So this has obviously gotten old with the Latino community.
When Democrats lose a district (or a state) with a sizable Latino population, they stereotype and blame us. While this has to do with Texas House District 34 (which will be up for another election in November), it’s an exercise in how quickly we become scapegoats. Even when Democrats make little effort to reach us.
Recently, Republican Mayra Flores beat Democrat Dan Sanchez in the closely watched Texas race. While she will only serve until January, Republicans are hailing it as a sign of changing politics among Latinos while Democrats are downplaying the importance of the election and dismissing talk of such a change.
“Despite flooding South Texas with over three million dollars in far-right dark money —in a special election called by the Governor at a time specifically chosen to give Republicans an overwhelming advantage— Republicans could barely squeak out a win in CD-34,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement.
According to the Texas Tribune: “On the only major campaign finance report of the special election, [Flores] reported $752,000 in contributions, compared to $46,000 for Sanchez.”
In addition, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee helped fund a $100,000 digital ad buy and the House Majority PAC launched a $115,000 ad campaign against Flores.
Still, even by the most generous of numbers, Sanchez seemingly didn’t have a chance. The lack of interest by party leaders resulted in an exceptionally low voter turnout by Democrats in the district. When there’s a lack of interest and an overall message that an election isn’t important, it’s going to result in a loss. Inevitably, Sanchez called out Democrats for not doing enough.
“Based on the results, we came up short tonight despite being outspent by millions of dollars from out-of-state interests and the entire Republican machine,” he said. “Too many factors were against us, including little to no support from the National Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.”
Such little support gives Flores and Republicans the narrative they want.
ADIOS BIDEN: @MayraFlores2022, the first Republican to win in her district in 150 years, says Democrats have gone ‘so far left’ that they no longer represent the values of Latino Americans. pic.twitter.com/nAzaQK2dKl
— Fox News (@FoxNews) June 16, 2022
That is on Democrats and not on Latinos in South Texas. Part of the reason why Flores can make such claims is that Democrats didn’t take her candidacy seriously.
The Blame Game
Still, now Latinos in South Texas are getting blamed, despite low turnout based on grossly deficient outreach.
We hear it all too often. When Democrats lose in predominantly Latino populations, it’s never the fault of Democrats for failing.
When Biden lost Florida in 2020, the internet went crazy blaming Cubans for the loss despite his winning Cuban strongholds in South Florida. Big names like liberal darling Don Winslow came for us pretty hard, inviting a ton of hate towards Cubans in his replies on Twitter.
Dear Cubans in Miami,
The guy you voted for is the one acting just like Fidel Castro.
— Don Winslow (@donwinslow) November 5, 2020
But when you look at the election map, it’s clear who won the state for Trump: white people. It’s always white people.
For a guy like Winslow and his ardent supporters, it’s much easier to blame non-white people for a white-centric society’s failures. Instead of addressing and trying to talk to the majority of white people who vote Republican, Latinos are constantly targeted on social media as if every election hinges on us. The last time I checked, white people still have the most voting power.
The truth is, Democrats lost ground in South Texas because of the deadly combination of deficient outreach and voter suppression. If they don’t care enough to try and counter the conspiratorial messaging from the political right, Republicans will win every time. While there’s been plenty of talk about the Democratic party’s message, or lack thereof, rarely do we hear about how they fail to reach the communities they need to stay in power.
The 2020 presidential election is the perfect example of that. Democrats put all of their focus on courting Latinos in South Florida—giving them wins in Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. The cost of that outreach, however, meant taking losses in places like South Texas. Counties that typically vote Democrat voted for Trump due to unchallenged far-right noise and voter suppression tactics that ranked Texas last in the nation for ease of voting in 2020.
What Democrats need to realize and begin addressing now is that Latinos aren’t represented by Cubans in South Florida; that immigration is a much broader issue involving many nationalities, not just Latinos; that our communities are focused on the same issues as anyone else: the economy, jobs, and education; that they should focus less on courting right-wing wackos and more on non-white voters. Cubans make up a small percentage of the U.S. Latino population. It’s time for Democrats to think more broadly.
As we approach the midterm elections, Democrats are in a precarious position. Historically, the president’s party loses control in midterm elections, and the Democratic party’s reluctance to go on the attack against Republicans and their well-funded campaigns of misinformation and outright bigotry puts marginalized groups at risk.
As hate crimes increase across the country right alongside domestic and gun violence, we can ill afford to allow extremist thinking to lay the blame on Black, Latino, and other communities of color instead of the underlying conditions leading to those crimes. Republicans will have you think immigrants and trans people are destroying the country. However, nothing is ripping this country apart more than the culture wars of hate perpetrated by the conservative right.
Keep Your Hate
With all this at stake, if you feel the need to target Latinos the next time your preferred candidate loses an election, pay attention to the details instead of jumping to conclusions as so many people do. Because in the vast majority of cases it wasn’t Latinos that lost your election, it was white rage based on unfounded conspiratorial fears of extinction. Yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds.
Let’s also not ignore one of the biggest hurdles for many Latino voters impacting communities across the country (such as South Texas): voter suppression. Mobilizing those voters should be mission-critical for Democrats, yet, it’s not. Much can be done to attract Latino voters and they better do it quickly. To win elections in the future, they’re going to need us.
Republicans know that and they’re acting on it unabated.
Arturo Domínquez is a first-generation Cuban American father of three young men, an anti-racist, journalist, and publisher of The Antagonist Magazine. If you’d like to learn more about the issues covered here, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also support his work here and here.