Latino voters have long been considered “the sleeping giant ” in the United States elections given its low level of participation, 49% in 2016. In 2020 that shadow continues to hover around them, but the giant is seen more and more awake. And giant it is.
Of the near 60 million Latinos who live in the United States, 32 million have the right to vote in the elections of November 3, almost four million more than in 2016. They are the 13.3% of the electorate, for the first time the largest minority in the electoral roll, ahead of blacks. 60% of them are under 33 years of age. And his role is anticipated momentous as usual in Florida, but also in Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina, Wisconsin and even in Tejas, highly contested and decisive states.
Behind the erroneous monolithic label of “Latino vote” beats a immense range of origins, ages, ideologies, concerns or interestss. There are obvious gaps between a Cuban from Hialeah, a Puerto Rican from the Bronx, or a Mexican from Santa Fe; between generations that emigrated from their countries or those already born in the US; among the most politically active and focused on obtaining strength, representation and power for such a diverse community and the most passive. In any case, for Joe Biden Y Donald Trump, the fight for their votes has become vital.
The Biden Advantage
According to the surveys it is the democrat who has the majority support, 63% vs. 29% for Trump according to a recent Pew Center survey. His campaign was slower than that of the Republican in organizing to seek out Latino voters, but that delay has been made up for by significant involvement in mobilizing activists. And Hispanics registered to vote, in another recent Pew poll, show each time more trust in Biden to address the pandemic (71%), unite the country (70%) or make decisions economic (66%).
One of its main strengths is precisely in messages and proposals that resonate especially in a community that is the one that has higher percentage of uninsured and has been particularly hit in health and economics by the coronavirus. Latinos are 18% of the population but they have suffered more than 28% of cases. He unemployment among them, which had fallen to a record low of 3.9%, it skyrocketed and last month was at 10.3%. And the blow has been brutal in the case of the women. Last month, for example, Latinas lost their jobs three times more than white women and four more than black. No other group, regardless of gender, has suffered an equal collapse at the employment level.
When looking at the surveys, however, it should not be forgotten something that Florida International University professor Eduardo Gamarra recalls in a telephone interview: “The only viewpoint that matters is the state one”. And that is why the advances what Trump seems to be achieving, even if it is by two or three points over 2016 percentages.
It is something that, according to Benjamin Francis-Fallon, author of The rise of the latino vote and professor at Western Carolina University, shouldn’t be surprising nor stand out so much. “Putting the focus on Florida and Texas the narrative is created that Biden is not doing so well, but remember that those two they are conservative places and that the cuban they have a different preference, “he adds.
Since arriving in the Oval Office, Trump has made most of his foreign policy toward Latin America with an eye toward Florida and not just voting. Cubanbut also from the growing community Venezuelan and Nicaraguan. And there his threatening message about the assumption has especially penetrated “socialism” that Biden and Kamala Harris would take to the White House.
It is a message that María Lourdes Naranjo has internalized, a 58-year-old Cuban who a few days ago was shouting at a pro-Biden caravan that traveled through Calle Ocho in Miami. “Biden is not a socialist but he has socialist ideas and Kamala Harris likes the ideas of Fidel Castro. The Democratic Party has gone far to the left and is no longer the same as 10 years ago,” he said. “Free medicine,” he argued, “free studies … The free everything is Marxist and we already saw that movie. “
For Gamarra there is a “great paradox or, frankly, stupidity”, to hear messages like those in Miami-Dade County. “The Cuban voter is the maximum consumer of social services “recalls the expert, and points out, for example, that Hialeah, the epicenter of the Cuban community, has “the highest number of people per capita registered in Obamacare. They are shooting themselves in the temple & rdquor ;.
Florida it is for Trump like a test tube and from there he exports his message. And with him he has managed to connect with a part of the Latino vote, particularly among some men, focused on the financial. They are people like Francisco, a Mexican immigrant settled for years in Tucson (Arizona) who now drives an Uber. Married and a father of three, he doesn’t like Trump separating children from their families at the border. He, who arrived legally from Mazatlán years ago, thinks that “the wall is not going to solve anythingBecause millions are spent building it and he jumps a 50 dollar ladder. “But his vote in this election is undoubtedly for the Republican.The hard data, the math, don’t lie, and Trump it has been good for usit said a couple of weeks ago. He even defended that he paid less taxes than him. “It is not cheating, it is that the system is what it is,” he added.
What Trump and the Republicans are doing is also trying to exploit historical tensions between part of the Latino community and blacks. It is what Francis-Fallon denounces as “one of his Richard Nixon manual updates “: the attempt to create a division between the “good minority” that does not protest, and the supposedly bad. “They are being very explicit. Words are not spared, “he denounces.
This divisive message does not penetrate some communities, such as those of Mexican origin (the majority), which have a history of decades of collaboration with the black in fight for civil and workers’ rights. But in others, especially those that have their roots in other South American countries, it is making a dent. “In Florida we have seen it”, notes Professor Gamarra, who adds: “The Republican Party here has achieved define Black Lives Matter as a thing communist and influenced by it black magic”. It is part of a disinformation campaign that is being especially intense in the state and with the Latino community. “I’ve seen misinformation, lies, but never in this proportion “, he reflects. “We are a polarized country, we are one polarized community “, ends.