Shaping the Future of Politics

FILE - In this May 10, 2011, file photo audience members listen to President Barack Obama speak about immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas. A year before the 2012 presidential election, Hispanic voters face a choice: continue to support Obama despite being disproportionately hurt by the economic downturn or turn to Republicans at a time when many GOP presidential hopefuls have taken a hard line on immigration. Obama kicks off a three-day West coast trip on Monday in Las Vegas. (National Journal)

A minority-majority is predicted to occur in the United States by 2050. What will the future of politics look like?

To Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, demographic change will bring challenges and opportunities for both political parties--even though minorities tend to identify more with the Democrats. In the 2008 elections, "the minority vote was 80 percent to 18 percent for [President] Obama," he says.

"That's the obvious effect in terms of political preferences. But embedded in that are issues of policy preferences and what these voters want to see happen."

"Over time, we should see some increase of the level of voters who want to see more money spent on education or more emphasis on government services that are effectively delivered," he says.

"It doesn't necessarily mean that they automatically tilt the policy agenda for the whole United States. But it does mean that again, all of those people should send things somewhat in that direction."

That could potentially be countered by at least some proportion of the non-Hispanic white population becoming markedly more conservative. However, that may not happen, Teixeira cautions, because of the decline of the white population, particularly the white working class.

But there are other ways for Republicans to maintain control. "They see that the mix of population is changing and it's against them," he says.

"There are two things that they are trying to do: take care of the electoral boundaries that are being redrawn to be done in such a way that protects their seats to the maximum extent possible," and they are trying to make it harder for minorities to vote. "Hence, the emphasis on voter identification and voter fraud laws," Teixeira says.

Obtaining political power through the vote is itself a challenge, as Latinos are once again illustrating.

Although there are 50 million Latinos in the United States--16 percent of the population--they represent only 7 percent of voters. In addition to the almost 11 million undocumented immigrants, Latino nonvoters include 8 million people who are eligible to vote but have not registered, and millions more who are eligible to become citizens but have not yet been naturalized.