Saturday, December 3, 2022

Extremism and division led to the failure of the red wave

In spite of the catastrophic prognostications against Democrats in the midterm elections, all signs seem to indicate that they have not done as poorly as anticipated.

The “red wave” Republicans hoped for does not seem to have materialized. Control of the Senate, which is majority-Democrat today, is yet to be decided, and everything points to Republican control of the House of Representatives, but not by the dozens of seats they had anticipated.

So it was a good day for the U.S. democracy, which consolidated in just one night against the doomsayers of disinformation and backwardness, as well as the false promoters of a “red wave” that in reality became a “faded puddle.” One should not underestimate, however, the damage that Republicans can do, at the legislative level, if they control either or both chambers of Congress.

It could be said that a divided country having an election with divided results gives both parties reason to celebrate. And it also remains clear that Trumpism has its vulnerabilities, as in the case of Pennsylvania, where the candidate supported by Donald J. Trump, Mehmet Oz, lost to Democrat John Fetterman, whose spouse is a Brazilian immigrant who was undocumented for ten years. There are other, similar examples.

Basically, it was a bad night for Trump and his people, who disseminated, through their rhetoric, an atmosphere of electoral violence that also failed to deliver results. Instead, civility and the right to vote made themselves clear, surpassing expectations and showing a path to follow in the next election cycle. Trumpism, in and of itself, no longer has any rationale. It doesn’t fit in this democracy. Trump, in fact, is a terrible political investor.

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Still, the Nevada Senate contest, between the incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto and Trumpist Republican Adam Laxalt, has not yet been finalized, along with the race between the Democratic Senator from Arizona, Mark Kelly, and the Trumpist Blake Masters.

In Texas, the anti-immigrant governor, Greg Abbott was reelected. In the Rio Grande Valley in the south of Texas, a former Democratic stronghold, there were mixed results. Of the three Trump-backed candidates, only one—Mónica de la Cruz—won, in the 15th District, beating Democrat Michelle Vallejo. This is perhaps one of the contests that demonstrated the lack of Democratic investment at the national level, when they determined these races are too tough to win, thereby ceding territory to the Republicans. But in the cases of Mayra Flores (TX-34) and Cassy García (TX-28), the electoral reality was a lesson these candidates will not forget, having lost in these districts by a wide margin.

In the south of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley in fact, Democrats invested neither resources nor time, thinking—like always—that Latino voters would not abandon them, although since 2020 we have seen an erosion of Latino support for Democrats. In fact, Biden won the counties of Hidalgo and Starr with tighter margins in 2020 than Hillary Clinton in 2016.

And Florida is a story unto itself. There, there was a “red wave” of Republican victories: Ron DeSantis as Governor, Marco Rubio in the Senate, and María Elvira Salazar in Congressional District 10, all with ample support from Latino voters in the state. In fact, Spanish media underscored that Miami-Dade County, with a 70% Hispanic population, elected a Republican—DeSantis—to be governor for the first time in twenty years. Jeb Bush won that county in 2002.

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This shows how unstable the Latino vote can be, although in the case of Florida it has already been said that it stopped being a purple state, leaning toward either of the two parties, and became red.

These still unclear elections offer lessons for both parties, which their strategists must quickly learn to better interpret this segment of the U.S. electorate, and avoid confusing cultural stereotypes with political realities at any given electoral moment.

For example, although there wasn’t a “red wave,” the Democrats would have done better if they had made the investments they should have among appropriate sectors, whose support could determine the electoral balance. Latinos, basically, did not overwhelmingly support Republicans as it was anticipated. But the erosion of the Latino vote among Democrats in once-safe bastions of the party, like the south of Texas and Miami-Dade County, is still very real.

Election after election, the Democrats are warned about this, that the Latino vote is not a monolith, it changes and can bend to the extreme right, center, or extreme left. And they are persuadable. If the party and candidates they support do not tend to their priorities, Latinos will listen to what the other party and candidates have to say, even if they are extremists like Donald Trump. The Democrats should understand, once and for all, that they have to court this vote in a constant way and not days or hours before the elections.

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Despite it all, Latinos continue to favor Democrats over Republicans. Proof of this is, for example, that the southern border did not turn “red” and electoral deniers failed again.

The lesson for Republicans is that their extremist and anti-immigrant discourse has its limitations. Perhaps it helps them with the MAGA base, but for the rest of the country, extremism and division are warning signs.

Maribel Hastings es asesora ejecutiva de America’s Voice y David Torres es asesor de medios en español de America’s Voice.

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