Entrenched Diminished Expectations

Editors' Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on Politics in the Pulpit. Read other perspectives here.

In the past week I have skimmed and read whole blogs, articles, opinion pieces, all wondering what Latinos/as will be doing this November 4th and whether there will be enough Latino/a votes to sway elections in Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, and at least a dozen other states and even more local races. This may be really obvious, but I think Latinos/as will do what most other people are going to do—they will not be voting, because as reliably Democratic voters will tend to do, they don't vote during the mid-terms, why? Because there is no earth-shattering reason to do so.

Latinos/as, disappointed by the lack of progress on immigration reform, will probably stay home. Of course, the perennially popular question of the last few election cycles has been whether there will be any movement among Latino/a evangelicals and the religious right's desire to firmly count them as reliable GOP votes. No such movement has occurred, and I don't think that will be the case this year, for the same reason as above—I don't think there is a urgent enough reason to do so. Even the most alarmist voices of the religious right cannot muster up enough fear to cause that break toward the GOP.

I think the most intriguing religious category to watch in terms of voting is the "nones." That Latinos/as have been and are secular is not surprising to anyone who studies religious trends among the varied communities that comprise U.S. Latinos/as, but now that "nones" are on the radar, it may be interesting to see if and how they vote. If they vote, and they normally vote Democratic, mimicking the voting patterns of Latino/a Catholics, that will be a good day for Democrats in the races where there is competition.

If "nones" stay home, as is expected, because really no one votes in midterm elections (though I just did), then the losses Democrats are sure to take will be worse. The question is, are Latino Catholics and "nones" going to sit this election out as a way to punish Obama for the lack of movement on immigration reform? Will the much hyped and as yet to materialize move toward the GOP finally be realized by the get-out-the-vote efforts of various churches who are still abiding by those voter guides paid for by folks like Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed, and Pat Robertson? There is little evidence that as conservative as Latino/a evangelicals are (and they are), this predicts voting for the GOP (they don't and they probably won't this year either).

A quick perusal of a few articles seems to suggest that people really want Latinos/as to vote, because their votes can be decisive. Others, sure that Latinos/as have been burned once too often by President Obama's inaction on immigration reform, predict no-shows across the board. Despite what political scientists are saying about some of the most competitive races, and there are not a lot of them, Latinos/as, I predict, will not do what I just did.

I read my voter bulletin, marked my ballot for races and initiatives I cared about, and I placed it in the mail. California has an added incentive for voting; we have an initiative process that has often been an endless source of entertainment and frustration. This year, the initiatives are not exciting, but 2016 may bring marijuana legalization and a host of other contentious propositions.

Why did I vote? I certainly had nothing at stake, I live in a solidly blue state and am very content with that set-up. I like my state and national representatives, and to be honest, I wanted to vote for Governor Jerry Brown one more time before he too is termed out. So yeah, part of my voting was rooted in a nostalgia for a California of the 1970s, where Brown became governor the first time, and I was in elementary school. I know, probably not what you wanted to hear from a college professor who has taken to writing about Latino/a religion and politics. So aside from making sure Jerry Brown is re-elected, and certain bond measures pass, I had nothing at stake in this election. Sadly, I think that well-worn reason, that there is precious little to vote for, may be a reason why all the predictions of Latino/a voting may be little more than wishful thinking in a time of entrenched diminished expectations where we expect so little of politicians and often get exactly that result.