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GOP’s Latino problem

There was nothing but bad news for Republicans in the Census data released last week.

Preliminary estimates reveal a rapidly browning America. Ethnic and racial minorities accounted for 85 percent of the nation’s population growth over the last decade, the bulk coming from Latinos. Indeed, Census numbers show the Latino population grew an astonishing 37 percent since 2000, compared to just 3 percent for the non-Latino white population. 

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Latinos accounted for more than 60 percent of growth in 16 states — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and West Virginia. 

In total, non-Hispanic whites are down to 65 percent of the population, compared to 69 percent in 2000. Latinos are up to 16 percent, from 13 percent 10 years ago. African-Americans represent 12 percent of all Americans, Asians account for 5 percent, and multi-racial Americans make up the final 2 percent. 

For Republicans, this spells short-term electoral difficulties, and long-term disaster. 

In 2008, Republicans lost African-Americans 93-5, Latinos 68-29 and Asians 63-31, while winning whites 53-45. Republicans have done little since then to build support among non-white voters, instead doubling down on xenophobic immigrant bashing while demonizing government initiatives that create jobs and help the working class. Throw in the fact that young white voters continue to lean Democratic (Obama won them 51-47), and it’s clear the demographics are quickly running away from the conservatism of the modern Tea Party-fueled Republican Party. 

In the lame-duck session last December, two Spanish-language television behemoths — Univision and Telemundo — carried live coverage of the Senate DREAM Act vote, beaming into millions of Latino households images of Republicans voting against children who simply want to attend college or serve their nation in uniform, their innocent children punished because their parents entered the country illegally.  

The elimination of birthright citizenship — suddenly conservatives aren’t as concerned about the Constitution as they would otherwise claim — is gaining steam in GOP ranks and was among the first bills introduced in the new GOP-controlled House. While nearly nine in 10 Latinos oppose the Arizona law allowing law enforcement to harass brown-skinned people, according to Associated Press polling, Republicans all over the country are rushing to introduce similar measures in their own states.

And then there’s the hateful rhetoric that accompanies those hateful policy efforts. 

Jeb Bush, discussed by some Republicans as a viable presidential contender in 2016 (already conceding 2012, apparently), understands the GOP’s demographic predicament: “If you believe in the conservative philosophy as I do, it would be incredibly stupid over the long haul to ignore the burgeoning Hispanic vote.” The reaction wasn’t kind. Right-wing talk-radio host Mark Levin accused Bush of “race-baiting,” being “divisive,” and being “destructive of conservatism.” 

“The Republican embrace of what is perceived by Hispanics as nativism has clearly alienated Latinos,” noted a report from the right-wing American Conservative Institute. “There is also a distinct possibility that emboldened nativist-oriented Republicans (backed largely by their older, Anglo base) could embrace policies, such as abolishing birthright citizenship, that seem almost calculated to alienate Latino and other immigrant voters.”

Possibility? It’s a done deal. Republicans got a reprieve in 2010, but their current path is unsustainable. The only question is when they’ll finally figure it out.

Moulitsas is the founder of Daily Kos.