Are Democrats Going to Let the Latino Vote Slip… Once Again? (OPINION)

Sep 17, 2020
12:44 PM

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks with reporters before boarding a plane at Tampa International Airport in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, September 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

With less than 50 days until Election Day, 2020 is giving progressive Latinx organizers 2016 déjà vu.

Once again, we see headlines like ​“Latinos on track to be largest share of nonwhite voters in 2020, Pew” but how is Democrat Latinx voter mobilization any different from previous years?

With an ​estimated 32 million Latinos​ eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election, this year will be the first time that Latinos are the country’s largest voter group outside of white voters. About 40 percent of those eligible voters are between the ages of 18-35. Two-thirds of all eligible Latinx voters live in five states, three of them being battleground states: Texas, Florida, and Arizona. In 2016, Trump clinched Arizona by 3.5 percentage points over Hillary Clinton, and in a battleground state where Latinos make up almost a third of the population, organizing around the Latino vote could be the path to victory.

At-large DNC delegate for Arizona Gilbert Romero said in a ​recent interview​, “This is our party. And my community, our communities, have been voting loyally for the Democratic Party since John F. Kennedy.” And it’s true. For better or worse, Latinos have hit the polls and organized for Democrats with loyalty for decades. In return we asked for a permanent path to citizenship, economic stability, and healthcare. We simply wanted our families to be healthy and safe.

Instead, the very existence of our communities has been swung left and right as we have watched DREAMers hold their breath on Supreme Court decisions, Brown babies be put in cages, and our families be left to die in a pandemic. As much as we would all like to blame the GOP for this, the left’s inability to pass permanent legislation and policies that protect working class families has endangered one of our most vulnerable communities —immigrants— and has left their fate in the hands of a racist and xenophobic administration.

Last month, Julián Castro went ​on an interview​ and politely warned us about the possibility of the Democratic Party losing the Latino vote, if not in this election, in the long run. And that wasn’t a threat. He didn’t mean that progressive Latinos would become Republicans, but simply that progressive Latinos might not feel motivated to turnout for moderate Democrats, let alone organize for them. And that is something that we have already been seeing. In the 2016 election, close to 30% of the Latino vote went to Trump. It’s easy for campaigns and experts to chalk up this turnout to Latinos sharing religious and business values with Republicans. But in 2020, we saw that the most enthusiastic voting bloc that organized for Bernie Sanders were Latinx folks. Which begged the question, what did the Bernie camp do to get Latinos fired up?

Historically, Latinas show up to the polls at rates much lower (​14-20 points​) than Black and white women, which could be either a major concern or a huge opportunity depending on how campaigns choose to mobilize around it. The Latinx community was credited in being instrumental to the 2018 “blue wave” that helped turn the House over to Democrats. One of the key takeaways from Pew Research Center’s ​midterm analysis​ showed that 27 percent of “Hispanics” who cast a ballot in 2018, said it was their first time voting in a midterm.

Yet knowing all these statistics and outcomes, the DNC chose to exclude Latinos speakers from the convention, giving Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez only 60 seconds to speak (a procedural speech intended to second Bernie’s nomination) and completely excluded the only Latino presidential candidate who has been championing our community (Julián Castro). Until as of late, Trump has also outspent Vice President Biden in Spanish-language ads targeted at Latinos in multiple key states. Trump’s camp has consistently and aggressively fought to maintain their Latinx support, targeting mostly older, conservative Latino men—a strategy that has been both effective and alarming.

It’s time to stop shaming anyone who poses constructive criticism to the Democratic Party’s outreach strategy, especially when its people of color raising the red flags. Take the time to listen to our communities. Take time to listen to our needs instead of telling us what our options are. Invest in bilingual outreach within our communities and offer policies on your platform that will uplift our families.

The ball is in your court, Democrats. Not just for this election, but for decades to come.


Daisy Prado is a public affairs and communications strategist with experience serving nonprofits, news outlets, and non-governmental organizations. She is also a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. Twitter: @TheDaisyPrado.