What I’m about to describe hasn’t come about because of Marco Rubio; rather, Marco Rubio is possible because the moment is upon us. The seeming rush to pass immigration reform came not from a strong impulse of the conservative movement, but from a demographic reality: if Latinos vote as heavily democratic as they did in 2012, Republicans will not see the inside of the White House for a very long time. Add New England minus Maine, DC, and Washington and Oregon to states with large Latino populations, and you have 271 electoral votes.
Republicans have been making the argument for a while that Latinos are part of their natural constituency due to their family values (a backhanded swipe, I think at blacks) for a long time. But they’ve said the same think about Jews, Asians, etc. What they fail to realize is that if your number one social characteristic is your minority status, that is going to be the most important political issue to you and the party of the Neoconfederates demanding conformity is going to be a hard sell.
But what the Rubio moment represents in the broader politics of the hemisphere is the final nail in the always tenuous argument that Latin America and its history ended at the Rio Grande. For a long time the US has looked to Europe disproportionately due to old ties, the ongoing game of power diplomacy, and so on. The strange and mysterious world of Asia caught our eye in large part due to WWII and Cold War entanglements and miscellaneous yellow perils still haunt the front page sections of our news.
But when our largest minority, a huge portion of our oil, a huge portion of our trade, and a large portion of our historical military adventures come from the same hemisphere it has strangely never been paid as much attention. If the argument of America being separated north and south by mass consciousness, it could be made.
But the key facts of the history of this hemisphere over the last 500 years are the same enough to at least talk about them in more unity than, say, we would talk about the history of Peru and India or Peru and Egypt.
Columbus touched off an age of imperialism that saw the near destruction of native populations, replaced either by slaves or underclasses from Europe and Africa and put into a quasi-feudal plantation system that massively and permanently enriched a small upper class.
But now a whole new tie binds the two together: the fact that Latinos themselves are becoming the most important political minority in the United States, which makes it the case that the United States is the country with the second most Spanish speakers in the world, second only to Mexico.
If you’re a Californian, this isn’t news to you today. It might have been news to your Republican neighbors in the 90s, but with the exception of the RINO Schwarzenegger, they haven’t controlled anything in this state since their support of Proposition 187 turned the Latino community decisively against them.
Maybe Republicans elsewhere dismissed this as whacky California. But they won’t be laughing when it happens in Texas.