A consensus is emerging in center-left circles regarding Latin American voters and the Democratic Party. The argument presented by Ruy Teixeira and Matt Yglesias is that Democrats alienate Hispanic voters who are transition to the Republican Party.
Yglesias notes that “Latin voice” is a misnomer, that Latinos are not monolithic and that they are “normal voters” with different opinions. Democrats, who have shifted left on economic and social issues in recent years, argue, have mistakenly assumed that they could retain the loyalty of the vast majority of Hispanic voters because of Donald Trump’s many racist remarks and the anti-Hispanic, anti-immigration bigotry that informs the majority of the GOP. Democrats, in his opinion, mistakenly viewed Hispanic voters as similar to black voters who remain overwhelmingly democratic despite the party’s shift to the left. According to Yglesias and Teixeira’s accounts, Latinos are not tied to Democrats and are offended enough by left-wing party drifting to vote for Republican. To reverse this trend, Democrats must lure Latinos with wallet problems and downplay police reform, climate change and the preservation of democracy.
This analysis has some limitations. First, as Yglesias admits, judging Latin cultural attitudes is an incredibly complex topic. For example, the Republicans have long argued that Hispanic voters are a conservative bloc that should naturally ally with the GOP. But that rarely happens. Experts predicted a democratic annihilation when George W. Bush has secured over 40% of the Hispanics on his 2004 re-election offer. Eight years later, however 71 percent of Hispanics voted for the re-election of President Barack Obama. Second, if Hispanic voters should be treated as “norms”, there are also generational trends that influence voters within the norm. Younger Hispanic voters (with the exception of young Latinos in some geographic regions) lean strongly towards the left. Actually, 69 percent of Latinos under the age of 30 voted for Bidenand the Latin Democrats were solidly for Bernie Sanders in the 2020 and 2016 Democrats’ primary elections. Third, despite recent Republican gains, Latinos stay solidly on the Democrats column.
There is no reason to believe that Latinos are leaning on the GOP as the Democratic Party has moved too far left in matters. Party’s adoption of marriage equality and abortion rights is no more problematic now than it was in 2012, when Republicans were unable to sever 30 percent with Latinos. And, says Yglesias, the Democrats have grown still populist in the economy, in line with the preference of the majority of Hispanic voters. He believes the way to win these voters is to keep focusing on wallet issues. (Cuban and Venezuelan voters are extremely wary of leftist populism for obvious reasons – but this is not the case for most other Latin American nationalities.)
So what has has become? Why has Spaniard voting shifted to the right, even in the era of anti-Hispanic racism and xenophobia? Center-left experts tend to dance around the problem to avoid controversy. Even so, Yglesias got closer to the third rail of Latin politics last month: the growing importance of anti-black racism as the focal point of electoral politics.
Anti-black racism is the most destructive and defining feature of our common history. It still affects every aspect of American life. Much of the white nationalist paroxysm engulfing the Republican Party is in direct response to America’s first black president. Obama’s election and re-election has caught the attention of racist whites that they are no longer the silent majority, if they ever were. They responded, as did the South during reconstruction, trying to destroy democracy through suppression and violence. This was achieved in the 1870s and continued in the 1950s and 1960s. Obama’s triumph sparked a tide.
At the same time, the left has developed an understanding over time and years after Obama that real progress is impossible without facing white supremacy directly. Americans don’t have universal health care, in part because many whites don’t want blacks to have it, just as Americans have record housing shortages because many whites don’t want blacks to live nearby. The Black Lives Matter movement and intersectional left-liberal alliance brought anti-black racism to the fore to overcome the problem at its root.
But white supremacy also affects Hispanic communities in complex ways. Anti-Hispanic racism is an integral part of today’s Republican Party. In 2015, Donald Trump descended the escalator of his eponymous tower, marveling that Mexicans were rapists and murderers, but some were said to be good people. Recently, a representative of Paul Gosar, a Republican from Arizona, expressed his approval to undercover journalists who claimed they murdered migrants on their fictional ranch in Arizona. The Congressman suggested that many more people are ready to “take action.”
The centrality of anti-Hispanic racism in GOP politics has led many otherwise conservative Latinos to join the Democratic Party, as it has done to many otherwise conservative Black voters. So why isn’t Latinos as solid an electoral bloc for Dems as black voting usually is? The answer lies in the ideology of white supremacy, which is followed not only by whites of European descent. Millions of Latinos more and more consider themselves “White” despite the fact that many non-Hispanic whites disagree and actively discriminate against them.
The subtext of anti-black racism among Hispanics was evident in the years disgusting display bigotry in a recording of three Latin American members of the Los Angeles City Council. Prejudice flourishes even among those who are themselves susceptible to prejudice. Democrats expected, or at least hoped, that the “people of color” would unite in solidarity against the oppression they all shared. Instead, there seems to be a tendency to see political power as a zero-sum game – and if Democrats are so focused on fighting anti-black racism, it leaves less room for Latinos in the coalition. When these voters tell pollsters that they consider themselves “patriots” and strongly identify as “white” and shudder at the emphasis on racial justice over the economy of the kitchen table, their motives are often not entirely different from conservative whites who use the same scrambled tongue.
Some of this is simply inevitable, and Democrats should not hold back from trying to confront anti-black bigotry for this reason. But downplaying the importance anti-Spanish racism allowed the Republicans to have it both ways.
Republicans fan the flames of anti-Hispanic bigotry without reacting to it. This bigotry goes far beyond republican immigration policy with which many Latinos living on the border can agree. White nationalists fear that they will be “replaced” by the Spanish language and brown-skinned people and transmit this racism to their white supremacy. Republican white supremacists do not distinguish between first and third generation Hispanic immigrants and discriminate against them equally.
The “big replacement” conspiracy theory is currently the main topic of conversation among Republican politicians and Fox News pundits. Clockwork Tucker Carlson raises concerns about “migrant caravans”. Border fear and production crises, like Mexican fentanyl in Halloween candies, have gained popularity with some Latinos and whites. During the Major League Baseball play-offs, Stephen Miller helped launch one of the most racist advertising in modern American historywhich showed that undocumented migrants are “draining your wages, destroying your schools”.
Democrats must inform Hispanic voters that no matter how they see themselves, Republicans will never see them as equal partners in the theocratic ethnoplasty they want to build.
Republicans should pay the price for it, and Democrats could have achieved it, highlighting it in speeches and advertisements and on the campaign track. When white nationalists take power, their discriminatory actions will affect: all marginalized groups. And while many Latinos share the concerns of the Republicans New immigrants and borderlanders, Republican racist policies, and cultural attitudes towards Hispanics will also affect second and third generation Hispanic citizens.
Confronting anti-Hispanic racism is also crucial to tackling the problem of anti-black racism. Research shows the discomfort of racist whites with the transfer of Latinos into their community it also increases their racist sentiment towards black people. America’s original sin of structural racism affects everyone, and solidarity against racism against all minority groups is the only way to end it. The abandonment of social issues in favor of a strictly economic approach will not win back these voters. Democrats will have a much better chance of restoring them if they appeal to them on economic issues, while making it clear that white nationalism is hurting us all.