Latino voters becoming more comfortable voting Republican

Ruben Nararrette
Liberal Opinion

Ruben Navarrette

Columnist, host & author
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Growing signs indicate that Latino voters, who traditionally vote Democrat, are shifting to the right. The Republican Party hopes to use the momentum from several summer primary victories to boost the number of GOP Latino members in the House. Straight Arrow News contributor Ruben Navarrette says Mexican and Mexican-Americans’ political loyalties are being tested by too many mistakes by the Democratic Party. He says Latino voters are becoming more comfortable voting for Republicans because they’re sick and tired of being taken for granted.

Why is all this happening? How did we get here? Well, I’ll tell you something. It’s not about what Republicans are doing right with Latino voters. Who are we kidding? These days, they don’t do anything right. About 90% of this rightward drift by Latinos is because Democrats are doing something wrong. They neglect us. They take us for granted. They lump us together with Black voters, with whom we have little in common. And they pursue policies that run contrary to our interests. Democrats stopped asking for our support, and so we took it elsewhere. 

You see, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are swing voters and swing voters gonna swing. If Republicans make the same mistake and stop asking for our votes or listening to us, or weighing our concerns, we’ll leave them too. Swing voters can swing back to where they were before and perhaps where they felt most comfortable. Or they can go to a third party altogether.

For those who ask, well, where are you gonna go? I’ll tell ya. We can go fishing. We can go to the market. We can go to the park. We can go anywhere we want. It doesn’t have to be a polling station. We don’t have to vote at all. How is voting for the wrong person any better? Both parties need to do right by these Latino voters. And step one is treating them with the one thing that we value most, after family and hard work. And that’s respect, or as we call it, “respeto.” Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are sick and tired of voting for the lesser evil, which as we can see from Democrats’ immigration policies, is still evil.

There’s an old saying, popular in the Southwest, that Latinos are baptized Catholic and Democrat. Well, in that case, current events amount to hearsay. Latinos are leaving the Democratic Party. No, scratch that. That’s not totally accurate. Latinos still register Democrat over Republican by a two to one margin. That’s never going to change.

My tribe is famously brand loyal to all sorts of products, from soft drinks to laundry, detergents, to political parties. What is happening, however, and it’s a plenty big deal all by itself, is that more and more Latino voters, and to put a finer point on it, more and more Mexican and Mexican-American voters, are becoming more and more comfortable with voting for Republican candidates who aren’t foreign, frightening or fringe-y. And this is happening even though those voters remain Democrats. Look, they’re not going to take time off from work to go down to the county registrar’s office and formally change their party registration.

So they’ll be Democrats who support a particular Republican candidate, even while they stay Democrats. In the 1980s, these Latinos were part of the group that the media referred to as “Ronald Reagan Democrats.” In his 1984 re-election, Reagan got 40% of the Latino vote. In the 2000’s, they helped make up the George W. Bush Democrats and the John McCain Democrats. In his 2004 re-election, Bush got 44% of the Latino vote. In his Senate campaigns in Arizona, McCain would routinely get more than 60% of the Latino vote. 

Unlike Puerto Ricans and Dominicans who are much more loyal to the Democratic Party, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are in play and they’ve always been a little Republican-ish. When Donald Trump came along, a lot of these people flocked to his side. They liked his machismo, his bravado, his devil-may-care abandonment of convention; they loved how he tangled with the media, challenged the Republican establishment and projected strength. In 2020, even though he lost the presidency, Trump won an impressive 33% of the Latino vote.

If he runs again in 2024, as many political observers are sure he will, he could do even better and win as much as 38 percent. That’s outstanding for the most openly and unabashedly anti-Mexican president in recent memory. Someone who launched his presidential campaign by labeling Mexican immigrants like my grandfather, who came to this country legally, as criminals, rapists and drug traffickers. 

Why is all this happening? How do we get here? Well, I’ll tell you something. It’s not about what Republicans are doing right with Latino voters. Who are we kidding. These days, they don’t do anything right. About 90% of this rightward drift by Latinos is because Democrats are doing something wrong.

They neglect us. They take us for granted. They lump us together with Black voters, with whom we have little in common. And they pursue policies that run contrary to our interests. Democrats stopped asking for our support, and so we took it elsewhere. 

You see, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are swing voters and swing voters gonna swing. If Republicans make the same mistake and stop asking for our votes or listening to us, or weighing our concerns, we’ll leave them too. Swing voters can swing back to where they were before and perhaps where they felt most comfortable. Or they can go to a third party altogether.

For those who ask, well, where are you gonna go? I’ll tell ya. We can go fishing. We can go to the market. We can go to the park. We can go anywhere we want. It doesn’t have to be a polling station. We don’t have to vote at all. How is voting for the wrong person any better? Both parties need to do right by these Latino voters. And step one is treating them with the one thing that we value most, after family and hard work. And that’s respect, or as we call it, “respeto.”

Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are sick and tired of voting for the lesser evil, which as we can see from Democrats’ immigration policies, is still evil.


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