A December 28 Washington Post article: "Wary Hispanic Voters Favor Obama Over GOP Rivals", reports that in a recent poll by the Pew Hispanic Center, President Obama's support among Latino voters was around 69 per cent in a match with either Romney or Perry, both of whom received less than 25 per cent. By comparison, in the 2008 election, Obama received 67 per cent of the Latino vote, compared to 31 per cent for McCain. In 2004, George W. Bush won re-election with 40 per cent of the Latino vote. Especially with the rapid growth in the Latino population, many believe that the Republicans will need to win at least the same percentage of Latino votes to take over the White House in 2012.

Given the importance of Latino voters, why are both parties doing everything in their power to antagonize Latinos, to whom immigration may not be the only issue, but is certainly one of the most important? The same thing could be asked with respect to voters belonging to Asian and other rapidly growing immigrant communities. This may be one of the great mysteries of American politics today.

Obama's record number of deportations are preventing his poll numbers among Latinos from being even higher, while the Republicans' support of racist anti-immigrant state laws and their insistence on the impossible goal of deporting 11 million unauthorized immigrants (and their US citizen children) are in effect begging Latinos to vote Democratic.

This is even more of a mystery because, based on the experience in the Republican primary campaign, the two leading hard-liners on immigration, Bachmann and Perry, have had disastrous drops in the polls, while Cain (remember him?) who wanted to electrocute immigrants at a Mexican border fence, had to withdraw from the race (though, admittedly, because he ran into an entirely different third rail of his own). 

It is true that Romney is also taking a hard line on immigration, but that may mean less, because few people in either party believe Romney on any issue. No one knows what the weathervane will be like tomorrow. As for Gingrich, he has taken the "humane" step of promising "legal status" to a very small percentage of unauthorized immigrants, namely those who have been here for at least 25 years, go to church (no mosque attendees need apply, evidently), can pay big fines, are approved by "community boards", have strong family ties, and...what else? It is hard to keep track of all the conditions.

Yet, Newt, with his "big heart" on immigration (the same organ that Perry once had, but threw overboard in order to campaign with "Sheriff Joe" Arpaio), is still regarded as a serious candidate, unlike Perry and Bachman. Anti-immigrant bigotry may be falling victim to the law of diminishing returns.

There may also be a demographic time lag between reality and perception. 50 or 60 years ago, Jews were one of the main targets of ethnic bigotry in America (in addition, of course, to African - Americans) while Catholics were subject to religious bigotry. I remember from that time that there was a popular book called "American Freedom and Catholic Power", arguing that membership in the Catholic Church was incompatible with American values, very similar to the kind of poison that bigots like Newt Gingrich are spreading against American Muslims today.

No one could have imagined at that time that a half century or so later, the US Supreme Court would be made up entirely of Jewish and Catholic Justices, with not a single Protestant on its bench. It is not inconceivable that one day, the same Court may be made up entirely of Latino, Muslim, African-American, Asian and other Justices from what are now, but may then no longer be, minority groups. 

The reality is that America's demographics are changing. Immigration is part of this process, but only part. We now live in a global world. Whichever party is the first to recognize this truth is the one that will survive.