What is the future for Latino voters in the US? Five experts weigh in

A man attending an event hosted by the Miami Young Republicans and Latinos for Trump. Photograph: Lynne Sladky/AP
A man attending an event hosted by the Miami Young Republicans and Latinos for Trump. Photograph: Lynne Sladky/AP

Why did Democrats leave Latino organizations scrambling for resources?

Everyone is talking about Miami-Dade, Florida, where Joe Biden underperformed Hillary Clinton by a large margin. Let’s be clear, however: even if Biden won the county by the same margin as Clinton, he still would have lost the state by over 170,000 votes. Democrats mostly won Latinos in Florida; the demographic we lost was white voters.

The most devastating problem made evident in this election was Democrats’ lack of outreach for races beside the presidential one. Poor and limited outreach around down-ballot campaigns cost us a majority in the Senate and numerous congressional seats. We assumed that the presidential race would draw Latino voters to the polls, but Biden’s campaign couldn’t pull it off on their own. In the final months before the election, Biden spent more money on bilingual communications than any presidential candidate in history. The problem was the disbursement of money from outside organizations: most of it seemed to go to predominantly white-led Super Pacs which focused on turning out what they viewed as persuadable white voters. Latino organizations were left scrambling for resources.

The story of the Latino vote in 2020 isn’t over. We have a lot of data to use in future operations and in efforts to keep pushing Latino turnout up. To take on the disaster in Florida, we need to invest in intentional organizing and outreach by Latino-led firms and organizations. We must build a political infrastructure for the community, by the community.

Chuck Rocha is the president of Solidarity Strategies and the founder of Nuestro Pac. He was a senior adviser to the Bernie Sanders campaign

Politically, there is no ‘Latino community’

This election revealed, yet again, that Latinos are a diverse population – not just demographically, but ideologically. When it comes to politics, there is no “Latino community”. And while Latinos are a disproportionately Democratic electorate, 2020 reminds us is that there is no single story here. Latino voters helped turn Nevada and Arizona blue – yet Latino Trump supporters in Florida and Texas help keep those states red.

Going forward, the Democratic party needs to put much more energy into partnering with and listening to local Latino candidates and grassroots organizers on the ground. Democrats need to get their act together when it comes to developing mobilization strategies that take into account differences of age, gender, class, race, region, sexuality, education, occupation, national origin, and generation within Latino communities.

In our eagerness to analyze Latino voting patterns, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Trump almost won re-election because the majority of white voters in the United States continued to support him. The only reason Trump lost is because a minority of white voters came together with the majority of Black, Latino, Asian American and Native voters. A multiracial coalition saved our democracy to fight another day.

Cristina Beltrán is an associate professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University. She is author of The Trouble with Unity: Latino Politics and the Creation of Identity and Cruelty as Citizenship: How Migrant Suffering Sustains White Democracy.

Anti-communism – and veiled racism – drove many Latino voters in Florida

A large portion of Latino voters in Florida are conservatives for whom the legacy of the Cuban Revolution – and, more recently, Venezuela’s move to the left – are central to their voting decisions. To that end, Republicans worked overtime this election to paint Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as socialists, despite the candidates’ moderate positions within the Democratic party.

But that’s not the entire story. The narrative about socialism was bolstered by conservatives’ labeling of Black Lives Matter supporters as Marxists and communists. Support for Trump among certain Latino populations in south Florida must be seen within the context of anti-Blackness, heightened by the Black Lives Matter protests and a Black woman as the vice-presidential candidate. Mislabeling Black Lives Matter as “communist” was a way to repackage racism among white Cubans and other white-identifying Latinos and make that racism politically palatable.

Danielle Pilar Clealand is an associate professor of Mexican American and Latino studies at the University of Texas at Austin

Stop obsessing over Miami-Dade

A lot of media attention has focused on conservative Cuban voters in the Miami area, yet Miami-Dade county accounts for only 3.1% of the national Latinx vote. Most Latinx in the US voted for Biden, as did most people of color generally. We need to turn our attention to young Latinx voters, including those who flipped Arizona to the Democrats, as well as those who seek progressive alternatives beyond the limits of institutional politics.

Unfortunately, both political parties still consistently ignore Latinx people, and popular knowledge about Latinx communities remains stereotypical and rudimentary. People still marvel at discovering we’re not a monolith and don’t fit into a neat demographic.

Arlene Dávila is professor of anthropology and American studies at NYU and the founding director of the Latinx Project.

The US political machine must invest in reaching Latino voters

The 2020 election has seen historic levels of turnout, including Latinos and young voters. Amid a global pandemic, however, voters badly needed alternatives to traditional campaign tactics and election administration. They also deserved a more adequate response to widespread misinformation and voter suppression.

Within this context, neither party or campaign expended the necessary resources to fully engage Latinos. Democrats and Republicans invested large sums in persuading white voters, while neglecting the Latinos and young voters of color who have proved critical to Democratic support in Arizona. UCLA research shows Latinos overwhelmingly supported Biden in Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties, driving Biden toward victory there.

This was made possible by civil society organizations consistently engaging Latinos – not over months, but over years. And Florida’s exit polls show Latino voters overall preferred Biden by 21 points. Yet we keep hearing tired tropes about conservative Cuban American voters – a narrative which ignores the surge of white women and seniors who ultimately clinched Florida for Trump.

Sonja Diaz is the founding director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.

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