New census data pose challenges for Republicans and Democrats

New census data pose challenges for Republicans and Democrats
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The 2020 census numbers are in, and they show a dramatic deepening of the diversity of the United States. For the first time, the percentage of white residents shrank, while the share of Latinos and Asian Americans exploded. Latinos were responsible for more than half the growth in the last decade; America’s 18 and under population is now majority non-white. 

What does this mean politically? Many pundits will conclude that this is a boon for Democrats, but that is not necessarily the case. Demography is not destiny, and Democrats should not think that it is. To win the support of minorities, Democrats must speak to their aspirations with relevant messages that connect with their optimism and connections to family. 

Republicans should be doing the same. But instead, they’ve been doubling down on the politics of resentment, instilling fear among whites about the changing face of the country. It contributed to Trump winning the presidency in 2016. And it still fuels the party as it looks ahead to 2022 and 2024.

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What will Republicans do moving forward? If conservative commentators are any clue, things may get worse.

Fox News’s Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonCountry star Travis Tritt canceling shows at sites with mandates Sunday shows - Buttigieg warns supply chain issues could stretch to next year Bill Kristol: Buttigieg entitled to call Tucker Carlson a 'repulsive bigot' MORE blames America’s changing demographics on the idea that Democrats are deliberately bringing violent criminals into the country through the Southern border. He has told his viewers that Democrats want to  import new voters through immigration to win elections. 

America’s changing demographics reflect what is an inherent strength of our nation. People from all over the world have sought to come here since the birth of the nation. America has been synonymous with dreams coming true, taking control of your future, giving families better opportunities to live better lives, working hard and the chance to succeed no matter your economic status, race or religion. 

The United States is the most innovative country in the world, and our creativity and vision comes in part from our diversity. Far from the demagoguery of some conservatives, most immigrants are people who find the strength and grit to uproot themselves and their families for a chance at a better life.

These are the qualities any country would want in their populace. It is good for the economy and great for competitiveness. And it has proven to be the case here. A 2019 report from the New American Economy showed that 45 percent of American Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. 

The census also showed that the country’s under-18 population is now majority non-white. This is another danger zone for Republicans. In many ways, Gen Z is the most open-minded and tolerant generation ever, and it has run into the arms of the Democrats, in part because much of the GOP’s loyalty is to Trump. 

But these young voters could be up for grabs since they will want and need their issues represented in state houses and on Capitol Hill. The policies that states and Congress pass should reflect this changing demographic. If we do not ensure that our kids can get a decent education, reliable health care and investments in job training, then we will see our next generation of leaders ill prepared to take on the challenges of the 21st century.

Democrats will continue to fight for all these issues and compete for these voters. The question is whether Republicans will also try to appeal to these voters. If Republicans continue to denigrate non-white voters, they will lose the future.

America’s rapidly changing demographics frighten some people, while they prompt others to exploit it for crass political gain. But many more will embrace these changes and work to ensure that our nation’s policies reflect the needs and desires of a new multi-racial majority that is as American as churros and apple pie. 

Maria Cardona is a longtime Democratic strategist, a principal at Dewey Square Group, a Washington-based political consulting agency, and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.