ones, is low, despite Herculean efforts by advocacy groups such as the National Council of La Raza, Voto Latino, and ¡Ya es hora: Ve y vota!, as I mentioned this week when I discussed the Latino vote on Sirius XM’s politics show P.O.T.U.S.radio.

What are some of the reasons? Latinos, especially the youth, are disillusioned with both parties: the Democrats and President Obama for promising immigration reform then increasing deportations, including that of DREAMers.  They are equally turned off by Mitt Romney and the Republican party for failing to reign in the anti-immigrant fringe, and during the debates, taking a hard-line approach to illegal immigration.

Although polls show Hispanics are more optimistic than their general population counterparts, like other “Millennials,” they are stressed about their future. Is college within reach given the rising cost? And if I do graduate, what will be my chances of climbing the social and economic ladder in the form of earning potential and ability to purchase a house while the recovery is slow?

These jóvenes don’t see themselves, their families, their communities reflected in both political parties or Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama. This desencanto is creating apathy, with young conservative and progressive Latinos not motivated to register to vote as reported in ImpreMedia’s Election 2012 blog, Voto 2012. If they do, they might not show up to the polls in November.

I “get it” – feeling invisible, excluded, like no one is listening to you or even cares what you think. That’s even more of a reason to not sit out an election but get involved. Numbers like these mean nothing if our community does not turn our demographic and economic heft into political and social power. The only way to accomplish this is by being informed and involved in our communities.

People died for our right and privilege to vote. Those that came before us like our papis and grandparents have struggled at great sacrifice to give us a better life.

Respect that by registering to vote.

Cherish that by educating yourself on the issues.

Honor it by showing up not just this November for the presidential election, but as crucially to your town hall meetings and parent-teacher conferences.

The past and present may have been set by others. You have the power to determine and define our future.

Tell us: The Latino community has great potential in the form of numbers.  How will we use it in November?

Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club, is a Washington, DC-based Latina politics columnist. Read more of Viviana's political posts here.