If there is one thing nearly every midterm election has told us, it is that our country thirsts for change.
In the 19 elections since World War II, the president’s party has lost seats in the House of Representatives in 17 of them.
This year, that same outcome is anticipated as polls show Republicans gaining control of the lower chamber, but the electorate that is expected to get them there is vastly different than that of years past.
“You know, in 2012 we were talking about equity and environmental justice matters, but I think the sense of urgency and the intensity of the issues facing today’s generation of voters is much different,” said Joelle Martinez, a former political strategist under President Barack Obama and the current president of the Latino Leadership Institute.
During the 2018 midterms, Latinos set a voting record when 11.7 million cast their vote. At the time, it was thought to be an outlier, but in this year’s midterms, 11.6 million are expected to vote, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. It is a 71.4% increase from the number of Latinos that voted in 2014.
“I think the thing that has changed the most is that Democrat and Republican parties are no longer magnets for Latino voters,” said Martinez. “And we saw that in two parts of evidence. One, this last election cycle where you saw voters, Latino voters, voting conservatively in areas where they hadn’t predicted that to happen. And two, young Latino voters are registering to be Independent more times than not.”
“We’re sort of in a realignment period right now,” added Lonna Atkeson, director of the LeRoy Collins Institute, a non-partisan public policy center at Florida State University.
Atkeson says the change our electorate is undergoing right now goes against many assumptions politicians have based their strategies on for decades- that young people will consistently turn out to vote and that minorities are by and large monolithic.
“Maybe the things that we relied on previously about how groups were going to vote is less reliable,” said Atkeson. “I think the culture war is just raging and I think that’s a piece of that and the other piece of that is the economy.”
The Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program projects that 17 million young people will turn 18 between the 2020 and 2024 elections and that 49% of them will be kids of color, only adding to the increasingly diverse electorate that is the future of American politics.