Saturday, December 3, 2022

The pendulum of the Latino vote and the midterm elections

Former President Donald Trump was in south Texas last Saturday campaigning for Republican candidates, and at the same time he brought up his favorite scapegoats—immigrants of Latin American origin—he extended an “open arms” invitation to Texas voters from this background to vote specifically for Republicans.

This “political oxymoron” to which the former president resorts is not only the most hypocritical expression of his new electoral pretenses, but one that tends to confuse, on the one hand, the segment of Latino voters who see weaknesses in the current Democratic administration’s performance; and on the other, to appeal to those Latino voters who will definitely vote for Republican candidates, no matter how base the levels of anti-Latino and anti-immigrant language the person who wants to return to the White House stoops to.

This reflects what we have said for years: the Hispanic community is as diverse as its nationalities, ideologies, interests, and priorities; and what is insulting and offensive to one, isn’t to others.

A poll from Telemundo/LX News, carried out by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, found that in the Florida governor’s race, for example, the Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis enjoys more support from the state’s Latino voters than Charlie Crist. And talking about nationalities, DeSantis is favored more by Cubans and Cuban Americans, while Crist has more support among Puerto Ricans who dominate the center of the state. On top of that, Florida Latinos support DeSantis’ decision to send Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s VIneyard, using them for political ends—accusing Democrats of promoting “open borders.”

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The same piece in Telemundo cites a Democratic strategist to detail the reasons why even some Venezuelans support DeSantis and his immigrant flights.

“Helena Poleo, a Democratic strategist who emigrated to the U.S. from Venezuela two decades ago, said it did not surprise her that so many Latinos in Florida supported the Martha’s Vineyard flight that transported Venezuelan immigrants. She said that some U.S. Venezuelans backed DeSantis’ efforts because many of them have been here for a long time, are whiter and richer, and don’t identify with poor, darker-skinned migrants.”

“The racial and class division is very pronounced in Venezuela, and they brought that here. DeSantis knew what he was doing,” Poleo said to Telemundo.

Essentially, it’s not a secret that someone who is racist and anti-immigrant in their country of origin continues to be so in any part of the world. The idea that all Latino immigrants will, for example, support a set of values in solidarity with those who come after them is simply an illusion, and people like Trump know it

In that sense, it’s a fact that the ex-leader is once again using his anti-immigrant rhetoric to resurge, with a new image, like the Trump 2.0 his followers were hoping for, in a new political context and with a new factor in his favor: Latinos and Latinas in the Republican Party who participate in contested races, repeating this language for political reasons.

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In Texas, for example, there are three female Hispanic Republican candidates in the Rio Grande Valley, one of whom is an immigrant, and all three have received support from Trump and other Republican leaders who say that immigrants are “invading” the southern border. In the meeting with Trump on Saturday, none shared the stage with the ex-president, but they also have not condemned his incendiary language against immigrants.

The Democrats, for their part, should already know, after so many years, campaigns, and elections, that Latinos are not a homogenous block of voters, that their electoral interests are as diverse as their nationalities and, depending on those interests, they can vote one way in one election and another way the next.

And if yes, it’s true that Democrats continue to enjoy more support among Latinos than Republicans, it’s also true that the size of this margin has shrunk, according to polls from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).

If the 2016 elections, when Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton, taught us anything, it’s that prognostications can be blown out of the water. In less than two weeks we’ll know how the pendulum of the Latino vote will swing in these midterm elections.

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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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