New ethnic and religious groups up for grabs in the next election

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Contrasting this were Romney’s surprisingly smaller and more expensive operations, perception of being more “robotic” and less personable (a perception broken only after the first debate), being a middle-aged white man having less appeal to minorities, being too cozy with corporations and ultra-rich, the 47% remark, the “Let Detroit go bankrupt” article title (which was probably titled as such by the editor of The New York Times), the $10,000 wager, the “Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs”, the primary that forced him move to the right and fully embrace conservatives (making it much harder to Etch-a-sketch back into a believable Moderate), and of course the choice of a vice presidential nominee that pleased mostly conservatives (and, despite a Republican governor, failed to help much in his own battleground home state of Wisconsin, where Romney was trounced 46 percent to 53 percent).

One can argue long and hard on the biggest reasons of Romney’s loss, however, little doubt should be that had Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Nicki Haley, or Gov. Suzanne Martinez picked, it would have caused more excitement and most likely translated into more votes among the voters that Romney did so poorly and Obama did so well, especially in the battleground states, such as Florida: Latinos, Asian-Americans, women, and youth.

Sensible GOP pundits it seems like summed up the problem as too old, too white and too male (while some conservatives, such as Rush Limbaugh, seem to disagree, viewing Mitt Romney as an ultimate compromise figure with whom they were never very comfortable – thus necessitating the choice of Paul Ryan as a vice president for balance - supposing that GOP actually needs to be more purist and more conservative).

Indeed, not only did most minorities (who are 28% of all voters) and most women (female voters are 53 percent of total), but most young people (typically defined as 18-29 age group, representing 19 percent of all voters) voted for Obama – and according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, that’s what proved decisive in the battleground states of Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

However, one needs to look deeper, especially in case of smaller geography of elections, such as for governor, Senate, and especially House and state offices. While it is true that the U.S. political map is permanently shifting towards minorities, the “ethnic vote” is not just Latinos or Asian-Americans. And “minorities” is not a code-word for “immigration”. Rather, the rapidly growing, both numerically and politically, minorities and ethnic voters are often of non-Christian religious denomination – indeed, being often Muslim. The GOP conservative wing’s preoccupation with the promulgation of unfortunate terms like “Islamofascism” and believing that Barack Hussein Obama is “actually” a Muslim (and thus somehow unfit or at least undesirable for high office) certainly alarm – to the point of abhorrence – these ethnic groups. Which is a loss for the GOP since they are otherwise very different from the major ethnic community – the Latinos – and politically are either independent or closer to moderate Republicans (remember, when such a category of Republicans co-existed and shared spotlight with the Conservatives in the GOP?)

The new mostly-Muslim ethnic voters that are growing in America can be divided into the following ethno-national groups: Turkish Americans and Azerbaijani Americans (if lumped together can be described as Turkic-Americans), Arab Americans, Persian Americans (often described as Iranian-Americans, albeit that category overlaps with others), Russian Americans (the only major “new” voter block that’s mostly Christian, although sometimes it also overlaps with others), and finally, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian Americans (those of Muslim denomination, and who are technically included into the category of Asian-Americans). Precise count of these groups is not easy to come by – official census underestimates them significantly – however all sources agree that the count is in the low double digits.

The voters have many similarities: higher than average education and income, lower political participation and affiliation, growing numbers and potential, and concentrations in some swing (battleground) states. Case in point – some 9,000 Turkish Americans in Ohio, specifically in the Montgomery County that went 51 percent (128,983) for Obama and 48 percent (121,188) for Romney. Looks like these Turkish Americans, who are devout Muslims, could have made a difference for the GOP, but clearly were never embraced and even given a cold shoulder. Another example – the Azerbaijani Americans, after having one of theirs become a GOP party delegate from New York, also running for office in Maryland (three times for Senate), twice in Virginia (delegate), and once Nevada (lieutenant governor), mostly on a Republican ticket, but ultimately falling short, in part due to less than enthusiastic reception by the GOP rank-and-file as well as leaders.

What is clear is that these ethnic groups are poised to grow steadily in prominence, develop politically, and shape elections in the years to come.
 
Baguirov is the co-founder and member of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Azeris Network (USAN), the largest grassroots advocacy nonprofit doing voter education for the Azerbaijani Americans and more widely, for Turkic Americans.