Arizona and Florida prove there is no such thing as a ‘Latinx vote’
We must cease the unproductive monolithic rhetoric in regards to the “Latino Vote,” whatever that is.
Following this election, we should all refrain from saying “the Latinx vote” moving forward. Because what does that term even mean anymore?
The decisive Latinx turnout this election, as projected, made an impressive impact, but on opposite ends of the spectrum. This signals two things.
First, the powerful potential of the Latinx voting bloc has been confirmed in 2020. Long reported to be a “sleeping giant” that historically doesn’t show up to vote, this year, with particular regards to young Latinx voters, they showed up to vote in record-breaking numbers across the nation.
It resulted in decisive wins in Arizona and Florida, and led to the increased uncertainty with regards to the swing states that became the make-or-break states in the final hours of the ballot count.
Second, the implications of the record turnout will reshape the way the nation refers to the Latinx voting bloc moving forwards.
The heightened nuances across the country signal a desperate need to dissolve the antiquated notion that there is such a thing as the “Latinx vote,” as it never existed. There are several reasons for this.
It must be acknowledged that the Latinx voting bloc is growing and its diversity cannot be ignored any longer.
If not to further understand the voting bloc moving forward, this must be done so the nation isn’t blindsided by the Republican Puerto Rican voter turnout in Florida, for instance, or how Mexican-American voters in Arizona were able to accomplish such a feat as flipping the state blue for the first time in 24 years.
The biggest surprise thus far in this election cycle was that Arizona went Democratic.
The state has long been lauded to be firmly red, but the voter gap between Democrats and Republicans has been closing in recent years. Now the cards have aligned to flip.
And within those cards were Mexican-American voters.
The story spans years, but the turning point is the state’s growing power of Latinx youth. This largely came down to the rising electoral power of Mexican-American voters in the state, and the increase of Latinx voter registration by the thousands.
Over the last decade, Mexican-American voters in Arizona have become more involved in politics in response to the anti-immigrant agenda and inhumane tactics of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and their proximity to questionable immigration tactics near the border.
But on the whole, they are realizing what’s at stake for their futures. Even in counties that, on the whole, went Republican, the Mexican-American demographics clearly show a siding with Joe Biden.
In Yuma County, for instance, precincts with high concentrations of Latinx voters came in at 74% in favor of Biden, while the county on the whole showed up for Trump.
Nearly a third of the Grand Canyon state is Latino, but we must make the distinction that the majority of these are Mexican-American voters who sided Democratic.
This is a case where the way the “Latinx Vote” has been reported panned-out.
But Florida statistics show another story that forces us to re-examine the voting bloc.
“We’ve been sounding the alarm about Dem vulnerabilities w/ Latinos for a long, long time,” wrote Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on the early, yet telling results in Florida Tuesday night.
She echoes the words of former Sen. Bernie Sanders Latino strategist, Chuck Rocha, whose fears were confirmed with Florida’s results: That Joe Biden’s underperformance with the Latinx voting bloc signals a struggling connection on many fronts.
I won’t comment much on tonight’s results as they are evolving and ongoing, but I will say we’ve been sounding the alarm about Dem vulnerabilities w/ Latinos for a long, long time.
There is a strategy and a path, but the necessary effort simply hasn’t been put in https://t.co/HljnWYgeju
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 4, 2020
“There is a strategy and a path, but the necessary effort simply hasn’t been put in,” AOC continued.
The influence of Latinx voters did prove to be a powerful percentage, just not in Biden’s favor.
Florida, Exit Poll, Trump won:
55% of the Cuban vote
30% of the Puerto Rican vote
48% of the other Latino vote
— US Politics Polls (@USPoliticsPoll) November 4, 2020
Race predictions leading up to Nov. 3 did appear favorable to Biden, if the goal was to reduce the entire voting bloc to a stereotype.
Cuban-Americans were expected to side Republican — which they largely did — but that isn’t the stat that’s most baffling. It’s the Puerto Rican vote, and the thousands of other Latinx voters who voted Republican along with them.
This leads to the unpacking of whiteness, latinidad, and mestizaje.
The Hispanic and Latino voting bloc, for months, was touted as the largest non-white voting bloc eligible to hit the polls this year.
What many of us did not realize, is just how much of a massive generalization that is to say. In terms of projecting Latinx turnout, reports got many things wrong.
Non-white? There are millions, and because of Latinidad’s proven track record of favoring whiteness over Blackness, the outcome in Florida is really not very surprising.
In the 2010 US Census, 85% of Cuban Americans self-identified as white.
Most of them, living in Florida, along with white Venezuelans and white Colombians are part of a 'Latinx' culture that has historically disenfranchised Blackness, and has put a higher value on the Eurocentric visions of ‘mestizaje.’
Reporting made it seem as if all Latinos carried with them some special bond, but this sort of grouping within a demographic that largely puts value in whiteness, works to erase Black and indigenous communities that are not represented within the above figures.
While many fell into the trap, inadvertently sorting all Latinx voters into a monolithic category, it made things neater, so to speak. But unless large-scale reporting of the voting blocs’ basic divisions occurs, accuracy in reporting, and anticipating turnout will always be skewed.
The same goes for “Latinx Community.” This election cycle has proven this doesn’t exist either apart from the hyper-specific level seen in communities in Arizona and the White Cubans voting for the GOP in Miami-Dade County in Florida.
It’s also something progressive Latinx voters need to understand. That the Latinos for Trump aren’t a phenomenon that will go away.
We can spend all our time calling them “pendejos,” but that’s not going to make them go away, and judging by Trump’s victory in Florida, especially with the Latinx voters addressed above — this is a voting bloc that knows what it wants and is willing to vote in record numbers to fight for it.
Of course, there are adverse factors in play, ranging from a skewed notion that all Puerto Ricans, from the longtime inhabitants of the mainland to the newcomers fleeing the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, will share the same values.
There is no 'Latino vote' the same way that the concept of a 'Latino community' does not exist. As the second-largest voting bloc in the nation, this rhetoric should not exist, as there isn’t a monolithic “white vote,” or the “white community.”
Nov. 3 proved there needs to be more conversation of accuracy in language when reporting the Latinx voting bloc — a conversation that moves away from simplistic conflations which in the end harm transparency, accuracy, and Black and Indigenous Latinx individuals.