Historians analyze why the Sun Belt went from red to purple

Historians in the News

...“There is a soaring rate of poverty in these new suburban regions,” said Lisa McGirr, a history professor at Harvard who studies the region. “I think it’s bound to have a political impact and to transform the ability of the Republican Party to appeal to suburbanites with private, individualistic solutions.”

More transformative is the demographic shift brought on by the influx of Latino voters. It is upending the political makeup of states like Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Florida. And it has come when the Republican Party has been identified with tough measures aimed at curbing immigration.

Many Republicans date the beginning of the decline to 1994, when Republicans in California backed a voter initiative, Proposition 187, to deny government services to immigrants in this country illegally. The law was eventually nullified by a federal court.

“Once California started alienating Latinos and once Latinos started moving in large numbers to Arizona and in Texas, that changes the whole game,” said Richard White, a professor of history at the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford.

The change has been noted in places like Orange County, Calif., home to the Nixon presidential library and once a symbol of conservative political power and for many years overwhelmingly white. Today, it is filled with enclaves of Latinos and Asians — on many streets, it is hard to find an English-language sign on a store — and only about 43 percent of the voters are registered Republican....

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