To get Latino votes, parties need to first earn our respect

Ruben Nararrette
Liberal Opinion

Ruben Navarrette

Columnist, host & author
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In the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats won the Hispanic vote by 40 points nationally. Two years later, Democrats carried the vote by an estimated 33 points against Donald Trump himself, though in nationwide campaigns, the party’s margin against GOP candidates shrank to 27 points. With the midterm elections just around the corner, a recent Axios-Ipsos poll shows that nearly one in four Latinos still don’t know how they’re going to vote, making them the biggest block of swing voters in the 2022 election. As Straight Arrow News contributor Ruben Navarrette explains, while candidates from both sides of the aisle are fiercely competing for their vote, no one is addressing the issue Latinos care about most.

Here’s the scoop. The Latino vote is complicated, nuanced and always in flux. It doesn’t come to the parties, not anymore. Now the parties have to go out and get it. You have to earn it, you have to work for it. It takes humility and takes a willingness to admit what they don’t know. The problem is, neither of these things come easily in politics. 

One thing we’re going to see more of in the future are these 21st century matchups of Latino Republican versus Latino Democrat. The GOP finally wised up and started fighting fire with fire. Good on them. Good on them. 

Still, the party has ruined this mano-a-mano matchup with a combination of ignorance and arrogance. Democrats need to stop sending know-it-all-white-run political consulting firms to run the campaigns of their Latino candidates. And Republicans need to actually put some money, muscle and manpower into the campaigns of their Latino candidates. 

I’ve studied Latino voters since I got into journalism in 1989. But I’ve actually been a real life Latino voters since even before that.  I’ll let you in on a little secret. We’re single issue voters. That issue, it’s not inflation, crime, jobs, the economy, education, health care or immigration. Although all those issues matter a great deal to us. 

Our number one issue is respect. We call it “respeto,” along with family, community and hard work. It’s sacred to us. If you want our support, you need to show us the proper respect. You need to stop talking about us behind our backs and start listening to us so you can know what it takes to have our back. 

Neither party does that right now. In fact, dating back to 1960 in the Kennedy election, when Latinos first landed on the nation’s political radar, the parties have never done that. And so neither party deserves our support. The Latino vote may be complicated, but that political reality is as simple as they come.

 

The midterm elections put the spotlight on the Latino vote, much talked about but poorly understood. 

Here are three things we know for sure. One, we’re significant. The nation’s 62 million Latinos, half of whom are old enough and eligible to vote, and a quarter of whom will end up voting, have an outsized importance in U.S. elections. That’s because we’re swing voters. This means that even though we identify as Democrats by a two to one margin, we have no trouble voting for Republicans who are not residents of crazy town. 

Number two, we’re moderates. We don’t like the extremes on the right or the left. If you’re about defunding the police or storming the US Capitol, count us out. We are conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans. We vote for people, not parties. We’re sick of politics and the partisans. Most of all, we just want both parties to listen to us and not take us for granted like Democrats or write us off like Republicans. 

Number three, we’re undecided. A new Axios Ipsos Latino poll in partnership with Noticias Telemundo found that as much as 25%, one quarter of Latino voters, still haven’t made up their mind about who they’re going to vote for on November 8th. A lot of us have left the Democrats because they stopped asking for our votes. But we don’t want to join the Republicans who use us to scare up votes from whites. As issues go, inflation and crime are the top concerns for Latinos. But immigration is close behind at number three. 

On that issue, Latinos give F’s to both parties. According to the poll, 30% of Latinos think neither party is good on immigration. Republicans target us. Democrats sell us out. Look at President Joe Biden who bent over backwards to prove that he’s not soft on the border and wound up instead turning into a real hard case. While campaigning for president, Biden promised Latino voters that he would end his predecessor’s cruel and racist immigration policies. Instead, he kept many of those policies. He even expanded a few of them. 

Here’s the scoop. The Latino vote is complicated, nuanced, and always in flux. It doesn’t come to the parties, not anymore. Now the parties have to go out and get it. You have to earn it, you have to work for it. It takes humility and takes a willingness to admit what they don’t know. The problem is, neither of these things come easily in politics. 

One thing we’re going to see more of in the future are these 21st century matchups of Latino Republican versus Latino Democrat. The GOP finally wised up and started fighting fire with fire. Good on them. Good on them. 

Still, the party has ruined this mano-a-mano matchup with a combination of ignorance and arrogance. Democrats need to stop sending know-it-all white-run political consulting firms to run the campaigns of their Latino candidates. And Republicans need to actually put some money, muscle and manpower into the campaigns of their Latino candidates. 

I’ve studied Latino voters since I got into journalism in 1989. But I’ve actually been a real life Latino voters since even before that.  I’ll let you in on a little secret. We’re single issue voters. That issue, it’s not inflation, crime, jobs, the economy, education, health care, or immigration. Although all those issues matter a great deal to us. 

Our number one issue is respect. We call it “respeto,” along with family, community and hard work. It’s sacred to us. If you want our support, you need to show us the proper respect. You need to stop talking about us behind our backs and start listening to us so you can know what it takes to have our back. 

Neither party does that right now. In fact, dating back to 1960 in the Kennedy election, when Latinos first landed on the nation’s political radar, the parties have never done that. And so neither party deserves our support. The Latino vote may be complicated, but that political reality is as simple as they come.

 


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