These days every time I turn on the TV or radio, I hear an anchor, a campaign operative or an analyst telling us:
“This is the most important election in your lifetime.”
I’ll leave it to the experts to parse out history, data, and economic models.
Instead, I’m going to laser focus on Latinos and the women of our community. Hispanics have been an integral part of this country, in parts of the Southwest, since before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
Still, just two years ago, we were at the center of a history-altering event. The year 2010 is not just the year the Tea Party voted Democrats out of office, taking over the U.S. House of Representatives.
It is the year the U.S. Census confirmed not just that our community boomed, but that this growth is accelerating, with Latinos set to form 25 percent of the total population by 2050. It’s no surprise if you consider that right now, 25 percent of all public school students nationwide are Latino, and 50,000 Hispanics turn the voting age of eighteen every month.
The 2012 election is the first time in history we’ll witness the political impact of a new demographic trend that is changing our country politically, socially, culturally and economically. Matching our population boom is our estimated $1 trillion dollar buying power, which has brands from Target to Mary Kay drooling.
But our political and corresponding social clout doesn’t match our economic or demographic numbers. At the very top of state and federal government, only two hold state governorships and thirty-one serve in Congress. How does this impact a growing constituency’s quality and access to services?
This is why we must vote – to have a say on the issues like the economy, jobs, education, social security and immigration that affect us, the people we love, and the place we call home. While still lagging behind African-Americans and white Americans, Latino voter registration and ballots cast have increased in each election cycle since 2000, according to the non-partisan non-profit Project Vote for which I work through the election as spokesperson and on Latino outreach.
More than 12 million Latinos are expected to vote in this election, which is a record. We Latinas can make the difference. Why? We’re jefas at home and in control of the spending decisions. So how about we turn some of our powerful influence we use when we choose Coke or Pepsi to encourage everyone – our familia, co-workers, and amigos – to elect the next President?
¡Ay! I can hear it now.
“I don’t care lo que pasa en Washington, DC.”
“I’m not political.”
Well, if you have kids and worry about the quality of their education and chances to succeed in the future, you’re political.
If you’re concerned that your neighborhood isn’t safe, that the streets aren’t well lit, you’re political.
Local issues, including ballot initiatives, school boards and city councils in your town and in your state are also being decided on Tuesday.
Your vote gives you a say.
Together with others, it’s a roar communicating:
We matter. We count.
Your vote is a point of light.
Combined with others, it can shine a bright beam that drives away the feelings of being invisible.
Latinas, we are days away from making history. Let’s rise up from the sidelines and speak loudly with our vote for ourselves and for those who can’t vote like our kids, our little brothers and sisters, as well as our mixed-status loved ones.
On Tuesday, Latinas vote.
For our country.
This post was published as “Election 2012: On Tuesday, the Latina Vote Can Make History" on November 2, 2012 in Latina Magazine where I am a weekly politics columnist.
To read more of Viviana’s Election 2012 columns in Latina, click here.What makes you go to the polls and vote?