The national progressive echo chamber had quite a fit last week when former Gov. Jan Brewer brushed off the suggestion that Hispanics would cause Hillary Clinton to win Arizona. "Nah," she told the Boston Globe, "They don't get out and vote. They don't vote." The thought police pounced, condemnations flooded Facebook, and a Twitter lynch mob gathered at such a racist statement.
But she told the truth. Rare for her, perhaps unprecedented, but accurate for once.
Hispanics made up 30 percent of the population of Maricopa County in 2014, compared with only 16 percent in 1990. Yet in that critical election, their voter participation rate was in the single digits. And it can't be explained away by saying that low-income people vote less. The low-income Anglos vote religiously and conservatively.
Brewer, an accidental governor when St. Janet read the future and decamped for D.C. and then California, did much to help ensure this. As Secretary of State, charged with overseeing elections, she was also chair of the state Bush re-election committee in 2004. I'm sure polling locations were abundant and well handled in majority Latino precincts. Then, running on her own, she defeated the eminently better-qualified Terry Goddard on the strength of her backing the anti-immigrant SB 1070.
As I have written before, SB 1070 had little to do with illegal immigration and everything to do with ginning up the old Midwestern-immigrant Anglo GOP base and intimidating Mexican-American citizens. And one of the dirty secrets was that not a few older Mexican-Americans, who had seen their neighborhoods, schools, and culture most destabilized by the wave of illegals in the 2000s, quietly supported the bill, too.
But the problem of low Hispanic turnout predates the embarrassing, finger-in-the-face-of-the-president Jan Brewer, a woman who would drive down the class level of the trashiest trailer park.