The Deep Origins of Latino Support for TrumpRoundup
tags: Republican Party, 2020 Election, Latino/a history
Geraldo Cadava is a professor of history and Latino studies at Northwestern University, and the author of The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity, from Nixon to Trump.
Bertica Cabrera Morris, a business and political consultant who was born in Cuba and has spent most of her adult life in central Florida, has helped several Republican Presidential candidates with Latino outreach, among them George W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Donald Trump. Some won; some lost, as Trump did this fall, but not before increasing his share of the Latino vote to thirty-two per cent, up four points from 2016, according to exit polls. “We are terribly sad” that Trump lost, Cabrera Morris said, but she expressed optimism that the next Republican will win a greater share of the Latino vote. “We moved the needle, and we changed history,” she said.
Many Americans were surprised when it became clear that Trump had done better than expected among Latinos. In places such as South Florida and South Texas, he did much better, but all across the country Trump won a greater share of the Latino vote than he did four years ago. He made marked improvements in Democratic cities such as Houston, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia, and even in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, which were not the focus of the Trump campaign’s spending on Latino outreach. The shift toward Trump has given Latino Republicans confidence that Latino conservatism is on the rise and will continue to grow.
Latino advocates on the Democratic side, meanwhile, seem reluctant to talk about the shift. Some have downplayed its significance and expressed frustration that it has received so much media attention, as if Trump actually won the Latino vote. Rather than dwelling on Trump’s gains, Latino Democrats would have us focus on the fact that a surge of Latinos turning out to vote helped Joe Biden win critical swing states such as Arizona, even though Trump improved his performance among Latino voters there, too.
To think about the Latino shift toward Trump, though, is to talk about the future of Latino politics. It means considering what lessons all Americans need to learn about Latinos, so that they aren’t surprised by the demographic’s diverse political views. It means taking part in the ongoing conversation about whether Latinos should think of themselves more as a group or as individual Americans, and how political parties should see them. And it means reckoning with what millions of Latinos found appealing about a President whose immigration policies included separating families at the Mexican border, and whether their support was to be expected, or a fluke, or a sign of a red wave to come. In response to these questions, Latino Republicans have a lot to say. Americans “think that we are Democratic,” Cabrera Morris said, “and we are not.”
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