Things That Matter

2020 Democratic Candidates Know Latinos Could Tip The Election So They’ve Started Pulling Out All The Stops

We are less than a year and a half away from the 2020 presidential election, and while the  incumbent President of the United States, real estate mogul and media personality turned politician Donald J. Trump is already tocando los tambores de guerra by attacking the  leading Democratic contenders, his potential opponents are still attacking each other. All around the country campaign offices are trying to come up with the best strategies, and have realizes that one key demographic for 2020 will be the Latino vote. 

As Jonathan Allen argues in NBC News : “Depending on how the race unfolds, Latinos might even end up being the key to the contest. That’s a function mostly of heavily Hispanic states, including California and Texas, moving up on the primary calendar at the same time that the chances for a protracted, delegate-by-delegate fight among several candidates appear to be more likely than ever. The possibility of African American voters splitting among several candidates for the first time in several presidential primary cycles also raises the stakes for candidates in trying to get an edge with Latino voters”. 

The candidates better start brushing up on their Spanish! (but please, no terrible gringo accents, porfavorcito). As Aida Chavez states in The Intercept after the debates a few weeks ago: “The desire to connect with Latinx voters was apparent in this week’s presidential debates, when several contenders made a direct appeal to the growing electorate by answering questions in Spanish on the national stage”. 

Latinos are a big, strong, decisive voting force for 2020: there will be 2 million more eligible Latino voters than African-American voters.

Credit: @abcfamily / Giphy

Just think about this: about 32 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election, which is about 13 percent of the electorate, according to the Pew Research Center. By contrast, African-American voters will have 30 million eligible voters. Just let that sink in for a minute. 

According to a poll released by Univision after the debates, Kamala Harris seems to be getting her message across to Latino voters.

Credit: Univision

The message to take away from this poll is that Harris was perceived as the winner of the debates over the only candidate with a recognizably Latino name, Julian Castro. Her identity as a powerful, independent, woman of color might be seeping into the Latino preference. This is an election about ideas rather than looks, and also an election about who seems better prepared to take on Trump, and if Latino voters start imagining Harris debating Trump and holding her ground, well, things might get interesting. 

And yes, the race among Democratic candidates is tight and getting tighter, with at least three clear frontrunners.

Credit: RealClearPolitics

Unless something really dramatic happens, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris will be the candidate. They are the ones polling the highest in the race for the nomination and whom Trump has directed his attacks against. 

It is clear that immigration will be the main issue in this election and Elzabeth Warren took the first step by announcing an ambitious and humane immigration plan.

Credit: Giphy

Unless a major international conflict arises before the election, immigration policies, including how undocumented migrants are treated after being detained at the border, will be the main issue. Elizabeth Warren took the first step by announcing her sweeping immigration plan.  She wrote in a post on Medium when announcing what immigration policy would look like under a Warren administration: “We must address the humanitarian mess at the border and reverse this president’s discriminatory policies. But that won’t be nearly enough to fix our immigration system. We need expanded legal immigration that will grow our economy, reunite families, and meet our labor market demands.” 

As we reported at the time: “This is a very intelligent approach to immigration, as it appeals to both those worried about the economy and how the United States can respond to the competition of global markets, and to the voters who consider current zero-tolerance policies, including ICE raids, inadmissible”. 

But others are falling far behind: enter Bernie Sanders and his big “socialist” problem among Latinos.

One of the big mistakes that many politicians make while trying to woo the Latino vote is assuming that all Latinos fall on the same end of the political spectrum. Bernie Sanders has certainly been guilty of this by failing to recognize that many Latinos, particularly powerful pockets of influence in places like Florida, actually despise left-wing politicians. As NF News argued: “Declaring yourself left-wing may be attractive among an American youth who have never lived under a socialist regime. But among Latino voters who have been exiled from left-wing regimes, this has consequences. This was demonstrated by the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who is the co-chair of the campaign by presidential pre-candidate Bernie Sanders, Carmen Yulín Cruz, when she refused to acknowledge that she and Sanders are socialists. Both Cruz and Sanders have refused to condemn the dictatorships of Cuba and Venezuela. Instead, Cruz chose to compare the humanitarian crisis facing Venezuela with poverty in Puerto Rico”. 

This is a big misstep, as Florida in particular is a key state for this and any other election, and Democratic voters are wary of candidates who might perform poorly in the state (remember Bush-Gore anyone?). 

There are some voices of reason in Sander’s campaign, as reported by The Intercept in an interview with Chuck Rocha, a senior Sanders adviser. “: “We know that we’re going to communicate with young Latinos in English, we know we’re going to communicate with young Latinos in Spanish. We also understand the cultural differences between Latinos in Des Moines, Iowa, and Latinos in the East Side of Las Vegas.”

The no-show: Joe Biden?

The former Vice President has sent conflicting messages on how important the Latino vote is for his campaign. On one hand, as reported by NBC News, “Biden’s outreach has included a fully bilingual website, bilingual advertising and the first candidate meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus”. On the other, he has missed key appearances at events where he could reach to Latino Democrats. As reported by The Boston Globe, he was a no-show at  “an important forum hosted by the Spanish-language network Telemundo and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials that drew more than 800 of the nation’s top Latino policy makers and strategists”. Sanders and Warren attended. This lack of engagement could cost him dearly, as noted by the same publication: 

Denise Diaz, a 32-year-old city councilwoman from South Gate, Calif., said this was the second time Biden had disappointed her. The first was when he skipped California’s Democratic convention three weeks earlier.

“I have really changed my opinion in supporting him,” she said. “I am looking for someone who is relatable, has boots on the ground, and is accessible.”

You know what they say: camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente. 

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