Latino voters: why did so many vote for Trump?

Latino voters: why did so many vote for Trump?

 “Bad hombres”, “drug dealers”, “criminals and rapists”: these are just some of the disparaging words Donald Trump has used over the years to describe Mexican immigrants, the largest group of Latinos in America, said Will González in The Philadelphia Inquirer. You’d think this might have carried an electoral cost. Hispanics, after all, make up an increasingly large and influential voting bloc: a record 32 million of them were eligible to vote in last week’s presidential election, a total that for the first time exceeded the number of eligible African- American voters. Yet Trump seemed to be unscathed. Nationally, he won 35% of the Hispanic vote – actually up seven percentage points on his 2016 share. His improved showing among Latino voters helped him win the key states of Florida and Texas.

Trump’s success with Hispanic voters must worry the Democrats, said Benjamin Wallace-Wells in The New Yorker. They’ve long assumed that the growth of the Latino population will steadily increase the liberal vote and doom their opponents to political irrelevance. But last week’s election results raise a “new possibility – that the nation could become less white without becoming much less conservative”. The “demographicsis- destiny” narrative was always rubbish, said Josh Hammer in the New York Post. Hispanic voters have little time for the “toxic brew of intersectionality, socialism-lite and Black Lives Matter anarchism” peddled by progressive Democrats. As one wag put it on Twitter, the identity-politics-obsessed Democrats may have won the “Latinx vote” (the politically correct designation), but they’re not faring so well with actual Latinos.

The great majority of Latino voters still do support the Democrats, said Isvett Verde in The New York Times. Joe Biden won eight of the ten most Hispanic states in the nation, and Latino supporters helped him flip Arizona to the Democrats for the first time since 1996. Trump did well among Cubans and Venezuelans in Florida, some of whom are “genuinely afraid of socialism” as a result of experiences in the lands they left behind, but his share of the Hispanic vote is not so remarkable. Ronald Reagan got 37% of the Latino vote in 1984; George W. Bush got 40% in 2004. Trump did a decent job of turning out Latino supporters, said Jeet Heer in The Nation, but the real story is Biden’s failure to motivate his own, larger Hispanic base. Activists had been warning that Biden wasn’t spending the money, or hiring the staff, needed to get Latino Democrats to the polls.

Latinos were treated as an “afterthought” by the Democrats, who took their support for granted and were preoccupied with getting out African-American voters, said Ruben Navarrette Jr on The Daily Beast. Then again, Latino voters are a tricky demographic to rally. Although part of the Democrat base, we tend to be conservative and fiercely family-oriented by instinct. Even many Mexican Americans don’t identify with the plight of immigrants, seeing themselves as “plain ol’ Americans” first. “Immigration isn’t the top issue for many of us, or even in the top five. We care about jobs, the economy, education, healthcare and law and order.” If last week’s election showed anything, it’s that Latino voters are “more complicated than most people thought”. Lumping together so many different people in this one category doesn’t make much sense these days, agreed Helen Ubiñas in The Philadelphia Inquirer. What does a New York City-born Puerto Rican really have in common with, say, a Cuban living in Miami? The real lesson of last week is that the “Latino vote” doesn’t exist.