A decade ago, for example, Democrats believed that demographic change — the shift from a “majority white” country to a “majority minority” one — would give the party an almost unbreakable lock on national politics; that a growing population of Asian and Hispanic Americans would inevitably redound to liberal benefit. At the time, I wrote that this was unlikely, that while it was a seductive theory, there was not much evidence to support the vision of an enduring Democratic majority. Racial and ethnic identity, I argued, were too fluid, and there was no guarantee that future members of those groups would think of themselves as “minorities” in the way that has been historically true of Black Americans. Changing conditions — greater assimilation and upward mobility — could make them as volatile in partisan politics as European ethnic groups were in the 20th century.
If the Hispanic shift is as large as it appears to be, then we are living in that reality. What I didn’t expect is that it would come heralded by a Republican like Trump. But this only speaks to the diversity, ideological and otherwise, of the Hispanic electorate, which is as varied in racial background and national origin as most other groups of Americans. To extend an earlier analogy, it is probably as useful to speak of “Hispanics” in 2020 as it was to speak of “Europeans” in 1950. The category is just too broad, obscuring (in electoral politics, at least) far more than it illuminates.