But there is a distinct danger for the GOP here, not only in Arizona but in the rest of the country as well. As Bill Frey of the Brookings Institute points out, there is a growing gap between the electorate, which is still largely white and older, and the much younger, far more rapidly growing Latino population. In Arizona Frey says the "cultural generation gap" between the ethnicity of seniors and children is some 40%, meaning that while 83% of senior are white, only 43% of children are. Nationwide, Frey estimates the gap in the ethnic composition of seniors and youths stands at a still sizable 25 points.Arizona's large disequilibrium in the ethnicity of its generations is a product, in part, of the state's historic pull to white retirees. Yet its formerly booming economy, based largely around construction and tourism, required a massive importation of largely Latino, low-wage labor, much of it illegal. As a result over the past two decades, Arizona's Latino population has grown by 180%, turning what had been a 72% Anglo state to one that is merely 58% white.You don't have to go very far--in fact just across the California border--to see what awaits Arizona's nativist Republicans. The Grand Canyon state's future has already emerged there. In the 1970s and 1980s California's generally robust economy made it a primary destination for immigrants from both Asia and Latin America. Comfortable in their Anglo-ness, papers like the Arizona Republic were dismissing California as a "third world state," particularly in the wake of the 1992 LA riots.
Arizona politicians are seeking short-term political gain. They are mortgaging the state's future in hopes of clinging to office during difficult economic times. Nationally, the GOP is trying to pull off a high wire act. The party must balance the anti-immigrant anger of its base with the growing ranks of Latinos. Perhaps nowhere is the handwriting on the wall clearer than in Texas:
Dr. Lloyd Potter talked about demographic characteristics and trends during the fourth annual Central Texas Economic Outlook Conference at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center. The event was sponsored by the Fort Hood Economic Region, formerly the Central Texas Economic Corridor, and Workforce Solutions of Central Texas. ...... The Hispanic population in the state is increasing, he said, and it is estimated that it will exceed the Caucasian population in 2020. If current migration and natural increase trends continue, the Hispanic population among the Central Texas Council of Governments counties will exceed the Caucasian population in 2035 to 2040.
The current posturing in Arizona will command increasing marginalization nationally. The GOP will need to curry favor in Texas where Latinos are poised to become the majority. Arizona will be left to tear itself apart. The hard times could last decades and back to the ashes for Phoenix.