By Shah Peerally, Esq.
The elections are over and the American people overwhelmingly supported President Barack Obama. Looking beyond the results, there is something really unique which happened in this election which is now commonly referred to as change in demographics. Indeed the white portion of the electorate dropped to 72%, and the president won just 39% of that vote. But he carried a 93% of black voters (representing 13% of the electorate), 71% of Latinos (representing 10%), and also 73% of Asians (3%).
According to the exit polls, it seems that the ‘immigrant community’ largely voted for President Obama. The question many political pundits were asking was why? Bill O’Reily mentions, it is no longer ‘traditional America’ where white is no longer in power. Well, whatever it is, the immigrants especially Latinos and Asians proved that when under attack, a formidable power of democracy can be unleashed deciding the destiny of the United States and its politicians.
What many do not understand is that most immigrants who come to the United States and become U.S. citizens, are very educated in the freedom and power of democracy. Many are thirsty to participate to keep this democracy alive. Ignoring their plight was the worst decision of the GOP. Unlike many uneducated electorate, immigrants tend to listen to their families and friends and will vote in ‘block’ once they feel threatened. Unfortunately, the extreme right view on immigration which was often mentioned as “self-deportation”, only created fear in most immigrants prompting them to react. Some GOP candidates have even mentioned the expulsion of the Muslims such as Charlie Fuqua, the Republican candidate for the Arkansas House of Representatives. Others have referred to immigrants as criminals. Such languages created an atmosphere of hate and incredible fear which ultimately resulted in a grass root mission. The grass root mission happened really as a covert mission – door to door, in churches, temples, and mosques.
One thing to know about immigrants is that they are not stupid. Being an immigrant myself and also working with thousands of immigrants as an immigration lawyer have taught me the fact that whenever the community feels under attacked, their ‘brains’ switch to a survival mode which will trump practically anything to protect the well-being of their families and their communities. Most immigrants albeit not perfectly satisfied with President Obama saw him as an immigrant’s son, who understands their aspirations better than Mitt Romney and who was better prepared to hear them. For example, the Sikh after the sad Wisconsin massacre of the Sikh temple was impressed by the fact that President Obama lowered the American flags to show sympathy. They also saw hate being fueled by a right wing media. Muslims on the other hand, who were not very happy with Obama’s drone attacks, still endorsed him because they saw in him the only chance of reconciling the Muslim world with America. In addition, Obama’s administration stood against the infamous “disgraceful” movie on the prophet Muhammad. The Latinos, actually acknowledged the struggle of Obama with Congress to pass the Dream Act although he failed. But despite possible retaliations Obama went ahead and passed DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) through executive order. They also saw how strongly the Obama administration fought the shameful Arizona immigration laws. As for Asians especially the Chinese were appalled by the way Mitt Romney described China during his debates. While Indians, although lingering on their permanent residence because of an unfair backlog, also saw hope in Obama’s immigration views. It seems that the choice was very clear for all of them. In fact, I doubt there were any undecided voters among immigrants. Many would not express their choice, for fear of additional retaliations. But since voting is a secret activity, all of them voted for their favorite as a matter of right and as a matter of survival.
When we add up the numbers, as Bill Clinton would say, it was just pure arithmetic which ultimately brought a landslide victory to President Obama on college votes. In addition, President Obama also won the popular vote despite the billions of dollars spend by his rival. Going back to demographics, what the GOP ignored was the fact, that during the past 20 years the immigrant community has increased exponentially in practically all the states, even the so-called ‘purple’ states. Their votes proved to be decisive and swift.
In conclusion, it is worth noting that all the other issues except women and middle class economic issues discussed during the campaigns were totally irrelevant. The only issue, which in my opinion mattered after women rights, and economic issues was immigration and how immigrants feel in a country which they believed was home. Seeing all the hate propaganda and threats from the extreme right created such an apprehension that it triggered a unique formidable defense mechanism transpiring into a victory for President Obama in 2012 election. The lesson for both the GOP and the democrats is that if at any point in time immigrants feel threatened or disappointed, they will do what it takes to survive. Just placing “look-alike” immigrant candidates on the ticket will not earn their votes. They need to give tickets to real trustworthy candidates with real answers and ideas. In other words, ignoring or demonizing immigrants are not only wrong but political suicide!
God bless the immigrants and God bless America!