SAN DIEGO — I’ve written about the Latino vote for 30 years, and I’ve been a Latino voter for longer than that.
So lately I’ve been asked why Joe Biden has such a big problema with Latino voters, as well as why President Donald Trump is poised to do well with people that he often mistakes for piñatas.
Both trends make sense to me, even as a Latino Never Trumper. In fact — although many commentators have recently noted that Biden’s Latino support is falling, while Trump’s stock with Latinos is on an uptick — I saw this hurricane coming a few months ago. Back in May, I wrote about how many Latinos don’t like the former vice president or consider him their amigo.
Latinos are all about relationships. Biden doesn’t have one with us, and he never has. Even with his half-century in elective office, it’s difficult to name a single piece of legislation that Biden has authored that specifically benefited Latinos.
Latinos’ apathy toward Biden has been hard to miss — even before they were largely left off the agenda last month at the virtual Democratic National Convention.
In November 2019, during the primary, Biden was confronted over his record with Latinos at a town hall in South Carolina. Carlos Rojas, a Latino immigrant advocate, grilled Biden about the reprehensible actions of President Barack Obama. Biden served at Obama’s side for eight years with nary a peep publicly about Obama’s assault on immigrants and refugees — record deportations, separation of families, kids in cages, etc. An impatient Biden snapped at Rojas: “You should vote for Trump!”
As you wish. Now many Latinos appear ready to take Biden’s advice and vote for his opponent.
Polls show Trump performing well in Arizona, Texas and Florida — with 50%, 37% and 29% of the Latino vote, respectively.
For a Republican, anything north of 30% of the Latino vote is a decent showing, and getting more than 35% all but ensures that the Democrat doesn’t stand a chance of winning.
As the liberal East Coast media — whose ignorance about all things Latino remains profound — whistle past the graveyard by claiming that Trump’s Latino support is limited to anti-socialist factions, the wound is deeper than that. Biden is bleeding support from the Latino community’s quintessential swing voters — Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the Southwest.
It is counterintuitive that a group of voters that supported the Democratic nominee in the last 15 presidential elections dating back to 1960 would desert the current Democratic nominee. Even more so that a healthy slice of these voters would back the most anti-Latino president since, well, the last president.
Then again, much of politics is counterintuitive. Catholic voters back Democratic politicians who support abortion rights and then demagogue Catholic judicial nominees as religious zealots. Meanwhile, evangelical Christians who preach morality and propriety have no qualms about supporting a Republican president who isn’t even remotely acquainted with either concept.
This should have been the Latino election. Latinos are poised to surpass African Americans for the first time and become the largest group of non-white eligible voters in the United States. Both political parties should pay closer attention to the estimated 15 million Latino voters expected to cast ballots on Nov. 3 — including the sizable number who live in four crucial battleground states (Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and Florida).
Keep a few things in mind:
- There is no Latino bloc, but there is a Latino vote. Just as there is a Jewish vote, or an African American vote, or a working-class white vote. It’s not that millions of people get together and decide beforehand who they’ll support. But it is fair and helpful to track how certain candidates do with specific groups.
- Republicans do well with Latinos who are conservative — Cubans, Venezuelans and Colombians. Democrats tend to have a lock on the liberals — Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Central Americans. Mexicans and Mexican Americans are up for grabs as registered Democrats who will support moderate Republicans.
- And, while immigrant bashing has been shown to get our dander up, our top issues are jobs, the economy, education and health care. Though it is also fair to describe us as single-issue voters. That issue is respect. Along with family and an incredible work ethic, it’s everything to us. Ignore that fact at your peril.
And what about when Latinos have to choose between two candidates — each of whom has, at different times and in different ways, disrespected them? That prospect is dark and depressing.
Welcome to Election 2020.
© Washington Post Writers Group