By Kirk Clay

U.S. circuit judges Robert Katzmann, Damon Kei...

U.S. circuit judges Robert Katzmann, Damon Keith, and Sonia Sotomayor at a 2004 exhibit on the Fourteenth Amendment, Thurgood Marshall, and Brown v. Board of Education. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Voters of Color May be the Key to Political Civility

The recent Supreme Court decisions regarding Arizona’s immigration law SB 1070 and The Affordable Care Act reminded me of another significant moment in American history–the Court’s ruling on the Brown v. Board of Education case.  That ruling had a profound impact on the lives of every person in the country and helped move this country forward with regards to civil rights, social justice and equality.

Just like the 1950s, it is hard to measure the impact that these decisions will have on the social fabric of this country and the world. However, it’s clear that we are witnessing a watershed moment. And for many voters of color (VOC), these rulings are a strong signal that no matter how dysfunctional Congress has become, there is hope.

As the Presidential campaign picks up speed, voters are starting to pay attention to the triple impact that their vote will have in November.   The next President may have an opportunity to appoint at least one new Justice to the Supreme Court who will have the power and responsibility to continue making landmark decisions that can move our country forward as the Congressional leaders who are elected struggle to respond to those Supreme Court decisions.

Healthcare is going to be a huge issue for igniting greater civic engagement among VOC. According to a recent Gallup survey, 21% of Latino registered voters rated healthcare as one of their top priorities.  In states like Texas, 20% of children in the state have no health coverage and 37% of Latinos have no health insurance. Many adults living in major metro areas around the state are uninsured:

Beaumont-Port Arthur area—26%

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown area–24%

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area–21%

San Antonio area–18%

Austin-Round Rock area –18%

Interestingly enough, these metro areas also have a significantly high Latino and African American populations.

This and other issues will be the true story behind this election. The truth is that even if there isn’t a clear indication of a “change” election, the landscape is set for voters to hold obstructionist law makers accountable. There are 19 new seats, 36 open seats, 2 vacancies, and 57 seats where no incumbent will be on the ballot. Many of the new seats are solid People of Color (POC) prospects.

Census data shows the Latino population increased by 15 million in 2010, and 20% of that growth happened in Texas. People of Color are already the majority in Texas and their vote trends in the Democrats’ favor.

Latinos make up about 25% of the state’s new registrants in 2009 and 2010. People of Color represent 54% of the state’s total population and 41% of the citizen voting age population (CVAP).  They represent 40% of registered voters and just a little more than 19% of frequent voters. Also, over 3 million registered Latino and African American voters stayed home in 2010. Just imagine what would happen if a modern coalition of conscious Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Women, Unions, and Young Voters came together and increased Latino turnout from 24% to 49% and African American turnout from 35% to 49%. Together, we could add over 1 million more VOC.

This could be the difference in congressional races in areas where so many VOC are uninsured. For example, Fort Worth grew by 38% to 741,206 and now has over 140,000 registered “Key” VOC with close to 95,000 infrequent voters. If properly resourced, and the electorate continues to expand, we may see a significant voter turnout increase. These voters may vote for more progressive Congressional leaders and begin the process of putting TX’s 38 electoral votes in play for future elections.

No one is entirely sure how voters are going to respond to these last 2 years of impasse. The truth is that The Affordable Care Act was an example of politicians compromising to get something done. First it was voted out of Senate Committee with the support of a Republican, then passed with the help of two Independent Senators and recently upheld by a Republican appointed Chief Justice.

Will voters reward compromisers? Or will this be the 21st century battle over civil and human rights that lights the fire of social justice and changes the tone in the House? Now is the time for all Americans to embrace hope and play a part in shaping our nation’s future. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC