As the 2016 elections approach, the political playbooks being implemented by political parties and politicians reflect a stark contrast among party lines, where racial elements seem to play a crucial role in determining the voter outreach methods executed. The Democratic Party and a significant amount of its candidates for office, including Hillary Clinton, have taken aggressive measures through the media and social media outlets to target the Latino community. Tweets and Facebook posts in Spanish are becoming more and more common among Democratic candidates both at the national and local levels.
In Florida, Democratic candidate for the 50th district of the state House of Representatives, Sean Ashby, actually has a Twitter and Facebook page in Spanish to target the close to 18 percent of Latinos within his constituency.
The same can be seen from Chuck O’Neal, an environmentalist running in the Sunshine State’s 11th state senate district. Although his district is not composed of a significant amount of Latino voters, in a close race every vote counts, and it seems his campaign has left no stone unturned in his bid to capture a seat within a conservative district to ultimately attempt to chip away at the GOP supermajority in the Florida legislature.
At the congressional level, U.S. Senate candidate for Florida Patrick Murphy has tweeted continuous messages in Spanish, something his opponent Alan Grayson has not done, which is ironic, considering his district harbors the highest amount of Puerto Ricans in the state. This strategy by Murphy could prove to be determinative in the outcome of the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, especially if Latino turnout continues to increase.
— Patrick Murphy (@PatrickMurphyFL) June 23, 2016
The population of Puerto Ricans in Florida has dramatically increased due in great part to the severe economic crisis in Puerto Rico, which has caused thousands to flock to central Florida every month. Just so you have an idea, Puerto Ricans in Florida are only hundreds of people away from surpassing the population of Puerto Ricans in New York. As New York did in the mid-1900s, Florida politicians are now making adjustments in order to capitalize politically in accordance with the racial demographic of the electorate, especially in cities like Orlando.
On the other hand, the Republican Party just doesn’t seem to get it and continues to marginalize minorities and isolate its voter base. Although it is quite debatable whether or not Mitt Romney would have had a higher chance of winning the presidential election in 2012 had he picked a minority as his running mate, a significant number of political experts and outlets have pointed towards the lack of support among Latino voters as one of the prime mistakes that propelled his campaign towards the downward spiral of defeat. President Barack Obama carried 70 percent of the Latino vote, just one percent shy of Bill Clinton’s record as the highest Latino vote-receiving incumbent in 1996.
In the 2012 elections, I remember getting a little nervous in the days before Mitt Romney was set to announce his running mate. I was interning at the White House in Vice President Joe Biden’s office and remember telling his staffers we would have our work cut out for us if Romney selected a Latino like Marco Rubio as his running mate. The GOP would have been able to divide the Latino vote, thereby diluting that demographic’s vote in the presidential election. Then who knows what would have happened on election night 2012; we may have had Mitt Romney as president right now.
However, for some reason, the GOP thought the Latino vote was not important and was not a factor that would influence the election; so what did they do? They went with the young, Brooks Brothers-wearing, golf club-swinging, Republican establishment Paul Ryan to accompany Mitt Romney on the ticket. The political strategists in the GOP are either in denial or simply incompetent, because that move without a doubt cost Mitt Romney the election.
On election night in 2012, we all saw what happened. Mitt Romney was annihilated among Latino voters and ultimately lost his bid for the presidency.
Now don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of Democrats out there that just don’t get it either. Democrats like Alan Grayson, Nancy Pelosi and many others have never used consistent messaging and social media strategies targeting the Latino community either, which may be one of the reasons both are rumored to be on shaky political ground — causing some within the politico world to predict their defeats in the upcoming elections
Democratic strategist James Carville, during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, famously came up with the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid!” to hammer the point that 12 years of Republican leadership and Reaganomics had tanked the economy.
In this year’s elections, someone may have to send smoke signals to Republicans and some Democrats in hopes that they finally get the message: it’s the Latino vote, stupid!
Phillip Arroyo is currently a Juris Doctor student at Florida A&M College of Law in Orlando, Florida. Mr. Arroyo was selected as the only Puerto Rican to serve in the 2012 White House Internship, having worked in the office of the Vice President Joe Biden, where he analyzed domestic and economics issues while at the White House. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillipArroyo.