This is a seminal moment for America. After decades of negotiating, compromising, and peaceful protest our U.S. House of Representatives is set to cast the final vote that will decide more than just the future of 11 million undocumented immigrants. Their vote could also decide which Congressperson gets a one way ticket home. As many as 14 Republicans could lose their seats if they block a path to citizenship.
This political dynamic didn’t happen overnight. Progressive institutions started organizing for “Compassionate Comprehensive Immigration Reform” years ago. In fact, this movement was based on the premise that if population groups who historically did not participate fully in our democracy were engaged by trusted institutions, their increased civic participation and voter turnout rates would impact Congressional politics.
These organizations are now busy putting plans in place and gearing up to launch civic engagement efforts for the 2014 election cycle. If resourced properly these efforts could change the political landscape for decades and alter the political balance of power on the Hill.
How did we get here? Did obstructionists create this political environment? Yes.
Note that political demographics have trended towards Democrats for years but what’s new is unity and enthusiasm. Additionally, many voters of color (VOC) are being constantly motivated due to the dysfunctional nature of the House of Representatives. It’s reasonable to assume that there will be a sizable cluster of “passionate” voters of color who will volunteer for national and local campaigns in 2014.
In fact, most political experts assume Republicans will reuse overplayed tactics in this upcoming immigration fight. After testing and evaluating voter responses in 2012, it’s likely that “self-deportation” sympathizers will help the Democrats net at least another fourteen seats in Latino districts of influence – Congressional districts that are not necessarily Latino but have enough diversity to impact the election.
As the fundamentals of the 2014 elections begin to develop, there are a few variables to keep in mind. As listed in The Pew Research Center’s recent national survey:
1. Immigration: By a margin of nearly two-to-one, Republicans say the party is not conservative enough
2. Republican-leaning voters (54% to 40%) want the party’s leaders to move further to the right.
3. Over 35% of GOP voters say that, in dealing with Democrats, congressional Republicans have compromised too much. While 27% say they have not compromised enough and 32% say they have handled it about right.
While Congress is viewed collectively as dysfunctional, Republicans seem to be split on the style of Congressperson they would vote for. That’s a messaging problem the Democrats will not have in 2014.
Take California’s 21st Congressional district where the demographics are 71% Latino, 4% African American, and 3% Asian. The President won this district with 54% of the vote and GOP Congressman David Valadao will have a strong challenge from a Latino Democrat next year. All it would take is one “wrong” vote and this may be his last term.
Granted it’s too early to know the full impact of CIR, but we do know that VOC civic participation rates are increasing across the all districts. Also, there is a greater awareness of the politics around Latino issues. A testament is seeing a growing number of Latino voters becoming politically active on social media.
Only time will tell what influence this vote will have, but I’m anticipating that there are many positive changes to come. As America’s rising electorate continues to grow we know that politics will never be the same.
Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC