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The Republican Latino Shift

The Republican Latino Shift | OP-ED

The country's economic crisis seems to be at the center of the change of shore among Latino voters. How real is it?

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Since the 2020 election, many who stay close to the U.S. Latino political sphere have spoken of a great shift in Latino voters that is underway. 

In that election, analysts pointed to losses of Latino support for President Joe Biden among Cuban and Venezuelan populations in South Florida, and among the Mexican-American populations of South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.

When discussing South Florida’s election results, the impact of Republican disinformation campaigns directed at Latino voters cannot be overstated. Whether it was on social media, radio, television or print, Biden and the wider Democratic Party were painted as socialists, taking many Cubans and Venezuelans back to their home countries under Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez.

For Mexican-Americans along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas, they are often caught in the volatile rhetoric that surrounds the influx of immigrants into the U.S. Republicans have also been hammering the narrative of a border crisis ever since Biden entered office.

But it’s not the border narrative, or the wild accusations of socialism that have President Biden’s Latino approval rating at a cool 26% per a recent Quinnipiac Poll. It is the economy.

To put it bluntly, the economy, which is still recovering from a COVID pandemic that’s entering yet another wave of infections — and just infected Biden — is still experiencing higher than normal inflation, as seen at grocery stores and gas stations across the country. It’s coming down, but not fast enough. An uncertain War in Ukraine can also be added to the list of economic disruptors on a global scale.

Contrary to how the Democratic Party has viewed Latinos in the past, they are not a monolith. They are major economic engines in this country, the most entrepreneurial of any demographic, and that will only continue to grow far into the U.S.’s future.

Biden’s seeming slow-to-act approach on the economy is not winning him any fans from the aforementioned group. He can blame Republicans in Congress for grandstanding, but that doesn’t get anything done. 

Add the inflation and economic woes to Dr. Jill Biden’s words at the latest UnidosUS Annual Conference and those of the campaign of Rep. Vicente González regarding his opponent, Rep. Mayra Flores in South Texas, and it’s a rough outlook even before looking at the history of success for presidents’ parties in midterm elections.

However, just because Democrats are fumbling the bag at the moment, does not mean Republicans are there to pick it up.

As senior editor Ronald Brownstein writes in a recent column in The Atlantic on the subject of the Latino shift right, the Republican Party’s own shift even further right on issues like abortion and guns have also pushed Latinos away.

On the former issue, a recent study from the Public Religion Research Institute found that two-thirds – a major majority — of Latino Catholics think abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances. 

That flies in the face of both the assumption that Catholicism would rule all U.S. Latino thoughts on social policy and Republican efforts in more than half of U.S. states to ban the practice completely.

When it comes to guns, Brownstein spoke to Tory Gavito, the president of Way to Win, a group that mobilizes support for candidates in communities of color, who cited the Uvalde, Texas massacre at Robb Elementary School “a massive flashpoint for Latino communities across the country” on gun control.

In that tragedy, all but one of the 19 elementary school students killed were Latino.

A Pew poll from 2021 also found that two-thirds of Latinos, and three-fifths of those without a college degree, believe gun laws should be made more strict in the U.S. Even more showed opposition to a popular Republican policy of not requiring a permit to carry a concealed firearm.

Now guns and abortion are not everything when it comes to winning elections, but to try to shift Latinos as a whole from one party to another based on assumptions made about the demographic as a whole, is just more tokenizing, no matter the party.

 

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